Friday, 31 July 2009

Lance Parkin Q & A Part One

How did you come to write for the New Adventures? Was this a natural progression from your fanzine days or was your submission when the lucky ones that were chosen for print?
This is a really boring story, I’m afraid. I read a New Adventure that I thought was rubbish, knew they had an open submissions policy, sent away for the writers’ guide, came up with some sample chapters, Virgin liked them and they ended up as the first three chapters of Just War. That was the first fiction I’d ever written. In the year between me submitting it and it being published I wrote a Doctor Who novella, Snare.

Tell us a little about the conception of Just War. What made you decide to torture Bernice out of the three regulars? How much research was needed to write a historical novel?
It was originally pitched for Benny and Ace. Ace was going to do what ended up as the Benny stuff, Benny was the one in London doing the Roz and Chris stuff. I really saw it as a showcase for New Ace, and based all the plotting and narrative thrust and stuff around Ace. Then it sat in the slushpile for a year, and Ace left. When I heard that she was going, I thought ‘well, they won’t want the book now’, but they did. And the sample chapters had Ace in disguise anyway, so it didn’t need all that much changing (I think if you reread those chapters, it does still sound more like Ace than Benny). So Benny ended up being tortured because Ace would have been. Sorry, that’s a really prosaic reason. She had to do the Ace stuff because Chris was a bloke and Roz was black, so neither of them could plausibly go undercover in the Channel Islands.

Benny’s a fun character to write for – I’ve actually got two Benny things out imminently from Big Finish: Company of Friends, where she meets up with the eighth Doctor again, and Venus Mantrap (a co write with Mark Clapham) which is a direct sequel to Beige Planet Mars. I do feel a bit guilty about torturing her, though, so she’s tended to have a whale of a time in my stuff since. Mantrap is fantastically filthy and features some Lisa Bowerman heavy breathing action.

Research … it was quite easy, because it was such a focussed book. Loads of stuff about wartime London, and that was really easy to find stuff about. I am probably the only person in history who bought The Camomile Lawn on video for the costuming and set details rather than its other charms. The Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands is – forgive me – something of a footnote in the history of the Second World War. It’s tempting to see it as exactly like Vichy France, or what would have happened to mainland Britain if the Nazis had invaded. But it wasn’t like that at all. It really is this unique situation, where the territory didn’t really have any direct strategic value, where the local population wasn’t persecuted. Most WW2 books don’t really mention it, which means that the ones that do concentrate on it.

It really was like a Pertwee era story – evil alien invaders landing in this sort of microcosm of a sort of idealised Britain and instead of death rays and explosions, they ended up having arguments in the street with bank managers and camp old ladies. Which, er, trivialises the situation, I know. I don’t think Doctor Who could do the Holocaust or Stalingrad, I doubt it could even really do the Battle of Britain or the D-Day landings. You can’t really have the Doctor helping the Dambusters, either, it just negates the hard work of the real people involved. So you can use it as backdrop, like The Empty Child does, or do a parallel universe fantasy Hitler story, which was Timewyrm: Exodus. The Channel Islands was the one place where you could do Doctor Who Fights Nazis and get away with it.

Moving onto Cold Fusion. I have to ask about Adric. You are one of two authors that attempted to bring him alive in print. Was this especially difficult? Why were these two sets of regulars brought together? Can you tell us something about Patience.
The tricky thing was distinguishing the four characters in that line up. Their characteristics all overlap, like some Venn Diagram. Adric, Nyssa and the Doctor can all do science stuff; the Doctor, Adric and Tegan can all get petulant; Adric, Nyssa and the Doctor offer the non-human perspective. And so on. On TV, the three companions tended to smoosh together rather than get distinct personalities. I tried my best to do the opposite.

Adric wasn’t all that much of a challenge – the thing I latched onto was the idea that as Tegan and Nyssa were new and there was a new Doctor, Adric thought of himself as the senior member of the crew. A bit like how currently David Cameron is, by far, the longest-serving leader of a major UK party. The entertaining thing about Adric was always that he took himself far more seriously than everyone around him did, that he genuinely seems to think he’s in a show called The Adric Adventures. So I played up on that. And the idea of teaming him up with Roz, basically this grizzled Nubian Judge Dredd with a gun bigger than Adric is just amused the hell out of me.

The original idea for the book, which gets lost a bit, is that there’s a planet at war, the Doctor and his companions land, decide who the good guys are and helps them overthrow the evil monsters. Then, on the other side of the planet, another Doctor lands and decides that the other faction are the good guys. So the Doctor ends up fighting a war with himself. The seventh Doctor was the one who’d see the bigger picture, the fifth Doctor was the most empathic, so they were natural opponents, I think.

Patience is the Doctor’s wife, mother of Susan’s father. She appears in Cold Fusion and The Infinity Doctors. She’s a very, very old Time Lord, one from the days of Rassilon. Millions of years before the Doctor’s time, she was married to Omega and probably having an affair with the Other. Those old school Time Lords were like Olympian gods – truly immortal, taller and stronger than human beings. That race of immortal super-people died out following the fall of the old system, the revolution one of them, Rassilon, initiated. They were replaced by loomed Gallifreyans, ones who ‘only’ lived for a thousand years, so had to regenerate when those bodies wore out. This process was overseen by a particularly bureaucratic and unadventurous Council. After Rassilon died, a number of pretenders to the throne emerged and civil war looked inevitable, but it turned out that because the High Council controlled the Looms, they controlled Gallifrey. So things continued for millions of years. Patience lived in secret, posing as a loom-born Gallifreyan, ending up as a tutor for the Doctor’s family. When the Doctor was older, they married and – much to everyone’s surprise – she got pregnant. She had thirteen kids. The High Council feared the Doctor’s family and when it became clear that the Doctor’s kids could have kids, they rounded them up. Susan escaped, Patience escaped. Everyone else was executed. The Doctor’s memory of this was wiped. Or not. The Doctor’s mysterious and very old, it was a long time ago. It might not have happened like that at all.

The Dying Days has a very important function in that it brings the Virgin New Adventures to an end and it allows Bernice Summerfield to leap into a new series of adventures of her own. How aware of this did you have to be at the time of writing, or were you more interested in just telling a good story? How do you imagine a Virgin Eighth Doctor series would have continued? What was it like bringing the Ice Warriors to life?
Oh, it’s a book commissioned with a set of very specific purposes, one of which was to showcase Benny, another of which was a blatant attempt to go out in such a spectacular way that Virgin losing the licence would be seen by fans as one of the great injustices of world history.

