This page is one of several on this site about my novel Frontier Worlds. They are all linked from this main blog post here.
These reviews of my second Doctor Who novel are from newsstand publications, online bookstores, and the web — including various online fan sites. Since I first collated these some years ago, several of these review sites may have gone offline.
“Exhilarating,” wrote Vanessa Bishop. “Had the Fox network continued to produce Doctor Who movies, fare such as this would have suited them well […] Like the Movie, Frontier Worlds cuts through all of Doctor Who’s pretensions, returning it to being designed to frighten.” She commented on the book’s “slick, cheeky and unbearably tense action, paced with espionage, chase sequences and seductive interludes [… a skilful] fusing of Doctor Who and 007-style exuberance […] The pace is maintained even when dealing with the Doctor’s terminally dysfunctional companions.”
“On the other hand,” she observed, “Frontier Worlds isn’t so fast that it forgets its heart. It soberingly explores both senility and suicide, but—as is the novel’s rule of thumb—also finds action with which to illustrate these ideas.” In sum: “Anghelides writes a roller-coaster.”
Frontier Worlds was voted best Eighth Doctor novel of 1999 by the readers of Doctor Who Magazine. Of 486 people who voted for any book, 336 rated the novel and it achieved an average score of 73%. “Hoorah!” said reader Colin Francis. “This is real TV Movie material. I can easily imagine Paul McGann in this. More importantly, this book was fun!” Paul Laville added: “The best thing I’ve read in ages. The plot was slightly contrived in places, but there was an action-packed storyline that gripped from the first page to the last. No recurring Doctor Who monster or villain, and no cod characterisation.”
“I thought I was done with the Eighth Doctor books for good,” explained DWM reader Tom O’Leary. “But Frontier Worlds saved the day. Can you tell the new books editor that we want more stories like Anghelides’, and less like Miles’, Magrs’and their ilk?”
“Traditional Doctor Who, somewhat incongruously placed within a radical story arc [that] adds depth and style to the usual formulas.” John Binns gave Frontier Worlds 8/10 in TV Zone, though “readers who are whole-heartedly enjoying the Arc, I suppose, can add a point or two to the above score”. John wrote that “Anghelides’s take on Fitz is perhaps the best of the range so far and easily the novel’s best asset”. He felt there were echoes of the TV serials “The Caves of Androzani” and “The Seeds of Doom”.
Not an enthusiast for the continuing story arc, John observed that the book contained “plot details the size of France [that] are simply irritating, no matter how skilfully acknowledged they are.” Nevertheless, he thought the book had “a generally high standard of writing and certain passages—such as a blinding ‘Doctor versus villain’ dialogue scene—an absolute joy to read.”
“The plot […] is well told, and starts with a fabulous ‘pre-credits’ sequence that wouldn’t disgrace an Indiana Jones movie,” wrote Paul Simpson. “Although it becomes a little preachy in places, this is an enjoyable novel.” Paul disliked the “annoying” first-person narration by Fitz: “while Peter captures some of his nuances, he becomes a little too two-dimensional. Compassion, on the other hand […] is starting to become the most intriguing figure of the series.” He rated the book 8/10.
“A fairly traditional story, which is no bad thing when handled this well,” wrote Paul Reeve on the alphabetstreet site (now defunct), rating the book 8/10. He thought the first-person narration “initially a little OTT but quickly settles down into an interesting character examination.” And he thought the book featured “a fantastic robot, which was a lot of fun”.
Paul Holgate rated the book 9/10, describing it as “a heady mix of James Bond style action, laced with the classic Who style of the Hinchcliffe era.” He thought the book could almost be a contemporary version of TV serial “The Seeds of Doom”: “It would be quite easy to imagine this as a glossy TV movie, had the original McGann film been successful, firmly bringing the series into the new millennium with a fast paced, visually stylish production, whilst maintaining the classic shock value and horror that Doctor Who provided so well in the early 70’s.” While acknowledging that it is not “a thinking man’s science fiction story”, he concluded that it was “a fast paced adventure you will find this exhilarating […] Excellent stuff.”
