This book is a true epic. I could not put the book down and finally finished it in bed at 4:00am one morning. Think I could sleep after that! No chance! Not only resolving the prevous story arc this one sets up the next. However will events in this book make it difficult for any future series? This book is a credit to the fans, the series and not least to the authors. The future of Doctor Who has only rarely been as eagerly anticipated as it is now.
Stephen Cole was a bold BBC Books editor. He rescued the BBC Books range from its dreadful start, and, by judicious use of real talent such as Lawrence Miles, Kate Orman and finally Paul Cornell, ensured that something actually happened in this range of Dr Who books that was a little more than your standard monster of the week runaround. With this book, Cole ties up a long series of wandering plot lines and supplies an epic conclusion. Cole and Angelhides may not be the series' best authors, but this is considerably better than Cole's previous book (the completely unmemorable Parallel 59). It has a great plot, a ripping sense of pace, and An Awful Lot Happens. This is one of those books that is very consciously Epic. There are genuine twists, a few real surprises, and some great use of other people's characters. The writing itself is disappointingly lacking in humour or flavour (Cole's Romana is nowhere near as good as Paul Cornell's, and Fitz is as annoying as ever), but for once this doesn't actually matter much. The plot, the events, and the sheer, gobsmacking sense of style override the flat prose and stale characters. This is a completely gripping and deeply fascinating book, and, above all, a great idea. If you've steered clear of the BBC Books (and, frankly, that's often no bad thing), then read Alien Bodies, Unnatural History, Interference, Shadows of Avalon, and this. They'll make you proud to be a Doctor Who fan.
For the uninitiated: Between 1997 after the Doctor Who TV movie and 2005 when the new TV series started, BBC Books published a range of novels featuring the Eighth Doctor as played by Paul McGann. As with the Virgin Adventures before them, the novels were a chance to take Doctor Who into much more complicated story-telling, featuring new companions and enemies never seen on TV.
One of the appealing things about the series was that there were several Story Arcs that sometimes ran for over a year. This book is a crucial turning point in the biggest Story Arc that ran through these books, namely the Faction Paradox. So if character names like Fitz and Compassion mean nothing to you, this book will leave you totally and absolutely stumped- and you'd best start at the beginning of the arc, which is (pretty much) "Unnatural History" by the brilliant writer Kate Orman.
So this book is EPIC in terms of what it accomplishes and how it changes the Doctor's situation (it's difficult to explain without spoiling it). But in a way that's its downfall, as it is trying to accomplish too much, take on board and tie up too many plot lines, kill off too many characters (!). So you're left with narrative that's a bit confusing and at times contrived. Fitz is the only character that gets a proper voice throughout and otherwise it is just too dense.
Sadly I felt the same about "The Gallifrey Chronicles" at the very end of the Eighth Doctor series of novels.
An important book to read if you're reading the ongoing Doctor Who Eighth Doctor stories but not one of the best in its own right.
If I had to pick my favourites from the eight-year run of the series, they would include "The Slow Empire", "The Year Of Intelligent Tigers", "Escape Velocity", and "Father Time".
Well the Faction Paradox story finally comes to an end and what an end. In fact only read the last thirty pages of this book. The first two hundred odd are very repetitive and dry. Compassion and Fitz are yet again wasted whilst Romana is totally unrecognisable, every other regenerated TL has kept at least some aspect of their personality but Romanan appears to have turned into Daughter of Goth. The revelation of the Factions leader has been signposted for ages and comes as no surprise, and has been done before and better. Still the ending signposts a future direction that looks intriguing. The next hundred years will be fun. Roll on the 70 / 80's and the Two Doctors.
I was sorely disappointed with this book, the first half is unremittingly dull. In the second half, the action starts to pick up but storyline alone is not an excuse for poor characterisation. Only Fitz is really given any definition and he is still wasted for several chapters. The other characters are unrecognizable from their dialogue or actions, their names are familiar but they are not. The story telling is merely functional, it does not enthrall or captivate the reader. Much of this book has the feel of a detailed script, dialogue and events are simply written down with no sense of empathy or drama. The Doctor's decision to destroy so much rather than become what he fears is about the worst I have ever read. It is totally out of character. The Doctor was always willing to risk himself for others, not sacrifice them to save himself. I enjoyed this storyline when it was first begun in "Alien Bodies" and "Unnatural History" but it was dragged out far too much with the apochryphal "Interference". I am sad to say that the best thing about this book is that it finally closes a very bad chapter Dr Who history.