This review is from: Doctor Who: Divided Loyalties (Paperback)
Gary Russell is one of those authors who irritates me, although his novels are usually fairly entertaining. Both Business Unusual and Placebo Effect are fairly solid books, Russell just seems hell bent on adding as much continuity as he can, even if doing so is fairly pointless. Seeing as Divided Loyalties is a 5th Doctor novel featuring the Celestial Toymaker, I was afraid it would be another case of continuity overload as indeed it is.
The novel doesn’t start very well in honesty. The Toymaker seems to be taking people from time to play his games, including the Doctor’s companions, however there is little closure to be had. We have 4 people in a game but none are concluded satisfactorily, which rather begs the question why the time was taken to explain the games in reasonable detail. The thread about the TARDIS’ arrival and the silence of Dymok is interesting, but it takes a back seat to the Toymaker. The middle section of the book then goes off on a wild tangent and explores the Doctor’s life as a student of Gallifrey and his very first run in with the Celestial Toymaker. This bit is really good, and despite it being Russell smothering on some more continuity I ended up really enjoying it. The important bits could have been condensed to a prologue, but it was interesting nonetheless. The end is very convoluted and not really that enjoyable. Russell again tries to join up far too many dots and ends up delivering a totally unsatisfying ending.
The Doctor is the often bland 5th, diluted even more by the fact Divided Loyalties has only 250 pages and a good portion of those are dedicated to the pre-TV era bit. The little he does have to do is a good representation of the era, although it’s hard not to write for the 5th. Tegan is shown to be more brash than usual which I didn’t enjoy, likewise Adric seems even more annoying than his on screen persona which again isn’t enjoyable. Nyssa isn’t given much to do but at least her representation is true. The villain of the piece is the Celestial Toymaker, a great character but sadly ruined by Russell’s prattling. The pre-first Doctor era, Deca students are all very well written and despite my annoyance with Russell over this sort of work, I did enjoy these bits. The remaining cast all fade into obscurity which is never good.
As I suspected Divided Loyalties is another continuity-fest from Gary Russell but with an interesting enough story to hold it together, albeit only just. It isn’t going to win any prizes, but it isn’t horrendous either.