There were never any plans because Virgin knew they were losing the licence. I suspect you could reconstruct it from a mix of the early Benny books and the early EDAs that weren’t old Virgin rejects. If they couldn’t use Grace, they’d use Benny. They’d have done Oh No It Isn’t and Vampire Science. Ironically, I suspect they wouldn’t have done The Dying Days. They wouldn’t have done The Eight Doctors or War of the Daleks. The interesting question is what they’d have got Lawrence Miles to do – Down but not Alien Bodies, possibly. Rebecca Levene and Simon Winstone were keen on the Night’s Dawn books, and that mix of the supernatural and space opera. That ended up in the Benny books, but might have been the overarching story of the Virgin eighth Doctor range, at least for a while.

The Ice Warriors were really good fun to write. Big stompy monsters. I think that’s the thing the books could have done more often. We tended to come up with more complex, honourable opponents for the Doctor.

Alone in a Doctorless universe Bernice Summerfield is celebrating the 500^th anniversary of Mars’ colonisation in Beige Planet Mars. This book was co-written with Mark Clapham, can you tell us how your writing duties were shared? How did you come to write this novel with another author?
Virgin needed the book quickly, and Mark and I are mates. I had the setting for a Benny book (a sort of David Lodge campus novel … on a Mars that’s not this hotbed of revolution, like it usually is in SF, but is more like Margate or Florida, this gated retirement community) and Mark had the characters and story.

It was a while ago, but as I recall we divided it up with me doing the Jason Kane stuff and Mark pretty much doing everything else. Mark and I have similar writing styles, and we trust each other enough that we rewrite each other, so it’s not always possible to say who wrote what. I can never remember. We just did a sequel, Venus Mantrap, and I heard it this week for the first time and congratulated Mark on a particularly brilliant joke, one that was clearly written by a comedy genius, only for him to say I wrote that bit.

In Part Two Lance talks about his work for BBC Books; The Infinity Doctors, Father Time, Trading Futures and The Eyeless...

Monday, 27 July 2009

Interference by Lawrence Miles

Interference Book One: Shock Tactic by Lawrence Miles

Plot: Well its got the 8th and 3rd Doctor’s in it, Fitz and Sam, Sarah and K9, an idiot called Llewis, some whacko aliens called the Remote, the Faction Paradox, an Ogron and a travelling show of freaks but 300 plus pages into the book and there is no real sign of a plot yet. The Doctor’s been locked up, there is a new alien weapon on the market and Sam has been scripted a few times but that’s about it…

Top Doc: The 8th Doctor barely appears but when he does he is turned into the icon Miles thinks he should be. He is scared to let Sam go, not only because he doesn’t want to be alone but because she was never meant to exist away from him. After some revealing conversations with a fellow captive he decides he changes things because he can. He does what he thinks he can get away with, and makes a personal choice not to interfere in the events of Earth, no matter how many times he mentions the laws of time. He is described as ‘the young Edwardian one’. In what has to be one of his most iconic sequences yet the Doctor outfoxes his ‘unpredictable’ captives by scrawling equations on the floor with his own blood, computations that allow him to leave real time and confer with himself via the TARDIS. I hope he is around more in the second book; this is quality stuff for the eighth Doctor.

The third Doctor feels terribly, terribly old but has a gentlemanly sense of nobility about what he has achieved in this regeneration.

Friend or Foe: Sam is given a complete overhaul, and we are treated to some profound insights into how she thinks. For example she spots some protestors and thinks they look ridiculous and that people who carry placards are weak, showing how far she has come since she joined up with the Doctor. There is the great moment when Sarah realises that Sam is much younger in 1996 to the Sam she has already met, allowing us to see her as a child tripping out on drugs. Her visit to Sam’s home is revealing, it turns out to be as drab as I had always envisaged. The scenes between Sam and Compassion crackle with tension, there is a real feeling of Emma Peel/Tara King crossover as one prepares to depart as the other is about to arrive.

Scruffy Git: Oh. My. GOD! Poor, poor Fitz is treated to some shocking developments. He is kidnapped and trapped in the Cold for over 600 years. The Doctor fails to rescue him and bored and useless, he decides to join up with Faction Paradox! He misses the messiness of the Doctor’s travels at first but after being contacted by the Grandfather Paradox (brrr…) is fully converted. By the end of the book he is bitter and twisted and wants to see the Doctor’s head on his wall of mounted Time Lord heads. What can I say, that Miles character doesn’t mess about does he? I can’t wait to see where this is heading…

Foreboding: Miles fills part one with hints as to later developments. The Doctor is still missing his shadow, Sam recognises Kode’s body language, Sarah’s memory of Dust is a blur and there are thirteen members of I M Foreman’s travelling show. All will be revealed later…

Twists: The universe in a bottle is a great idea and Miles actually seems to be attempting to canonise his idea that the New Adventures took place in there. Fitz being kidnapped and revived 600 years later is a real shocker. K9’s sudden appearance made me start clapping. The Remote, a group of aimless ‘transmitter’ people are a marvellous idea. Sam’s vertiginous view of Anathema is astounding. Sam and Compassion are dive bombed by a ship at Anathema. Only Lawrence Miles would dare to start a brand new story two thirds into his narrative, completely disregarding everything he had built up in his original story until then. The Doctor realises that the Faction are attempting to form links between himself and an earlier self for some sinister purpose. The third Doctor is welcomed into the eighth Doctor’s world as the TARDIS bleeds around him. He wants to know what happened to his noble universe and why he is having thoughts of impending death. The Eleventh Day Empire is possibly the most chilling and imaginative idea Lawrence Miles has ever thought up.

Funny bits: Considering this books length I M Foreman’s admission that she only has a 300 page attention span is hilarious. In the middle of an awkward moment between the Doctor and Sam the Doctor slips on a Venus de Milo and lands on his arse. Badar asks if he has two hearts does that mean he can love two women? Sarah threatens to load K9 with windows 98 if he doesn’t shut up. Compassion’s reaction to the hypocrisy of Sam’s morality made me cheer. Lost Boy the Ogron is a charming character.

