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Reviews for Instruments of Darkness

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A damn fine yarn

By:Andy Hawnt, Sheffield, England
Date:Tuesday 26 February 2002
Rating:   8

Right, lets get one thing straight before we begin. I’ve never really been a follower of the PDAs (Previous Doctor Adventures) apart from the seventh Doctor range, as I didn’t join the WHOniverse until Sylvester was treading the boards.
Thus, I’m not too familiar with the 6th Doctor’s print adventures, but while I was waiting for Relative Dementias and Hope, I needed a stop-gap tale to tide me over. So, I picked up Instruments of Darkness by long time Who scribe Gary Russell.
Well, slap me with a rusty TARDIS, its really rather good. The dialogue fits perfectly with the larger-than-life mental image of Colin Baker’s Doctor, and well I never, Mr. Russell has managed to make Mel ALOT less annoying, whilst still putting her across as Bonnie Langford’s character. Quite an achievement there!
The plot, concerning a supposed shadow government controlling the world’s nations, is a rip-roaring yarn full of twists and thrills. I’ll not give too much away about the plot, as I’d be going on all day, but rest assured it grips you until the final page. The quality of the writing, as ever from Gary, is superb, and aside from a couple of typos, there is very little that I would change.
Evelyn Smythe plays a chunky part in the story, aiding the Doctor and Mel on their quest to discover the truth about the Magnate and its operatives. She is a wonderfully rounded character considering her allotted space, and the scene set in a library in Sheffield during which there is mayhem galore involving her and Mel had me on the edge of my proverbial seat.
Instruments of Darkness, while maybe not everyone’s cup of battery acid, is certainly a damn fine traditional Doctor Who story that I would (and have done) recommend to any DW fan in need of their fix.



More Business Unusual

By:Stephen Carlin, Bangor, Northern Ireland
Date:Friday 16 July 2004
Rating:   5

I find it ironic that there are certain characters who for one reason or another have holes in their memories. I say this because this is a story with some noticeable holes in it. I don't mean plot holes, but holes where something should happen. Characters appear, do little, then disappear again. Ideas arise, give the reader a little wave, float around for a while and then vanish. With the majority of Russell's work I get the impression of someone who jots down a lot of ideas, puts them in a book and then forgets to give them a raison d'etre.

While this book is not as continuity ridden as some of Russell's other work, it still fails to really engage. It is better written than some of his other work, hinting that he is beginning to get the idea. The story also features characters from "Business Unusual" so its an indirect sequel - this was one aspect I thought worked quite well.

I haven't listened to all of the 6th Doctor Big Finish audio adventures so I'm not fully au fait with Evelyn, the Doctor's companion in some of the stories. However, the character's appearance in this book whets my appetite - another plus for the book and Mr Russell. She really comes alive in this book and is perhaps one of the best aspects of it. This book makes me want to go and listen to those other Big Finish productions.

Its a reasonably enjoyable book and it shows an upward curve in Gary Russell's work - after years of dreading his next book, this one made me keen to see if the upward trend continues. This is a lively, entertaining book albeit with a lot of wasted characters and story ideas.

Mixed Results

By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Friday 20 November 2020
Rating:   6

"Instruments of Darkness" is a sequel to two Gary Russell novels - "Scales of Injustice" and "Business: Unusual." If you have not read these two close to reading "Instruments of Darkness," then much of what happens will not make sense. Russell tries to make this one independent with bits of backstory cast in through dialogue, but this runs counter to his wish to get you to buy the other two books. The story is rather thin, but, without giving away too much, two aliens seem to dropping in on Earth at various times of history to recruit humans with ESP powers for something quasi-religious. One alien is an albino humanoid, a suave Bond-villain type, and another is a vaguely humanoid form hiding inside a blast of blue light. These both in some way have something to do with two secret organizations with vague ties to both UNIT and The Forge/C-19, one called The Magnate and another called The Network, although they might both be the same thing. Russell again exercises his penchant for scratching the Who fans' itches by bringing in Evelyn Smythe from Big Finish. Some other problems for me with this novel is that in the first fifty pages, the reader gets inundated with brief encounters of character after character, each given a detailed background that makes them seem terribly important to the story, but each of whom turns out not to be. The Doctor, Mel, and Evelyn are sidelined for about half of the story, with scene after scene devoted to pointless arguing between The Doctor and Evelyn, none of which moves the plot forward. When things finally do come to a head, Mel and Evelyn are again mainly sidelined, with their scenes having little effect on the total story. Mostly, they seem to be there so they can be attacked. There are numerous nods to the James Bond movies, with an elaborate underground complex for a nefarious secret organization, nearly indestructible assassins, and multiple international locations. The plot hinges on the idea of super-powerful mental abilities, the people having these abilities called ESPnets (just to get in an internet reference so it all seems up to date and techy). Mental powers of this kind are indistinguishable from magic, and when they are escalated to so much "power" that one being can destroy worlds and rewrite history with just a thought, then we are completely out of the realm of believability. To give him his due, Russell knows how to pace the story, and his dialogue for the main characters suits them fairly well.

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