Tim Phipps thought the book more traditional and “far less oppressive and depressive than the last three books in the series”. He preferred it to Kursaal, and it reminded him both of a Justin Richards-style novel and “the days of Ace being frosty in the [Virgin Publishing] New Adventures”. Tim was one of the earliest reviewers to observe that “the arc has less to do with the Time Lords, Faction Paradox, the nature of the universe and everything as it has to do with Compassion.” He rated it 8/10.
The reviewer wawan garenk also rated it 8/10, describing it as “a fairly traditional story, which is no bad thing when handled this well: corporate espionage meets genetic engineering and the traditional men with deadly secrets. Parts of the book are written in the first person, which is initially a little OTT but quickly settles down into an interesting character examination, and there are just enough twists and turns to easily keep the reader’s interest (and a fantastic robot, which was a lot of fun).”
“The universe is not enough!” was Kevin Patrick Mahoney’s punning reference to the contemporary Bond film in his review, which rated the book 4/5. Kevin (one of amazon.com’s Top 500 Reviewers) spotted “daredevil stunts”, “hired grunts on skis” and “even blood-red fisheyes. The only thing missing is the theme music, although the adrenaline of the prose more than makes up for it.” He noted that it was “another very topical Doctor Who novel [though possibly] the author has revealed a great lack of imagination by not bothering to provide much of an alien environment.”
Kevin also notes a previous-story connection, both in the monsters and the Doctor’s violent behaviour, but “to his credit, Anghelides makes no reference to ‘The Seeds of Doom’, and instead concentrates on telling his own story, which is highly compelling and very witty.” He thought the book “a joy to read”, and the characterisation “superb”, particularly Fitz: “What Anghelides has managed to do seems impossible: he has breathed life into Fitz, given him new vibrancy [by] having much of the novel narrated by Fitz in the first person, and in doing so performs miracles. It’s a device that works incredibly well here, and harks back to the very first Doctor Who book, when David Whitaker presented the Doctor’s exciting adventure with the Daleks through the eyes of Ian Chesterton.” All in all, he decided a considerable improvement on Kursaal.
An unnamed British TV Fan from United States also thought the book much better than Kursaal. “The only problem I had was the fact that the TARDIS crew was in the middle of a mêlée at the start of the book, but things did catch up about 40 pages later. After that moment, things did pick up to where the story wrapped up nicely.” He rated it 4/5. (This review seems to have vanished from the site subsequently.)
Andrew McCaffrey lists the novel on amazon.com as one of his Top 12 BBC Doctor Who novels (see also Andrew’s review below), and Jason Miller puts it in his Top 10, commenting “Doctor Who” returns to clever storytelling” (Jason also has a review below). djperry also puts it in his Top 10, and if this is the same as Dan Perry you can read a review of his below too.
“If only the more recent TV outings of Doctor Who were as consistently inventive and exciting as this BBC series of novels!” exclaimed Barry Forshaw in the first of two main reviews for the novel on amazon.co.uk. “With Peter Anghelides’ Frontier Worlds, we have another adventure of the eighth Doctor written with wonderfully created new locales, plotting that fires on all cylinders and a characterisation of the Time Lord that is richer and quirkier than anything we’ve seen in TV Doctors in years.” Barry liked the book’s “rich atmosphere and menace, and the extra attention given to the TARDIS crew pays off in dividends.” He was reminded of Ridley Scott’s movie Alien. “Another winner in an ambitious and arresting series.
David Howe agreed: “A magnificent adventure yarn. Engrossing and very, very enjoyable.” The novel’s “nail-biting start” reminded him of a James Bond film. In addition, “Anghelides has managed to do what none of the previous authors have managed and this is to make Fitz and Compassion come startlingly to life” and the Doctor “is also extremely well-written and defined”. He expressed the view that the regulars’ interactions were “so well drawn that it’s a pity that Anghelides is not writing the next few books.”
A highpoint for David was the emotional aspect to Fitz’s attachment to Alura: “the eventual outcome will leave you reeling with surprise and horror.” He also suggests there are similarities with a previous TV Doctor Who serial though “handled here in a somewhat different manner.” In sum: “A fine return to form for the range.”