Result: A book that feels really important, that is adult, intelligent and covers a lot of ground. Lawrence Miles is an ideas genius but once again he forgets to write plot around his massive concepts. It’s all set up and no pay off, 300 pages of character/ideas introductions with little happening but finding out more about them. It does get a little dry in places but the prose is mostly excellent with some excellent narrative devices there to make the journey easier (you’ve got lip reading binoculars, scripting, Sarah’s notes, an omnipresent narrator, one scene told from six POVs). Sam is dealt with very maturely, Sarah is amazingly written and it is worth reading just to find out what happens to poor Fitz. It’s a book that cleverly demands that you read the second half and really feels as if it is entering dangerous territory. It isn’t perfect but after a small lull in the EDAs it feels like a massive step in the right direction: 8/10

Interference Book Two: The Hour of the Geek by Lawrence Miles

Plot: Still searching for a plot, this 313 page epic conclusion to book one once again fails to have many events, more an exploration of clever ideas as though those ideas are enough to support the story without ever having a running narrative to hang them on. Fortunately, considering this is Lawrence Miles the ideas are fantastic so he gets away with this shocking omission with trademark cheek and style. What a guy. Needless to say there are loads of characters and they all reach some kind of conclusion but aside from Fitz nobody really does ANYTHING.

Top Doc: Oh yeah, this is what I’m talking about. When the Doctor sleeps you can see all the details that make him human. When the Doctor gets incarcerated by the Saudi’s they are unpredictable and brutal, for once it’s the wrong sort of trouble for him to escape from. In a very revealing moment he wonders how many times he has saved the lives of his torturers. For once, he genuinely believes he is going to die. At the adventures conclusion he is frightened about what happened to Fitz, promising to bring him back for Sam to say goodbye to him. He and Sam deliberately do not kiss as they say goodbye but he tells her he knows what she means when she tells him she loves him, clearly there is a great deal of respect and intimacy between them. Much like the seventh Doctor's manipulations into his companions lives, he contacts Sam and has a direct (persuasive) impression on her development as a child, ensuring she becomes Blonde Sam. Since he regenerated he has craved a sense of romance, the ability to exchange ideas with people on an intimate level.

Friend or Foe: Sam gets a pretty decent exit all told, considering her troubled life to this point all her baggage is tied up nicely. She cleverly sends out some signals of her own to the Remote media net, realising that our lives are as controlled by signals as the Remote. She gets her best ever scene where she takes command of the situation and saves the Earth, convincing Guest via a series of images showing him the future of the galaxy if he detonates the Time Lord weapon. Despite the fact that Sam is written with some respect here, it was high time to say goodbye and it feels like the EDAs are really moving with the times now. It is a nice thought thinking of Sam and Sarah being best friends on Earth.

Scruffy Git: However good her exit is Sam, as usual, is totally upstaged by Fitz who is given developments more frightening than any other companion before or since. Forget Roz Forrester or Adric, this is a real tragedy. He actually experiences the history of the Faction that Sam was told about in book one, realising he has lost four years of his life to their cause and even if he does get back to the Doctor he will never be the same Fitz again. The reason Kode seemed so familiar in the first book is because he is Fitz, or at least a Remote lump of biomass remembered as Fitz. He is Fitz’s ancestor, a million times removed, remembered again and again until what was Fitz has been diluted down. Our Fitz (the one we have been travelling with four the last seven books) is forgotten about by the Doctor, he almost commits suicide when he realises nobody is coming to rescue him but chickens out and becomes a full time member of the Faction instead. He becomes Father Kreiner after a time, a bitter, twisted Faction member, one who barely qualifies as human any more. He is so angry when he finally meets up with the Doctor again (even if it is only the third Doctor) he punches him full in the face. He is last known to be injured, trapped in the bottle universe, status unknown. This is shocking, frightening development for the poor guy, that Lawrence Miles turning to pure sadism to punish Fitz for his choice to travel with the Doctor.

Somewhat selfishly the Doctor gives Kode, the remembered Fitz a chance to become who he was again. Thanks to the Doctor and the TARDIS he is fully remembered as Fitz again, but with the knowledge that he isn’t who he was, just a copy. Worth following up, that.

Stroppy Redhead: Compassion joins the TARDIS crew after her home planet is whisked off elsewhere and she has nowhere else to go. She is introduced to Sam’s idea of self sacrifice via a series of scenarios that dizzily prove to her that having ideals is a much more fascinating experience than she was open to originally. It is still too early to see how Compassion will turn out, too ill defined at this point, although it is funny to realise that the original Fitz was familiar with the original Compassion (or Laura Tobin as she was known) and as he has been remembered so has she, and they are now travelling together again in the TARDIS. That makes them the companions who have known each other the longest. Some mileage in that too.

Foreboding: The Doctor is now saying a man is the sum of his memories (he said the opposite in Unnatural History), almost as if he is egging on developments in The Ancestor Cell. The final wrenching twist in this books reveals the Doctor has been infected with the Faction virus since his third regeneration, growing in strength with each successive regeneration and causing the loss of his shadow in recent books. Where is this leading…?

Twists: Oh my, where to begin. The way the Remote remember the dead is waay cool and used very effectively to reveal the fate of Fitz and Tobin. It is quite shocking to see how dirty the Time Lords are getting in the midst of their Great War, sending a warship to Earth to cause the destruction of the Enemy. Gunplay in the TARDIS is pretty shocking as two members of the Special Internal Taskforce let rip a shower of bullets at Sarah and Lost Boy. The hypothetical scenario with Sam killing the baby is thrilling just for Compassions sickened reaction. The zombie ships are another brilliant concept, crashed ships salvaged by the Remote and coated with the Cold. It is worth trudging through book one just to reach Sarah’s hard-hitting documentary on illegal weapons deals in Britain, with a cameo by Iris Wildthyme! The appearance of Father Kreiner is shocking and memorable for anybody who gives a toss about Fitz. In succession you have three great twists, the Doctor being shot and regenerating on Dust (retroactively changing his past), IM Foreman becoming Dust and Magdalena becoming part of IM Foreman. Anyone who thought the Dust segments would be an anti-climax was totally wrong, as IM Foreman and his travelling show are revealed to be thirteen incarnations of the same Time Lord. Llewis becomes a member of the Faction and finally finds something he is good at. The twist that the Doctor isn’t the pioneer that what thought he was and that somebody preceded all of his travels is a real blow to the gut.

Embarrassing bits: Okay, it takes the (eighth) Doctor 420 pages to get involved in the plot in any way, surely a world record! Turns out the Remote never wanted to sell weapons to Earth, they just wanted to attract a Time Lord through the temporal interference and capture their TARDIS to reach the Cold. 75% of book one then is pretty much pointless or could be covered in much less page space considering its importance (erm, none).

