This is one of the Second Doctor novels that "won't stay on the shelf" here, and I'm talking about the 4th largest city in the world. I had my doubts, but now that I read it all doubts are gone. This is a Hemmingway-esque style of writing in which the words are broken down to their basic molecules, no extra words stuffed in there, no fanciness. And because of this, when a person dies in this book, the emotional shock value of that lost life stands out all the more. Make no mistake: Vaughn is one of the WORST villains in all of Whodom! He out-Cybers the Cybermen, and in a masterstroke of understating, Marter lets the readers realize for themselves the most coldly atrocious of his crimes: His secret murders, secret police, augmented humans and cold chessplaying with the Cybermen, UNIT, Geneva, Great Britain and every country in the world...why no writers have picked up this thread and created a mini-series, I have no idea. There are rich seams of lore and possibility in this book.
The extra scenes only emphasize what we see in the film. Differences are negligible but for one spine-chilling exception: The part where the Doctor's blocker falls off his neck in the film is changed to his inability to make one for himself in time, because he was making them for other people. Troughton fans can all too easily see what Marter describes: Jamie struggling with all his strength to contain the Doctor before he hurts himself, thrashing and smashing precious lab equipment, completely out of his mind as the Cyber-waves render himself, and London, helplessly insane while Watkins feverishly solders bits for a new blocker in the same lab. When they slapped it on his neck I forgot how it ended on the TV screen and was holding my breath as the Doctor fought tooth and nail against the Cybermen's attempt to control his mind. Equally horrific is Vaughn's book treatment of the Brig's old friend Rutledge. It does NOT end well, but I've given enough spoilers away.
Moments shine like tiny gems through the book: In the Third Doctor's era, Pertwee praises Benton's skill with coffee. Reading this, we get a feeling this started with the Brig's tea on the HERCULES. It is (brace yourself) NAAFI tea. Strong as the tail-hairs of a donkey in January, the Doctor endures repeated assaults of this tea while the Brig and Jamie slurp it down as though it's the best thing on Earth (If this is what all the troops drink, no wonder they went on to conquer most of the known world). The Doctor later happily chooses Isobel's ice-cold and stale coffee after that tea, and confesses he memorized a very complex map on the wall to get his mind off the Brig's "execrable tea." To put this in perspective, London is the WORST city to map in your mind, EVER. It's been a hopeless cause since Samuel Johnson. I consider this no less impressive than Troughton's mental gymnastics in THE ICE WARRIORS or TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN.
One of the best things about this book's stripped-down language is, there is no such thing as a useless character in this book. Everyone has a part to play, and a moment in which to perform, and ALL ARE VITAL. The Brig's warmth and humanity peeks out of his words and actions; Benton is never far, and you get a strong feeling that his closeness to the Brig is a personal desire to protect a man who trusted him with recruitment. Isobel and Zoe hit it off and Zoe actually gets to demonstrate her newfound ability to listen intuitively. It's a big moment for her, and Isobel doesn't mock her for it.
Many people complain Troughton's Doctor is the hardest to portray. I argue that they should read these books closely. Troughton breathes in this tiny book. He is close to Jamie and Zoe; he accepts their mothering and worry while he gives it back. He transforms almost instantly from a smiling little Hobo to a quiet little poker player when up against Vaughn. Not knowing if Vaughn has murdered Zoe and Isobel, he plays along with meek manners, holding a frantic Jamie in check. It reminded me of how he forced Zaroff to reveal his insanity "Bang! Bang! Bang!" in UNDERWATER MENACE and Kleig in TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN. Anyone seeing the Doctor play it this calm and submissive had best run for the nearest bunker. You know without a doubt that if his friends were dead there would be uncontested hell to pay. He forces Vaughn, an ice-cold killer, to play by his rules by pretending to get along with Vaughn, frustrating him as much as he drives the thuggish henchman Packer half-sobbing with rage and stifled impulse. In the film, you see a skillful "shutting down" of the little Hobo's empathy. He has to when he is brokering the survival of the world with one of its worst villains. (You'll see it later in THE WAR GAMES). The book strips the Doctor down to the bare essentials for survival. Here is a Time Lord: Someone doing what he loathes because he must. And in this case, he must buy for time and that means sitting down and chatting with the man who has murdered scores of people--and worse--converted them into Cybermen. He takes the responsibility for the task without complaining, and this is very quietly heroic.
I forget who once said that the Classic Who Novels were a great introduction for both the English Student, and the English Learner. It's true. These books are so small they may not look worth your time, but they are. And that's why even in Seattle, a Troughton novelization can't stay on the shelf.