In another customer review, an unnamed reader from the UK rated it 5/5 and said the book “should be up there with the Doctor Who classics” as it was “one of the best of the BBC book range. It is gripping throughout.”
Another unnamed London, UK reviewer gave it 3/5, rating it “Disappointing–too slow and uncertain […] All the ingredients were there for an exciting story but somehow they never managed to make up a satisfying whole for me. The characterisations were strong and memorable but the plot less so, a bit too much intrigue and espionage and not enough solid action.”
Reviewer “dirk” thought it was an “entertaining mix of killer vegetables and office politics”, a great book which “reads terribly easily, dragging the reader through a plot that blends genetic experimentation and sinister corporations in a style that owes an awful lot to a Bond movie.” He thought the books greatest success was the portrayal of Compassion, “the Doctor’s superbly amoral new companion. It’s worth reading just for the scenes with her in as she plots, schemes, kills and scowls her way through with all the grumpy charm of a hungover Emma Peel.” He rated it 4/5.
From Lisbon in Portugal, reviewer “jvalmeida” thought “the strange narrator changes, the atmosphere, the coluors and the sound he shows to the reader are on the verge of a big novel, whatever the genre or time”. He picked out the depth of characterisation in the Doctor, and the “beautiful puzzle” of the story, and gave it 5/5: “decent, professional and creative writing that is offered. Not some lunch-time-writing so often published in this kind of spin-off books. Thanks Mr Anghelides.” (Thank you, jvalmeida.)
John Montz added: “I really enjoyed reading this fast-paced and exciting book. Fitz and Compassion come alive in this book. A must read.” He rated it four stars out of five on barnesandnoble.
As with Kursaal, original reviews at Robert Smith’s Ratings Guide site were less enthusiastic.
“Dumb and dumber” was the assessment of pseudonymous reviewer “Thomas Jefferson”, whose abiding memory of the book is one sequence where Fitz breaks into Sempiter’s office: “to accomplish this, Fitz has to do at least 20 utterly, painfully stupid things in the space of about 30 pages […] I never thought we’d see this sort of lazy writing in a Doctor Who book.” He adds: “Peter Anghelides fancies himself as a bit of a humorist [but] he seems to have a problem with transferring this to his novels. His previous book Kursaal was a bog-standard Doctor Who tale with a few jokes here and there. Frontier Worlds is a bog-standard Doctor Who tale with a companion who seems to have had a lobotomy.”
“Thomas” sometimes missed the point (for example, he misreads the American slang “I almost fell off my chair and really bruised my buns” as an “utterly stupid copy mistake”), but anyway he was thoroughly unimpressed with the style: “ambition not matched by capability [and] bad plotting […] There is also a lot of padding”. He disliked the first-person narration (“wanders around all over the place”) and spotted everything in the book before it happened (internal logic, credence and occasionally surprising your reader really is a must if you want to be a good Doctor Who writer”). In sum: “His plotting’s atrocious and he just can’t deliver the wit to compensate.”
Robert Thomas said he didn’t expect to like it from the moment he looked at the cover. “Then along came a poll in a magazine proclaiming it as the best EDA of the year. I purchased the book out of curiosity, looked up the previous reviews and started reading with optimism.” He was to be sorely disappointed: “I thought it was all a joke nobody had told me about. Be warned the beginning is dreadful, one of the worst starts to a book ever.” And although he thought the book picked up in the middle, “towards the end though things rapidly sink to average bearing on mediocre. Fitz and Compassion take centre stage and nearly [ruin] the Doctor’s plan. Don’t ask how, I’d given up paying attention at this stage.”
“Surprisingly good,” wrote the site’s editor-in-chief Robert Smith, though “it falls apart a bit at the end […] the book peaks at the moment Reddenblak turns up […] the rest of it runs fairly predictably” with one twist at the end “painfully clear”. In addition “the jokes are either very old, very lame or both […] the novel equivalent of everybody’s father with a collection of jokes that were never particularly funny in the first place, recycling them with comfortable regularity every birthday party.”