Funny bits: The UN is described as a council of old women. Any conversation between Sarah and Lost Boy is hilarious, there is a sitcom spin off in the making! Turns out the Time Lords aren't descedents of anything embarrassing, which explains why they are so arrogant. Number thirteen wonders what a paradox will taste like when considering eating his earlier selves. Turns out that Faction Paradox destroyed the Blue Peter garden…we should have realised!

Result: A very satisfying wrapping up of the zillion clever ideas already set up in book one. The developments for the characters and the EDAs are astonishing, going beyond anything Virgin ever gave us in the ‘Oh my God I cannot believe that just happened to…’ stakes. Fitz’s story is horrible but brilliantly compelling and all the other characters get sparkling moments. The way the third and eighth Doctor’s life melts together is jaw dropping and the amount of surprises is unbeaten by any Doctor Who book to this point. I still have some reservations about the books length (it could have been a 400 page book with some of its flabbiness cut away) but for the sheer breadth of ideas (Miles is confirmed as the ultimate risk taker) this is one of the best Doctor Who novels ever written. A twisted, dangerous masterwork, which was severely underrated at the time and makes for impulsive reading in the twilight of the EDAs: 9/10

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Legacy by Gary Russell

Plot: The Doctor is hunting down a criminal and his leads point him to Peladon. Here he is embroiled in the politics, meets his old chum Alpha Centuri, is sentenced to death whilst Bernice engages in some romance. No it’s not the plot of Curse of Peladon! What do you mean they sound exactly the same? Oh get away with you!

Master Manipulator: The Doctor can pilot the TARDIS whilst doing magic tricks. He didn’t venture into Ace’s room too often, scared of what he might find in there. He never noticed how much she bottle things up. Bernice thinks the Doctor’s pockets exist in another dimension. Compared to the elegant 3rd Doctor, the 7th looks like he has been dragged through a hedge backwards. He has something alien and unpalatable in his eyes.

Boozy Babe: Bernice is pretty lazily characterised in this, despite her bold decision at the conclusion. All her best attributes are there, she gets pissed, she lusts after somebody inappropriate and she bollocks things up as much as she sorts them out but she is lacking the intelligence and wisdom that tempers these faults and makes her a perfectly flawed person. Here she is just loud, brash and stupid. She doesn’t even realise that the one man that could be the villain of the piece is the one she is lusting after until the plot requires her to and she suddenly snaps and goes “You were the killer all along!” or words to that effect. She studied Martians because it was the regression from warring that fascinated her. At the end of the book she decides to leave the Doctor for a while and asks to leave on good terms.

Oh Wicked: Who? Oh Ace! Yeah she appears in two or three scenes, just to remind us she’s still around. Her jacket and her gun represent her two lives.

Foreboding: Bernice heading off without the Doctor leads directly into her investigations in the next book. The first mention (and appearance) of Irving Braxiatel but again the next book would elaborate with far more skill.

Twists: Part One is an interesting look at Peladon over several generations. The Diadem from Pahka has been found and whoever wears it will plunge the galaxy into never ending warfare. Keri the Pahka is a terrific character, I’m glad she returned. Lianna being skewered to the wall is nasty, as is Jav being thrown out of the window and bouncing off the rocks into a pulpy mess. The moment Savaar declares he will be beheading the Doctor is excellent, “Tomorrow, Doctor, the ‘Ice Warriors’ will finally get their revenge.” Nic Reece’s fingers are sliced off. Peladon leaves the Galactic Federation.

[Continuity Overload! Continuity Overload! This fan cannot handle the gushes of fanwank being poured over his head…Peladon, Aggador, King Peladon, Hepesh, Torbis, Arcturus, Galaxy Five, Goth, Daleks, Kembel, Exarius, the Master, High Council, Gallifrey, 3rd Doctor, Jo Grant, Gebek, Tharila, Mike Smith, Susan, Romana, Adric, K9, Draconia, Sontarans, Braxiatel Collection, Ogri, Lurmans, Izlyr, Varga, Magnus, Deva Loka, Danny pain, Amazonia, Silurians, Azaxyr, Sarah Jane Smith, Sskel, Eckersley, Ortron, Vegans, Zodin, Voga, Cybermen, Mondas, Telos, Kaldor, Founding Families, Manisha, Shreela, Ange, Julian, Mavic Chen, wolfweed, Tegan, Polly, Phaester Osiris, Florana, Azure….cannotcomputenervousbreakdowninfluxofwank……..BANG!]

Embarrassing Bits: Gary Russell has arrived so the blatant plugging of gaps in continuity have begun!
* Geban is Torbis, Atissa is Hepesh, Nic Reece is Eckersely, Alpha Centuri is Alpha Centuri, the Doctor is accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death, the Ice Warriors are on Peladon, the Doctor is distrustful of them…in the words of Terrance Dicks this is either a pastiche of Curse and Monster or a complete rip off, depends how generous you are feeling.
* The book lacks subtlety – a character on page 60 is sad because the trooper who has just died is one that he wanted to shag!
* In-jokes ahoy – there is a bald character called Briggs (Nick Briggs) and Izlyr is said to have retired to the planet Bennion (the guy who played him).
* Page 106 should have been page one – useless build up when the real plot starts on Peladon.
* Another step back in Ace’s portrayal, she’s sleeping with other people’s men and hugging a blaster in her sleep like a child would a teddy. I can’t think why the Doctor didn’t want her on a diplomatic mission!
* Page 118 – and now somebody had beaten her to this hamster…this has to be read to be believed…
* Bernice gets dialogue like, “You dark horse Doctor, you didn’t tell me you know someone as horny as that!”
* Why does everybody on Peladon hang about in corridors plotting loudly outside the quarters of the people they are plotting against?
* Pages 156-160 read like Agatha Christie never existed. Call this a murder mystery? The detective skills the Doctor displays here would make the Famous Five cringe. And the Doctor’s final, awe inspiring revelation: “As the body was moved, it splashed blood on the spot where the murder occurred!”
* Page 179 contains some of the worst characterisation I have ever read. In any novel.
* On page 204 the Doctor idly chats about his adventures like chess matches – what was once a subtle metaphor has become an irritating character flaw
* The revelation of Nic Reece being the killer is interesting because as soon as it is revealed all of the characters admit it was obvious leading you to think Russell might be pastiching the murder mystery genre. However, leaving this revelation to the last possible moment to reveal leads me to believe that this was supposed to be a genuine surprise.
* If the Doctor knew that Nic Reece was the killer all along that means he waited around whilst Jav, Atissa and all the others were killed, just so he could get closer to the Diadem! The only time he seems to care that a killer is roaming about is when Bernice heads off into the caves with him! Callous bastard!
* Reece’s plan is to turn Peladon into a tourist trap and brainwash everybody…that’s the third book in a row to use the same rubbish idea.

