on 8 June 2005
Another Doctor Who novel, another alternate universe? Sadly, this will become the norm, as the current storyline is *about* alternate universes. As begun in The Infinity Race and Time Zero, alternate universes are springing up all over the place. This just adds another burden to a story that takes place in a continuing series, as we have to be given a reason to care about any of the characters in it, as we know it's not going to "matter" to the story in general. Otherwise, it's just going through the motions. Sadly, Bishop fails in this, as I didn't care about *any* of the characters, sometimes not even the continuing ones.
It's hard to decide where to begin on The Domino Effect. Characterization takes a back seat to imagery in the book, with none of the incidental characters eliciting anything other than disgust or boredom from this reader. The bad guys are super bad, moustache-twirling evil minions (Hastings is the worst), and the good guys are sniveling dweebs (except Dee, who is a violent good guy, thus not necessarily twirling her moustache). Instead, we're given an almost brutal book. Hastings, the main character who interacts with Fitz, is just sadistic and nothing else (except when he turns into a sniveling dweeb). All of the scenes with Fitz consist mainly of beatings and torture in some fashion and that's about it. There's a point to Fitz's captivity, though he ultimately doesn't really do anything except introduce us to a character who becomes important elsewhere. But the beatings? They're overdone. The atmosphere of the world has the same brutality, and Bishop constantly lets us know how oppressive everything is, sometimes to a fault.
All of this is being done in the name of stopping progress. There is a nice confrontation at the end spelling everything out, identifying just what the purpose of the scenes taking place in the past (where various instances of potential technological advances are nipped in the bud) is and how they interact. However, this scene suddenly takes a sharp left turn into the realm of technobabble that really doesn't make any sense whatsoever. I'm still not sure what the other prisoner has to do with the whole thing. This technobabble goes on for pages at the end, trying to explain the whole plot, and worse: trying to set up subsequent books. This does not make me feel good.
Are there other silly aspects to this book? Of course there are. How about a policeman who's conveniently forgetful, who just happens to be the one policeman who runs into the Doctor and his cohorts. Gee, isn't it nice that he's so forgetful that he doesn't remember seeing the Doctor and Anji's pictures on the "Britain's Most Wanted" television show? Not to mention the briefing I'm sure he received just that morning! Nope, doesn't remember them. But gee, the Doctor sure looks familiar. Maybe he saw him on the telly! I'm sure Bishop thought this was a cute scene, but trust me, it wasn't. Not to mention the fact that the police force in this "timeline" is so brutally efficient that there's no way this person would be on the force. Whatever shred of my disbelief that was left suspended, the fraying rope finally snapped. This was absurd.
Even worse, however, is Anji's complete *stupidity* in not knowing that something was wrong when she first arrives. She blunders through the first 50 or so pages, weathering all the overt racism, the scorn heaped on her when she does things like ask where the ATM machines are and tries to pay with money that has the Queen's picture on it instead of the King's. Anji is not an idiot, but you certainly couldn't tell from the beginning of this book. The TARDIS crew has just been through an adventure where the universe starts splitting, and their last adventure was *in* an alternate universe. You'd think she'd twig to the fact that this wasn't her 2003. But no, she doesn't. She keeps forcing her way through. Gee, great portrayal of the real Edinburgh there, David, that she might actually believe that this *is* the real Edinburgh for any length of time whatsoever. There is one line that attempts to rationalize this (blaming it on being shaken by her first encounter with the racism), but it doesn't wash. Even shaken, she is smarter than that.
So what did Bishop get right? Not a whole lot in this case. The book begins with a flashback sequence for Anji, even though the Doctor & Fitz's scenes are told in the "present," but this only goes for about 50 pages and then disappears. It doesn't really work, but the rest of the prose is ok. Fitz is ok for what he does, though unless it has some ramifications for him in other books, it doesn't really work. He should lose some of his gung-ho attitude after his treatment in this book. If not, then Fitz becomes even less than useless. The Doctor doesn't really do a whole lot, but the final confrontation (before the technobabble virus hits) is quite well-done. Heather is also mildly interesting, though there turns out to be a reason for this that is, sadly, predictable. Until she turns into a pod person, she's actually an effective character, though that could be because she's the only true character in this book. There are multiple betrayals in this book, but none of them work because I didn't care about them at all.
Unless you're a completist, give this one a miss.