Robert thought the Doctor had his moments, “especially his interactions with the robot […] but he still doesn’t seem to be able to sustain an interesting character.” All too often the Doctor was “commonplace. I can’t figure out how you can take a truly complex and fascinating literary character like the Doctor and make him average […] It’s tough to see the authors almost visibly struggling to give the Doctor things to do.”
Nevertheless, these gripes aside, Robert concedes that “Frontier Worlds is very good indeed. It’s no world-shaker, true, but at the moment I think that’s very useful.” It was “a novel that’s traditional in all the best ways […] The entire thing feels very much like a Doctor Who book should, which is every bit a compliment”. It had “all the right ingredients for a good Doctor Who story. I should probably include a naff monster in that.”
He particularly picked out the characterisation of the companions: “I honestly can’t remember the last time we got characterisation this good or rewarding.” The Compassion material “works nicely. It’s good to get more of a sense of her, as she’s a bit of an odd character, almost unintentionally complex. I liked all the references to Interference here, which really helped establish a lot of perspectives on the aftermath of that juggernaut.”
As for Fitz: “It’s about six months late, but we’ve finally got the Fitz novel we always knew the line was capable of […] I can’t believe it’s taken this long: honestly, Fitz isn’t a tricky character, he really isn’t.” He bemoaned the absence of a physical description for Fitz, though “this allows for shock tactics like the one seen in this book: we find out that Fitz is ugly.” That said, “The first person narrative is wonderful and I’m really sorry we didn’t get the whole book like this [and] I’m a bit disappointed that we needed to have this explained within the text itself.”
Top marks from Robert for the Fitz/Alura romance, a “heartbreaking love story […] Peter Anghelides cleverly recognised that not only do we not need to see the cheesy pick-up lines and all the getting-to-know-her scenes, but the book becomes far stronger for not seeing them. Alura’s importance was astonishing, since we saw her through Fitz’s eyes.” Thumbs up for the book’s portrayal of Fitz, then: “Frontier Worlds puts a lot of the other EDAs to shame: I’d honestly forgotten about Fitz’s tendencies to imaginative impersonations and the like, since we haven’t seen hide nor hair of it since his second book. It did make for a nice effect here, though, probably far more than the author had any right to expect.”
So “despite some complaints, Frontier Worlds is a very good book. It’s frustrating because you can see how it could very easily have been so much better.” Robert’s conclusion: “A little unfocussed in places and the ending really hurts the book, but it still comes recommended.”
Jason Miller also hadn’t expected to like the book so much. It “really is the surprise hit of the year […] I went into this book with low expectations.” This was because of his suspicion that the book’s cover was a Vervoid hand [from TV story “Trial of a Time Lord”] and the book’s blurb summarised TV story “The Seeds of Doom”, combined with his belief in Kursaal as “poor (if harmless)” and in its author’s “inability to write anything longer than a thirty-word rec.arts.drwho Season 18 continuity pun.”
“So, all over the place, Frontier Worlds defied my every conception […] this a new story, contemporary and fresh, examining an alien race and its invasion of a planet without ever showing that alien!” Jason also liked the handling of the companions: “Compassion has become quite my favourite BBC companion […] Her scenes here are marvellous bits of storytelling—her fight scenes, her seduction scene, her quiet pep talks with Fitz.”
Fitz too impressed Jason, especially his relationship with Alura, “the best romance DW has seen since Love and War […] The writing of this is restrained, and marvellous.” Indeed, this was a good conclusion to the decade: “We leave 1999 with one of the finest bits of sheer storytelling in the range since Seeing I. Read out of sequence, Frontier Worlds may be more banal than other books. But it is part of a chronology of books, and coming when it did, it’s with great regret that I finally had to set [it] aside.”
Graeme Burk also saw the novel as “a delightful improvement” on some other 1999 books. In another of the reviews written for this site, Graeme said: “1999 must go down as the worst year ever for Doctor Who prose fiction […] Frontier Worlds is by no means a perfect book. It takes only a few risks, but takes them in a calculated fashion [and] most of the time it plays it safe as an action-thriller.”