Result: The third underwhelming book in a row. What can one say about Legacy? It’s certainly not the worst New Adventure, but it isn’t far off. My biggest trouble is the author’s clear obsession with Doctor Who and how the plot suffers so he can stuff more and more continuity in. The narrative itself is made up of the previous Peladon stories with only jarring moments of violence feeling like heartbeats of originality. On every level this reads like an amateurish first attempt, the prose is enthusiastic but unprofessional, the characterisation lacks depth and the plot hinges on characters behaving like idiots. Has the editor fallen into a long sleep recently? Ace is shunted off into a dead end plot (hardly the worst crime an author can commit) and Benny lacks the wit of previous adventures. I might sound like a Moaning Minnie but all I want is a solid, well written story that rewards and surprises. This doesn’t even come close: 2/10

Friday, 24 July 2009

City at World’s End by Christopher Bulis

Plot: The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara arrive on the planet Sarath, which is on the brink of destruction. The moon is going to crash into the planet and wipe out the inhabitants but the people of Arkhaven have put all their resources and manpower into building a ship that will carry away all their people at the time of destruction. The Doctor soon realises there has been a terrible deception…

Hmmm: This is very much the first Doctor of season one and easily matches Bulis previous dealing with his character in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. There are so many layers to his characterisation, I am not sure that Bulis is the best person to start digging but he has a fair go here, revealing a fiercely intelligent man, capable of moments of great humanity but also of terrifying anger too. And even more seriously, he is aware of the deception behind the Ship from a very early stage and doesn’t say a word until after the Eighty-odd thousand have been killed. He is a rationalist and a realist and realises that he may never escape with his granddaughter if he causes mass panic on this planet.

Ian wonders how the Doctor can love Susan so much and still send her into such danger. The Doctor is a sly old devil, having nothing to bargain for information he threatens to tell the camp leaders that a man is trying to escape as blackmail (hilariously, it turns out that he is right!). He freely admits he is an alien and promises to look into the problem of only having two keys for the TARDIS (a problem that causes them endless trouble!). He is an old romantic at heart and revels in the attention of being thought of as a celebrity. He gets angry when he makes mistakes with his calculations and is something of an expert in spaceship design and atomic engineering.

Schoolteachers in Love: City at World’s End focuses far more on the Doctor and Susan than Ian and Barbara but as usual their page space is filled with great moments. There is something special about this first set of regulars that has been unmatched ever since, the sense of family and needing each other, particularly Ian and Barbara, is extremely palpable.

This books proves how much Ian has softened towards the Doctor, he realises how guilty the old man must be feeling when his curiosity leads to them losing the girls (to possible injury or death) and refuses to make him feel guilty about it (compare this to his attack on him in The Daleks). The death of an individual Ian can understand but the death of a world…he could accept it intellectually but not in his heart. Poor old Barbara spends most of the book trapped under rubble, crawling along filthy underground walkways and being forced to work in a labour camp. To his credit Ian cannot sleep or eat whilst she is missing, worried sick about her for the novels entire length.

Unearthly Child: To outward appearances and some mannerisms Susan is still a teenage girl but Ian sensed a personality of great strength and boldness developing in her. She knows there is a way to heal herself but it was a skill she had never used before. It shows something of Susan’s strength of character that her duplicate (who has all of her memories and feelings) is willing to sacrifice herself to launch the Lander into space and save the remaining survivors on Sarath.

Twists: The magnificent city, dwarfed by the huge colony saving spaceship is a great image and captured to perfection on the striking cover, easily the best one of the PDA range to date. Fire rains down on the city in huge burning meteorites, the roof deck of the building containing the TARDIS crashes down into its hollow interior, burying Barbara. Why are there dummies driving the cars and hollow buildings? Sarath’s moon is going to hit and crack the planet open like an egg. Chapter Four is excellent, a really claustrophobic piece of writing as Barbara tries to escape from the ruins of the tower (after just seeing World Trade Center this was even more stifling). In a truly eerie sequence fugitives discover dummies on trains and robots on the streets, society pretending as though everything is normal. Before the war there were over 5 million people but afterwards there was fewer than 80,000 and to boost morale and fool the enemy they tried to make the city look alive. Barbara is washed away when the dam bursts, just seconds away from reaching Ian. She finds Susan but then both of them are eaten by the ravenous Creeper! The people of Sarath are revealed to be descendants of Earth. Susan is re-captured by shot and the Doctor realises she is an android duplicate! The core of the moon explodes with spectacular style, splitting the body into two halves, the smaller of which will hit the surface of Sarath in 8 hours! The Taklarians are planning to raid the ship and breed with the Akavians and start a new colony on Mirath. The prisoners are going to be poisoned. The Ship is revealed to be a monstrous deception, the people are taken aboard and anaesthetised and then killed when the ship explodes in a massive explosion. When they realised they couldn’t save everybody it was decided to make sure their last moments were filled with hope, to continue to build the ship and let the people feel as though they would escape, it was considered more humane than letting them know they would all die. A second project was secretly organised with a much smaller ship, a Lander, this is where all the missing NC2’s have vanished to, shipped off for slave labour. Monitor turns on Draad because he too wants to survive, he figures with everybody going to Mirath they will have to lower their technological dependence to survive. The duplicates were created by Monitor as his own personal army when the time was needed. Captain Lant is revealed to be a duplicate, the last of a barrage of great twists. The Doctor uses a small cube, a portion of folded space; to get the NC2’s onto the Lander without increasing their payload. The Susan android is immortalised as ‘the Pilot’ in New Arkhaven City.

Embarrassing Bits: Are the people on this planet thick? There are three massive deceptions in this book, admittedly they all pay off beautifully in the text but they just serve to make the people of Arkhaven come across as totally, utterly thick.

