You really can judge a book by its cover. Specifically, by how much information the back cover blurb gives away. "The Space Age" still remains best known, after nearly four years, for its wildly imaginative blurb, rather than for the warmed-over "West Side Story" coffee grounds we got within. Not only is "Divided Loyalties" one of the worst novels published east of the Atlantic Ocean, but its blurb is doubly unimaginative -- spoiling, as it does, just about all of the story's major plot twists through page 200.
Now, when I read reviews of "The Suns of Caresh" online, I'm actually reading reviews of two different books. There's the school of thought which celebrates "Caresh" as a nifty 80-page novella, set behind a largely unmemorable 200-page trailer. But there's also the school of thought holding "Caresh" as 200 pages of an inventive science-fiction novel, let down by an 80-page coda that has little to do with the elaborate set-up.
I'm going to join the latter group, and say that "Caresh" had me right up until the page 200 mark -- or maybe page 149. I believe that, if the back-cover blurb had been redone, I would not have felt that way. The blurb really gives away the game all the way up through page 200, thus setting up the seemingly disconnected 80-page Caresh sequence. We know going in that Troy Game "is pinning her hopes on the Doctor", but she doesn't even meet him until well after the halfway point. The effect of all this is that "Saint" has given us an inventive novel with loops and twists... but it just doesn't seem that way, since we know too much before we even start.
The book I enjoyed is not even hinted at on the back. It's about an alien who falls from the sky and has to adjust to working-class England. It's also the story of "Doctor Who"'s quintessential poor shlub, Simon Haldane, a factory worker with a strong SF bent, whose fantasy comes to life when the alien moves into his bedroom. Simon believes her story and starts working with her (thanks to some nifty computer graphics that might've looked great on TV) to phone home. The Doctor and Jo are a million miles away from all this, but it's OK. Meanwhile, Simon has a problem... he's been so conditioned by the culture that all he can do is count down until the inevitable moment when the nympho alien, stranger in a strange land, will seduce him. Only that never happens, and when Simon tries to (drunkenly) force the issue...
Meanwhile, the Doctor and Jo are getting involved in some Time Lord intrigue of the kind the EDAs can no longer provide. There's a renegade Gallifreyan lording his scientific advances over another exotic alien planet. There's his one-time consort, a Time Lady who (thankfully) is nothing like Iris Wildthyme. The Doctor's on a rescue mission for the Time Lords, but this time, the CIA is not involved, and there are no men in funny hats telling him what to do.
The back cover blurb, naturally, ignores both these stories, and instead leads off with three oblique mysteries, all of which are incidental to the story I just described. Meanwhile, Simon is casually tossed aside in a two-sentence parenthetical, thus giving him the PDA equivalent of Liz Shaw's departure scene in "Inferno".
"The Suns of Caresh" is evocative Pertwee, with gadgets, a sympathetically-drawn Jo Grant, and interesting TARDIS mythology. It's also, however, a victim of the six-part format that plagued stories like "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" and "The Time Monster", as the shifting focus knocks the original story clear off the table and brings in something far less interesting to end the day. Why couldn't Simon travel to Caresh? Why is Masada mentioned on the blurb when we leave that locale for good on page 13? When the Epilogue causes all of the story's Earthbound catastrophes to unhappen, why isn't Simon brought back?
Anyway, these are first-novel excessives compounded by an editorial blunder. "Caresh" is endlessly inventive and fairly readable. Let's let this Saint pseudonym loose on the UNIT gang and see if we can't turn out anything better than "Eye of the Giant" or "Amorality Tale".