Although he thought the Doctor was absent for much of the novel, “those scenes he’s in, he’s unmistakable as a character. We finally, after almost seven months worth of books where the Doctor is completely impotent and incompetent, get a Doctor who is in control of the situation […] The Doctor positively shines in Frontier Worlds. He is everything the Eighth Doctor should be: Quick witted, physical, funny, sweet, caring, whimsical, working a few steps ahead and a few steps behind simultaneously.”
Frontier Worlds restored Graeme’s faith in the companions, too. He liked the view of Fitz’s “outsider and pretender qualities [and] the first person narration is very effective to get into Fitz’s head.” Graeme is one of the few reviewers to comment on the slow change in Fitz’s narration from shallow impersonation to deeper insight. “It works brilliantly.” He also thought the narration “gives us a staggering insight into [Compassion]. It’s shocking what she’s actually capable of doing and being.”
So Graeme enjoyed it as an action-thriller with “clear, crisp prose that, a lot of in-jokes aside (the exchange between the Doctor and the robot on page 228 is very droll), isn’t written to show how much cleverer than the material the author is”. It had “an engaging story which is surprisingly ambitious in its scope”. He rated it 8.5/10: “One hopes that the books for 2000 will take the lead more from Frontier Worlds than from other, perhaps more ambitious but much less satisfying books published this year.”
Dan Perry wrote for the site as yet another person who “had some severe reservations about Frontier Worlds.” But “so much for expectations. I loved this book.” He liked it as “an intelligent ‘trad’ book” with no “bizarre narrative tricks [..] no deep allegories on the human condition, nor are there petty swipes towards the ideas of other authors.” He enjoyed it for its “solid plot, engaging characters, whirlwind action, regrets and repercussions, and some of the coolest genetic mutations this side of the Marvel universe.”
He especially liked Compassion’s character (“she rocks to the extreme”), and was fascinated that Fitz was becoming a doting companion. And “the entire situation with Alura highlights how torn he is between doing what the Doctor wants and forging off to create his own life.” Was the Doctor credible? “He’s the Doctor. What more can I say, really?” Plus the villains were “fantastic, from the hovering menace of the alien to the more-palpable menace of the corporation heads”.
Dan also commented that the novel “should be mandatory reading for all authors who want to work references to past stories into their story. It even sustains the arc story without explicitly referring to the arc!”
Ratings Guide: Eva Palmerton
Eva Palmerton summarised the novel as “temporary relief for insomnia […] I can’t say it was better than average”, and scored it 5/10. “It took me far too long to plod my way through this book […] I was happy with the plot and overall storyline. It just took forever to actually get into the story. All the answers are revealed far too quickly […] nothing exciting happens until Chapter 15! Thankfully, I can say that from that point on it was considerably harder to put the book down.”
Highlights for Eva included the characterisation of the regular cast which “allowed me to really get a much better grasp on their personalities”. She also liked “the present tense dream sequences involving the cosmic dance imagery”.
She was less enthusiastic about the other characters and surroundings, who were either confusing or “throwaway characters”. “Anghelides uses very broad brushstrokes in his writing. All the details go into the personalities of the people, while the physical detail of the people and scenery is a bit like a fuzzy photograph.” She didn’t like the point of view changes either, which was “overly ambitious”, especially the disorienting opening to Chapter 7. And although Eva enjoyed the Sinatra gag, she could have lived without “all the toilet humour” and the use of “the same one-liner […] as a plot device”.
Ratings Guide: Andrew McCaffrey
Andrew McCaffrey wrote that “Frontier Worlds is one of the most entertaining EDAs that I’ve read.” Despite its “relatively unambitious plot” it was “so well written that we can forgive it that”. He commented favourably on Compassion (“more like a companion than a grumpy, faceless, arc-related plot-device”) and Fitz, saying “Peter Anghelides has really brought to life two companions who had started to slip into blandness in the preceding books.”
He liked the first-person narration, which “raised the book from a fairly standard runaround to an interesting story told with a lot of wit.” As for the Doctor, it was “a refreshing change” to have him know what’s going on, and to see him being “charming, witty, easily distracted, intelligent and resourceful – everything that the Eighth Doctor has the potential to be.”