Result: Far better than anything we ever have come to expect from Christopher Bulis, this is an all plot mystery book which actually gets better as it goes along, climaxing in a final 50 pages that are unputdownable and full of great shocks. I have always loved the original TARDIS team and whilst this story hardly utilises them at their best they are captured well, and allow the story to branch of in several interesting directions, the plot attaching one twist to each of their plotlines. The book is full of some lovely images and even some good action sequences and the pace never really lets up. Bulis might not have a firm grasp of characterisation but there are some nice secondary characters featured (all with their secrets) and a book full of such intruiging mysteries and powered by a theme as strong as this (planet on edge of destruction…) is worthy of our attention: 7/10

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Autumn Mist by David A. McIntee

Plot: Sinister happenings are afoot in 1944 as the bodies of dead soldiers are vanishing into thin air. When the Doctor, Fitz and Sam are separated during the fighting they have to seek out the truth in a situation where nothing at all is how it seems…

Top Doc: Surprisingly muted actually, almost as though McIntee could not get a good grasp on his character with so little visual/TV to refer to. It is left to his good looks and charm to represent his character and once again it lands him hot water. What shocked me the most was his lack of reaction to the news of Sam’s death, here is a man who travelled solar systems to find her once before and he reacts to the news of being shot through the heart with barely a shrug. Similarly her decision to leave is cold and leaves little impression. These are BIG developments and should have (and could have) been far more dramatic.

Friend or Foe: Remember what I said in War of the Daleks, if Sam is the best character in the book then run for the hills! This is her penultimate adventures so we deserve some reflection and Sam comes to the conclusion that she has been *****ed about with so many times since she met up with the Doctor that she doesn’t know who she is anymore (and that there is little of the original Sam left…). I did like the scene where she realises that she will die and become a footnote in history, one of those people she read about at school.

Scruffy Git: A huge missed opportunity, as this is clearly an era that Fitz has strong feelings about, being bullied about being half German at school. There is none of the anger release or examination I wanted, Fitz is just Fitz basically. His awkwardness around Sam after sleeping with her counterpart is nice and he does a passable Sean Connery impression but overall I was left with the feeling McIntee could not get into his head and as such it is the weakest version of his character yet.

Foreboding: The TARDIS keeps landing on Earth and the Doctor cannot understand why or stop her. Fitz ends up working (against his will) for a brainwashing militaristic power again…we will make it a hat trick for the next book! Sam being shot dead is a frightening premonition for her eventual fate, revealed in Sometime Never.. and The Gallifrey Chronicles. The Doctor still isn’t casting a shadow.

Twists: The TARDIS crew are bombed within minutes of landing! Equally shocking is the soldier who is driving Sam’s care having his head explode in a shower of bullets. Sam getting shot is one of the few moments I woke up during the middle of the book and it does make you think things here could have some terrible consequences but her rescue by the Sidhe is irritatingly predictable. From nowhere the Beast (from The Taint) is shoe horned into the plot but since we know it wrecked havoc on the Earth it is hardly surprising that it gets away at the end. Sam’s decision to leave is a surprise, simply because it feels as though she has been around forever.

Embarrassing bits: This a great setting but it is woefully misused. You could write a tragic/shocking/heartfelt novel set in the Second World War but you would probably call it The Turing Test. The Midsummer Nights Dream references are cute but they really do feel as though they are attempting to drive intelligence into a pretty dull story. Oberon is dispatched with pitiful ease.

Result: Bland, clichéd characterisation and sluggish, awkward prose combine with a woefully inadequate plot to make this one of the weakest EDAs yet. It tries to mix the militaristic and the magical but the writer doesn’t have the skill to pull it off (weird because he does so wonderfully in The Eleventh Tiger) and the result is deathly shallow and worse, boring. This was coming out when McIntee was churning out book after book and his natural storytelling capability was bleeding dry, he doesn’t even get the regulars right here which is usually a given in his books. I cannot remember being excited once during this read: 2/10

Thursday, 16 July 2009

David A. McIntee Q & A

David A. McIntee is one of the most prolific Doctor Who authors. He has written 11 Doctor Who books over various ranges and two audios for Big Finish. His impressive CV also includes non fiction books of Star trek Voyager and Alien and Predator and stories for Star Trek, Final destination, Space: 1999 and now Twilight Of Kerberos: The Light Of Heaven. He has dabbled with history, space opera, thriller and comedy. Several of his books, Face of the Enemy, The Eleventh Tiger and The Dark Path are considered to be the best of their ranges.

Hi David, thanks for taking part. What are you working on at the moment?
Mainly comics right now – I’ve just done William Shatner Presents Quest For Tomorrow, and I’m now doing another licence for Blue Water Productions, which they haven’t announced having yet. Tie-in novel wise, again something I’m not allowed to mention yet…
I’m also in the middle of my first crime/mystery novel, and starting on a historical one.

How did you begin your work on the New Adventures?
I pitched the idea of novelising Mission To The Unknown – the single episode – as a full length Target book. Got invited to pitch original novels after that. I think White Darkness was the third pitch, maybe the second. I remember the first was called Moebius Trip and was about two universes inside each other – and Peter Darvill Evans said “think bigger!”
Trivia- The Veltrochni were created for that first pitch.

Your follow up to White Darkness was very swift, what was the reaction to your first book?
I don’t remember much of the reaction at the time, beyond Nigel Robinson saying people would cancel cheap trips to the Caribbean, and Ben Aaronovitch calling it “sinister”.
I knew we were coming up for the 30th anniversary after that, and so I pitched an idea bringing back Susan… Trivia again – the Tzun were created for that, but they were insects in that story.

The Doctor and Ace had been television characters, how did you find writing for Bernice Summerfield, a character created especially for the books?
Very difficult to start with, as I wasn’t online, and had only a six-page or whatever guideline to go on. And being told “she’s Emma Thompson in The Tall Guy” didn’t help, cos I never made it through that movie. Love And War hadn’t come out when I wrote White Darkness – they sent me a copy before I had the galley proofs to correct, I think.
For the next two books it was a lot easier, because by then I’d been able to read the other books.

Guy de Carnac was a fantastic creation. Can you tell us something about his conception and his potential spin off series?
He was intended to be the opposite of Benny, and sort of the anti-Mary-Sue. Writers often put themselves in as a main character’s love interest, so I put in the character I’d half dread being like instead.
There were meant to be more BBV audios, but with BBV going down… The novel series will happen, but it’s not a priority, as the publisher turned out to be a POD publisher, and I really want it done properly.

