Top Doc: This is exactly the sort of interesting take on the Doctor you would expect from a debut author and tries out some brave, if not always entirely successful, ideas. The Doctor is seen to have an extremely intimate relationship with the TARDIS and when she is pain, he screams with her. Once she cuts herself of from him to heal he starts exhibiting unusual behaviour, making some foolish errors of judgement and flying off the handle at the merest provocation. He is emotional, lonely, desperate and angry…it is a potent brew which marks him as one of the books best characters, for once he is really unpredictable and intriguing to read about. His strained relationship with UNIT commander Wolstencroft is fantastic, the leader angry that the Doctor always walks away from his adventures unscathed (whereas the soldiers die) and the Doctor furious at his disregard for life. When Nagle turns on the Doctor and tells him he will have to kill her to stop her experimenting with the wormhole, I genuinely feared for her life after the climax to Revolution Man. The difference between the Doctor and the troops is highlighted by Nagle, he is not afraid to show that he cares for the people he saves. Best line: “Why are you all pointing guns at me? I’m the man who can save the day you know!”
Friend or Foe: Sam spends much of this book floating around an alien environment wondering how she is going to get out. She’s inoffensive but not especially memorable.
Scruffy Git: At first I though Fitz would be a walking parody of his own character (pretty impressive only four books into his run…guess that shows how distinctive he is already) because he spends the hilarious amount of time in the first half of the book thinking about his cigarettes as though that is his one distinguishing feature. But the hero in him is starting to emerge and he display some very impressive qualities later on; taking charge when the aliens attack the farm, comforting Kerstin, rescuing the Doctor from C19, diving into the wormhole when it opens and organising the T’hiili into an attacking force. What’s most striking is how he refuses to admit he is a hero, especially in one of his typically cynical (but wonderful) speeches: “Because I’m rather fagged out. It’s so easy for you. You’re the guy with two hearts, who never farts. Never swears, smokes, drinks or even sweats. Well, I’m sorry Doctor, I can’t even begin to come up to your ideal. I’m only bloody human!”
Foreboding: The re-introduction of UNIT from Vampire Science is a nice reminder of their existence in time for The Shadows of Avalon. The Doctor should get used to losing the TARDIS, in a few books he will be without her for quite some time…
Embarrassing bits: There is a speech on page 36 by the Doctor concerning the interconnected-ness of all things in the universe which is melodrama personified. Fitz doesn’t recognise the cloister bell, which is odd because he did in Revolution Man. The Doctor has to explain a number fourty-seven in great detail because Sam and Fitz are not around… After the eye opening first chapter the first fifty pages are hopelessly mundane.
Twists: The opening, with the TARDIS attacked and Sam abducted, is very dramatic. The TARDIS reverting to its original shape is as disconcerting for the Doctor as it is for the reader. The creatures attacking the farm proves far more exciting than it has any right to be. There is a supremely icky moment when a creature bursts from Johan’s chest much to the horror of those observing. The mass suicide of the T’hiili is horrible, and provides a great shock for Sam, finally making us care about the situation in the Dominion. The action packed climax is gripping reading, especially Nagle’s death, ignoring the Doctor’s warnings about human curiosity.
Funny bits: Fitz’s impression of UNIT is of secret investigators having secret meetings in dark alleys wearing trench coats. Although it is a serious moment, the Doctor makes a wrong prediction about a characters’ future. I just thought it was hysterical that Walters took the Michael out of this frequently bizarre new facet of the Doctor’s persona.
Result: Sporadically brilliant and dull. If you can get past the first terminally dull 50 pages things improve radically with some lovely gruesome set pieces, marvellous characterisation (you have a pair of excellent wannabe companions in Kerstin and Nagle, both competing for the position of replacement for Sam) and a great exploration of the Doctor’s character. Unfortunately the scenes set in the Dominion are mostly boring, a little too weird for my tastes and not giving you enough to care about. The prose is faultless but not risky enough (plain English…emphasis on the PLAIN) but for a debut novel this shows a lot of imagination and fresh ideas and marks Nick Walters as one to watch out for in the future: 6/10