Ratings Guide: Mike Morris
Mike Morris, reviewing the ‘Compassion Arc’ on the Ratings Guide, had this to say about Frontier Worlds: “A fine book, very Who-ish, that manages to be a rather exhilarating adventure even as it sticks to the themes of the arc itself. Quite an achievement.”
GallifreyOne: Edward Funnell
Edward Funnell enjoyed Frontier Worlds more than he’d enjoyed Kursaal. It was “very traditional Who”, and he also seems to have read reviews that I haven’t which refer to Hitchcock, Alistair McLean, and Frederick Forsyth. “But what it also has more than any other book this year is a feel for a good Who story.”
Writing on GallifreyOne, Edward noted the topical issues of genetically-modified food and a link to the Krynoid of “The Seeds of Doom”. “ The concepts are dealt with efficiently, and the broader implications of the exploitation are rendered intelligently. However, a degree of sophistication might have been useful in truly examining the ethics of characters directly involved in exploitation.” As for the people involved in the book, “morally they are redundant”, though he likes the dilemma faced by Fitz and Compassion: “Can you destroy what should never have existed is an interesting point for confrontation.”
Edward thought that the author created “a real world,” recognisable in the everyday aspects of the Frontier Worlds Corporation. There is a “good plot” with a number of intriguing mysteries, but “the prosaic prose takes a little while to define them” Like a couple of other reviewers, Edward is also disappointed that the reason for the TARDIS arriving on the planet is not made clear (it’s in the book but obviously not clear enough!). At least he enjoys the action scenes, where the book “succeeds in not alienating the reader by making each incident intelligent”.
As to the regular characters, Edward ilkes the fact that “the Eighth Doctor is not a superhero [and] Anghelides is the first to get this across convincingly.” He also note the Doctor’s reliance on his companions to be “part of a team to effect whatever result he has in mind”. And in particular, “Fitz has never been better than he is in this book. Anghelides provides emotional depth which elevates him from cheeky chappy.” (Edward particularly praised the Alura story.) And the scenes with Compassion were “the most sensible portrayal of the character thus far.”
“In the end,” he concludes. “Frontier Worlds is a surprise. There is no doubt about it. […] Anghelides has matured and has produced one of the best traditional books in the range.”
GallifreyOne: Lea Ann Hays
“Frontier Worlds fleshes out the characters of Compassion and of Fitz especially with considerable skill, while being a classically-themed science fiction tale,” wrote Lea Ann Hays. She thought Fitz’s masquerading as “Frank Sinatra” was “ a wonderful delusion of grandeur “. She recognised his “wounded pride” and was “a character to empathize with in first-person narration.” And she recognised that Compassion “wants to be that same cold and unfeeling person.”
Lea Ann comments on the environmental aspects of the story, as well as a “seeming soapbox about personal responsibility for that corporation’s hypocrisy in professing to produce more food while destroying the environment.” She mentions similarities between the story and TV’s “The Seeds of Doom”, picking out Sempiter’s character as “ever-so-closely resembling that of Harrison Chase”.
For Lea Ann, the book succeeds “in focusing on genetic experiments and their implications.” She noticed a walk-on role called Rhadoon Haroon, whose name was inspired by the Venusian lullaby lyrics in the TV story “The Curse of Peladon” (in the absence of anything better coming to mind when wrote I that character). And she is the only reviewer I’ve read who noticed that the chapter titles are all “named after Sinatra songs, but still tried to capture the essence of the chapter, which I found entertaining.”
GallifreyOne: Brian Copeland
“I can’t honestly rave enough about this book,” said Brian Copeland, “from front to back, it’s a treasure.” Fitz and Compassion’s disguise was “absolutely hilarious”, with scenes of them together “really wonderful”. He liked the Doctor’s arguments with the robot. Indeed he seemed to particularly enjoy the regular cast: “It is humorous, has some great dialogue, we finally get to see into Fitz’s thoughts again, and get to understand Compassion a little more. The Doctor is very Doctor-ish.”
The way the TARDIS crew are discovered already in action was a bonus: “very reminiscent of the Seventh Doctor stories from the Virgin line […] quite refreshing and a nice change of pace.” Brian was definitely a satisfied customer, and enjoyed the whole book: “From its amazing front cover to the epilogue.”