Your Missing/Past Doctor Adventures always feature unusual TARDIS crews; it’s something I really enjoy about your books. A story in season 16, the Second Doctor and the Delgado Master, a Pertwee adventure without Pertwee but featuring Ian and Barbara, the sixth Doctor and Frobisher from the comic, the third Doctor, Jo and Liz, the seventh Doctor and Sarah Jane. Were you trying to push the envelope as to what these books could achieve?
It was a mixture. Sometimes I wanted to push it, sometimes it was just a result of the demands of the story or the editors. So, Face Of The Enemy needed the right characters to ground it as a DW story without the Doctor, while Wages Of Sin started off as a Hartnell story and needed two slightly opposing companions… Bullet Time was just meant to use Sarah to show how different the NA Doctor was from the peak TV Doctor.

What was your favourite of the team ups above?
I’m not sure. Trout/Roger, Ian/Babs/Master/Unit, 7/Sarah.

You became known as the champion of the Master in the book series. He featured very memorably in several of your books. You dealt with his initial hostility with the Doctor, his dabblings with UNIT on Earth and his Survival after his torture on the Cheetah Planet. Tell us about your interest in the character. Which of these stages in his life was the most fun to write?
I actually saw the Ainley Master first (well, Beevers in Keeper of Traken *really* first) and thought the character was OK, but really got hooked from the old Target novelisations of the Pertwee era, which had him as a much more interesting opposite to the Doctor – the anti-Doctor as I keep saying, equal but opposite. Then when I saw Delgado on some bootleg videos from Australian showings of the Pertwee era, I was really hooked by his performance. He’s sort of… charming but lethal, a bit like Connery’s early Bond.
I was always also taken by the truism that you can get more depth out of a villain than a hero in a mythical series like this. By which I mean you can have a villain do good things without ruining him, while if you make the hero do evil, you probably either wreck him or prove you can’t do him right. Obviously there are exceptions, but you get the idea.
All three of the stages I wrote him at were equally fun to write, for all different reasons.

Sanctuary and The Eleventh Tiger are terrific examples of the historical genre. The former contains some disturbingly memorable images and the latter was a stylish trip through China of 1865. You captured both periods remarkably vividly, how much research goes into this type of novel and how much is embellished?
I do a fair bit of research- a lot of reading, both books and online. Obviously one has to embellish to get the right level of entertainment and serve the demands of the story, so the trick is try to do it in such a way that the audience isn’t sure which bits are true and which bits the author made up.

Is there anything you would go back and change now?
I’d do a lot less in-jokes. First time I did the Trek references, it was new, and other DW authors hadn’t done it – but by the time say, Sanctuary, had rolled around, it was already a New Adventures cliché. And also they really don’t fit that book’s tone…

Which book would you hold up as the best example of your work?
Beautiful Monsters. Or, of Dr Who, probably The Eleventh Tiger, with Sanctuary and Face Of The Enemy chasing it.

David, thank you for your time.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Tragedy Day by Gareth Roberts

Plot: The planet Olleril and the inhabitants are preparing for Tragedy Day, the one day of the year they can gather in their masses and support the underclasses. Under the sea, hidden in a submarine, plans are stirring. This promises to be the most dramatic Tragedy Day ever and nobody will ever be the same again…

Master Manipulator: Not too shabby actually, Gareth Roberts seems to see the seventh Doctor as I see him. Slightly naughty, energetic and intelligent with pity for his enemies, outfoxing them while making them think they have beaten him. The Doctor has a new spring in his step after his recent adventures, he has cheered up and is content. Brilliantly, the Doctor bursts into a room singing and Bernice almost attacks him think it is a madman! He is distractingly reminiscent in this story. You’ve got to love the scene where he would rather risk death than allow a hedge to go untrimmed; it is rather reminiscent of the eccentric Doctor of old. He orders a cheese sandwich, just to inconvenience his captors. He rages at Crispin (“You’re insane.”) and is horrified by the Slaags (“Monstrous”). The Doctor asks Bernice if she enjoys their adventures she asks if he does to which he replies: “Yes, it’s exciting.” His reaction to Crispin’s lack of shame at the horror he has caused: “I care about the damage you’ve done! I said it would all end in tears!” His anger and pity (“He was only a child. He could have done so much good”) has been sorely missed.

Boozy Babe: Bernice and Ace now realise how much they need each others trust, support and friendship. Bernice associates exciting and frightening feelings with the Doctor. She has always felt comfortable in cities and areas with reassuringly human activities. She has star quality. Bernice is so appalled by the state of things she feels inclined to write bad poetry for the first time since her teens.

Oh Wicked: Ace’s sudden acceptance of the Doctor and Bernice is as jarring as her sudden hatred of them in Deceit, but at least it is for the better this time. For some reason Ace feels responsible for all the suffering in the universe which makes her angry but now she has learnt to control that with logic and planning. About damn time. She realises in this book that she is a weaponry bore. Her mum is a hairdresser. She has an interesting discussion about making tough choices on page 138/139 where she discusses wanting to kill the Doctor and not being able to. In Meredith Ace sees a mirror image of herself, viscous, armed and lethal and she doesn’t like what she sees.

Twists: The prologue is intriguing; it feels as though we have started a first Doctor missing Adventure. Roberts creates a depressing dystopian world of gang warfare, brutal police, racism, segregation, territorial disputes and politics. Page 88-91 take a quick diversion from the main plot to visit Lorrayn and how she feels powerful for the first time picking up a weapon and murdering her idol. Yumm’s bar is burnt to the ground just because the police don’t like it. The scenes from the celebroid Doctor are great. The revelation that Crispin the boy genius is the Supreme One is genuinely surprising and well hidden. When the submarine crashes and the Slaags are releases the book really picks up steam… The curse of the red glass is revealed as the curse of fear and guilt.
Funny Bits: The Doctor wears offensively awful clothes…glad somebody finally noticed!
“Release the Slaags!” – was I the only one who thought about the high street on a Saturday night?
“Yes I’ve seen some of your television. This is where you shovel it from, I take it?” – the Doctor on scathing form.
The Doctor gives an aniseed ball to Crispin to try and cheer him up but he bursts into tears!
The biting satire on Children in Need is marvellous: ‘By 8.30, ninety nine percent of the Central city’s accumulated guilt had been exorcised. Nought point oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh percent of the Central city’s wealth had been redistributed. The companies sponsoring the various events had received free advertising to the value of thirty-five million credots.
Ernie the Spider is secretly terrified of humans, the way they scuttle about beneath him.

