Mark Michalowski's second original Doctor Who novel for BBC books is also the second to feature the most recent TV pairing of The Tenth Doctor and loudmouthed temp from Chiswick, Donna Noble.
Michalowski injects new life into well-worn sci-fi themes such as: Man versus machine, the sentience of robots, and the deification of unwitting humans who arrive unexpectedly on alien worlds.
The story suffers initially from the cramming-in of too many characters, and consequently the first few chapters are somewhat muddled. Fortunately, as the book progresses the tale becomes sparer and more focused, resulting in a darkly humorous adventure which sees the time-traveller and his companion quickly separated, and individually become involved with two factions who both seek to uncover the secrets behind the eponymous `Cult of Shining Darkness'.
There are moments of Douglas Adams-esque whimsy throughout the book, most notably in the facetious depiction of the fickle `Jaftee' who treat gods like fashions, and Donna's hilarious self-styling as `The Ginger Goddess'; a cunning ruse to escape The Jaftee - and one which promptly backfires.
I have found the pairing of The Doctor and Donna to be the one that works best on TV and in the novels it is just the same. The trick of separating the pair early on works well, just as in the previous novel in the range: `The Doctor Trap'. The book also works well on many levels and could be enjoyed by both young and old; diehard fan and casual reader. This is the key to the success of the parent series Doctor Who as well as its spin-off `The Sarah-Jane Adventures'; as long as the writers continue to bear this in mind and write accordingly, the possibilities are endless...
The audiobook, read by Debbie Chazen (Foon Van Hoff in 2007 Christmas special 'Voyage of the Damned'), retains much of the novel's charm - despite being abridged - but still works better as a book than a CD.