“Frontier Worlds didn’t strike me as significantly unlike Kursaal,” wrote Finn Clark on the Ultimate Eighth site, “for the most part they’re similar stories told in similar ways. Both have unscrupulous corporations, all-threatening monsters, good wallopings of gore and a straightforward approach to storytelling. There’s nothing self-consciously radical about Frontier Worlds.”
He thought the companions “rather take over the book” and sideline the Doctor so that he is confined to impersonating “James Bond in big action set pieces that actually drive most of the plot but feel like asides”. Finn would have preferred a more rounded characterisation of the Eighth Doctor, and was confused by some of writing in the action scenes which he thought should have been smoother. He was, however, intrigued by Compassion, at whose antics he would “gawp in alarm […] She may be travelling with the Doctor and working on the side of the angels, but she feels more like an ongoing villain than a companion. […] It’s hard to call her likeable, but she certainly holds your attention.”
Finn really liked Fitz’s romance, even if the ending was “a little convenient; but it’s still the standout no-contest best bit of the book.” He also enjoyed the humour: “Fitz also unleashes the famous Anghelides wit, sadly missed in Kursaal. The flippancies initially struck me as forced, as if the author was trying too hard, but eventually I laughed.”
The absence of overt links to other parts of the story arc was noted, with the exception of Fitz’s introspective moments that were “terrific stuff.” In summary: “I thought it was okay. It didn’t really grip me […] but it passed the time pleasantly enough.”
“This book doesn’t start off slow and build to an electric climax” wrote Sean Gaffney on his Happy Guy review page, “it starts with the electric climax and then gives you about eleven more.”
Sean liked the style of the book: “There’s a reason so many people suggest this book should be the Doctor Who movie […] the most compelling, of course, being the dialogue. This book has so many great lines that it needs an appendix to list them all.”
There were some bits that Sean disliked: the “angsty bits” where Fitz recalls the events of Interference, and Alura “who comes across as rather flat, so her fate and Fitz’s reaction don’t resonate as they should.” But the other characters made up for this. Compassion: “Wonderfully droll, dry, angry, irritable.” Ellis and Sempiter: “Wonderfully done.” And “the robot is someone I’d like to see more of.”
Another highlight for him was the Doctor. In previous books, Sean couldn’t determine whether the Doctor was Paul McGann or not. “This is not a problem here. Besides the callbacks to the TV-movie helping, the entire attitude is so 8th Doctor it sings.”
In summary: “This is a fun book, hilarious, yet still gripping […] Audio, video, big-budget blockbuster, anything would do, I just want this dialogue converted to sound so it can melt in my ears.” So he gave it 10/10.
Don’t be put off by the “pulpy” blurb on the back cover, was the message on the (now defunct) Jagaroth site’s review. “It is, in fact, a great horror/thriller, breathing fresh air into the series of books with its breakneck storytelling and impressive twists […] The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.”
Like the Doctor Who Magazine assessment, this review said: “Think Bond done by Cronenburg, and you’ve basically got it.” However, the reviewer suggested it was more The Thing than “The Seeds of Doom”, because it had “some quite horrific imagery”.
The Fitz and Compassion stuff was praised (“it is nice to actually see some character development”), but the Doctor’s violence was not. And the conclusion was “rather low-key”.
The Cosmic Café
“A wealth of interesting ideas and characterizations [yet] something seems missing,” was Dominick Cericola’s view on the (now defunct) Cosmic Café site. “Perhaps after I have read Paul Cornell’s Shadows of Avalon, it will all come together.” Dominick recognises environmental issues from Kursaal, but “ here, it seems to work better […] the story is far more interesting, and better executed.”
He felt that the eighth Doctor was closer here to Virgin Publishing’s seventh Doctor. Fitz, on the other hand, was “one of the book’s strongest suits, and one of the main reasons I hung on until the end. Anghelides does an extraordinary job of peeling back the layers of Fitz’s sub-conscious in an effort to show how he is dealing with his post-Interference life […] A lot of Inner Doubts, which I am hoping the other writers will pick up and use.” Compassion struck Dominick as being “bland”, and the villains “weren’t much more memorable.”