Andrew Cartmel has ‘previous form’ with Doctor Who novels, having written a trilogy of fairly experimental 7th Doctor adventures for Virgin’s old New Adventures range. After a long time away this new novel (quite possibly the final release in the BBC’s long-running series of paperback original Who novels) finds him writing in a very different style, with a fairly basic story which features the Doctor and Ace at the centre of virtually every scene. The first half of the novel, where the Doctor and Ace go undercover to investigate mysterious goings on surrounding the test detonation of the first nuclear bomb, is readable and generally enjoyable stuff, despite some rather broad supporting characters. Sadly Cartmel seems to lose the plot in the second half, with the appearance of an extraterrestrial that – while admittedly colourful – does nothing to move the plot forward at all, and the revealed bad guys plot involving harnessing the power of a destroyed universe to somehow make the Japanese rulers of Earth throughout the multiverse (don’t ask how – its never explained) is risible. For the most part a pleasant enough unchallenging read, but ultimately the plot is just too nonsensical to take seriously.
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