Embarrassing Bits: The cover is, for once, entirely appropriate but still utterly hideous.
Howard Devor is an unsubtle piss take of Tom Baker during the latter half of his reign.
Anti matter charged dance floors? Come on, nobody is that stupid.
Crispin’s plan to blast the whole population with character traits from Martha and Arthur as he believes they are the ultimate examples to live our lives by is both unconvincing and absurd. Pacifying the planet huh, just like No Future.
The planet Argos, where the Doctor had to deal with a ‘catalogue’ of problems. Oh geez.
There is a subplot about the celebroids that comes from nowhere and disappears into nowhere. I wouldn’t have bothered.

Result: No where near the standard of The Highest Science. The biggest problem with Tragedy Day is it spends far too long setting the scene instead of moving along the (thin) plot. What’s more for a satire it just isn’t harsh enough on the guilt-ridden, charity-driven members of the public it is attempting to parody. The narrative is sprawling and is too concerned with subplots that go no where to drive its point home. However it is genuinely funny in places and the pace really picks up in the last 50 pages, with some memorable action. The Doctor is characterised beautifully, it’s as if Gareth Roberts cannot bother to write about the NA Doctor at all and works his own mischievous jester into the series and the new found respect between Benny and Ace is welcome, if a little sudden. Crispin is a pathetic villain; both his motivation and his plan lack any kind of realism. An ambitious failure then, needing one or two revisions to iron out its problems: 5/10

Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Final Sanction by Steve Lyons

Plot: The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe are caught up in the climax of the war between Earth and Ockara, the paranoid and xenophobic humans and Selachians both trying to hold on to their empires. Whilst Jamie is enlisted and Zoe is a prisoner of war, the Doctor is forced to make some history altering decisions to make sure his friends come out of this one unscathed…

Oh My Giddy Aunt: The second Doctor is so often exploited for his comic potential it is fascinating to see him portrayed so totally straight throughout. I have no doubt in my mind that Patrick Troughton would have made this gripping material dazzle. The Doctor’s little gestures are often an apology for getting his own way in advance. His expression suggests that all the misfortunes of the universe are a personal disappointment to him. He looks like a tramp or a comedian, but his face is serious and his eyes betray a keen glint of intelligence. The Doctor is always surprised at how small tyrants are compared to their reputations. Its as if, despite his vast experience, he still couldn’t imagine how evil could come in such a small package as a human being. The Doctor is willing to sacrifice his own life to save Jamie’s. Zoe often feels that with the Doctor that nothing could harm her because he would always find a way to stop it. A pet hate of his is scientists who don’t consider the consequences of their work, who tried to absolve themselves of the responsibility. But he knows from experience how easy it is to get caught up in the joy of discovery, to pull at an enticing thread until you knew more about the nature of the universe than you ever intended to learn. His reaction to the massacre of the Ockaran village is shocking. Zoe has yet to see a prison that can hold the Doctor. The Doctor thinks of the great evils – Daleks, Cybermen, Ice Warriors – that he has been forced to destroy to stop them from committing greater evils. He always had a hand in their downfall but couldn’t regret what he has done. He knows he should let Zoe die, one life to preserve the future but she was his responsibility and he was the one who had dragged her into a life of peril. It is here that you realise that Time has much of a ball chain around the second Doctor’s neck as the first, despite their different outlooks on life.

Who’s the Yahoos: Where Jamie comes from war is honourable, there was no laying traps or lying in the mud but real fighting, hand to hand. He is described as decisive, uncomprehending, well muscled and healthy. He can barely comprehend the thought of setting off a bomb that could destroy a planet. Sometimes the Doctor envy’s Jamie’s ability to sleep through anything. Chapter seven sees Jamie at war and it is a gripping glimpse at how strong and resourceful he really is, facing underwater monsters and surviving. Jamie develops a strong bond with Michaels, almost father/son which really strikes home the paranoia of the human race when Jamie steps in and refuses to see an entire world destroyed and they end up at each other’s throats, literally. He is clearly very moral, telling the young Selachian about the G Bomb and the humans plan to wipe out their planet. Jamie smiles when he realises he has done exactly what the Doctor would have done, refusing to let the humans detonate the bomb and refusing to let the Selachians murder a human, and thus both sides hate him. When a Selachian attempts to commit suicide simply because he is a POW, Jamie is horrified.

Brainy Babe: Zoe wonders why the TARDIS persists in seeking out the ugliest, least hospitable worlds in the universe. Zoe was bright and resourceful, if only she had a chance to prove it. The Doctor was prone to making mistakes so with him she always felt useful. She learns a harsh lesson in racism when Patterson beats and kills a helpless Selachian to death. Her torture is painful to read, it is horrible to imagine the bolshie but tiny and beautiful Zoe being treated so violently by the Selachians. Zoe realises that logic is not always useful and fairness can sometimes be more understandable.

Twists: The first chapter is a gripping scene setter. The TARDIS crew stumble onto a beach strewn with corpses, prisoners that have been executed. Chapter Eight is a short and bittersweet reflection on the war from the eyes of a dying Selachian, possibly the most poignant moment in the PDAs yet. Chapters are told from one persons POV throughout, a nice narrative touch that proves these characters can hold their own. The Selachians crippled themselves in their natural element for the sake of maintaining power and a fearsome new image above water. The Doctor talks with Mulhullond knowing that in six months she will hang herself (and with him making her question her creation of the G Bomb, it could very well be his fault). The concentration on the G Bomb, the moral dilemma of exploding such a devastating device gives the book a real dramatic punch. Jamie and Michaels having a punch up in front of the bomb is a really effective image. Michaels guts are blasted as he releases the bomb, the Selachians sacrifice their homeworld in order to capture another bomb to destroy the Earth.

Result: “It’s a lot more difficult to stop a war than to start one” The Final Sanction paints a paranoid and racist Earth Empire in the wake of the Dalek Invasion and an ideal backdrop for this gripping war story. I am impressed that Steve Lyons managed to maintain his fatalistic tone throughout and whilst this book doesn’t give you many moments of relief it holds your attention thanks to the interesting support cast and the gradually unfolding dramatic dilemma. Much of the tale is told intelligently from the point of view of the regulars, none of whom are used to this sort of punishment and Lyons manages to shine a light on some new character insights. The Second Doctor in particular is beautifully handled; facing the sort of nightmare decisions his predecessor is famous for. Occasionally the author gets on his moral high horse and talks down to you but for the most part this is a fascinating novel, experiencing a war from so many varied and fascinating perspectives: 8/10