The novel “The Blood Cell” by James Goss was published for the first time in 2014.
The Governor has the responsibility of running the Prison but for him, it is important to treat the prisoners in a humane way even if they are the worst criminals on his planet. Escape is impossible since the prison is located on an asteroid and yet one of the latest arrivals tries to escape.
The Governor tries to understand the reason for such meaningless behavior even when it is the most dangerous criminal of that space quadrant who puts it into action. When he interrogates him, Prisoner 428 tells him that he wants to help him and that many people will die if the Governor doesn’t listen to him. What appears to be a threat leaves the Governor more perplexed than irritated, certainly less irritated than by the fact that prisoner 428 still wants to be called Doctor.
“The Blood Cell” is part of a series of novels connected to the new “Doctor Who” series. They’re targeted to a wide audience by being linear enough to be appreciated even by very young readers but sophisticated enough to interest more mature readers. With the adventures of the Eleventh Doctor, there was a small change in the size of the novels about “Doctor Who” new series adventures, which have become slightly larger.
The peculiarity that immediately catches the eye of “The Blood Cell” is that the story is told in the first person from the point of view of the Governor of the Prison. It’s a decidedly unusual choice in this series of books and it takes a while to make sense of it but it offers the possibility to develop the story in a certain way.
The first part of the novel almost seems like a stage play script, as it contains mostly conversations. There are also the Governor’s thoughts as he tries to understand the behavior of an out-of-the-ordinary prisoner. His perplexity increases after the arrival of Clara Oswald, who asks to meet the Doctor and, after the Governor’s refusal, starts a sort of campaign for his release.
Initially, it’s not at all clear why the Doctor was locked up in that specific prison or why he’s considered the most dangerous criminal in that space quadrant. These are the main mysteries of the novel together with the threat of which the Doctor speaks to the Governor.
In many ways, “Blood Cell” is a character-oriented rather than a plot-oriented novel. In the second part, a lot happens at a pace that accelerates dramatically but it’s all about the characters and their interactions. The initial mysteries are slowly unraveled in revelations and twists that offer insight into the Prison and the civilization that built it.
I found James Goss’s stylistic choice well exploited to build a story in which the reader discovers what’s going on clue after clue, revelation after revelation. There are characters who hide secrets that are important to the plot and their discovery changes the reader’s perspective on their presence and the events in which they are involved.
The Twelfth Doctor is portrayed well by James Goss in his being gruff and alien. Clara is only occasionally present in the novel but the author still manages to give her a good characterization. It’s another positive element that in my opinion, makes “Blood Cell” an excellent novel I recommend without hesitation to “Doctor Who” fans.