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|Relevance of Title Unclear|
|By:||David Layton, Los Angeles, United States|
|Date:||Tuesday 2 May 2023|
|Rating: || 7|
This novel by The New Doctor Who Main Adventures editor has plenty of action, but I am unsure of what it is all for. It does, then, give a bit of insight into where the New Adventures are heading and some of the problems with that direction. The main points are these. Ace is back. It has been three years for her, but only a few months for The Doctor and Benny. In those three years, Ace has joined the forces and become a fighter in the Second Dalek War. She is now a rough and ready, tooled up, explosives expert itching for a fight. Darvill-Evans has fixed the running plot through the New Adventures novels up to this point of the TARDIS being contaminated and The Doctor being confused and distracted. So, about 1/3 into this book, this whole thing gets fixed, a welcome relief as distracted Doctor was getting annoying. The focus of the main plot is the planet Arcadia. The planet is an outpost, supposedly, run by the Spinward Corporation, a shady organization pulling government strings. A space force, with Ace among them, is going to Arcadia so that a government agent can get some dirt on Spinward. The Doctor agrees to meet Ace there, but Benny doesn't know about it. Arcadia, it turns out, is actually an experiment run by the brains behind Spinward Corporation. It is a world kept in an artificial medieval culture, the people used essentially so that the corporation can harvest brains. The corporation itself is controlled from a space station orbiting Arcadia. The station houses the gestalt of minds that runs Spinward (though exactly how is never clear, as it seems pretty remote from the main galactic action), called Pool. This gestalt has gone insane, and is now letting Arcadia run down, essentially shutting down the experiment. Thus, there are two lines of actors moving toward a confrontation with Pool - an assault force with Ace, plus The Doctor and Benny.
The problems I detect in this novel mostly involve the main conception and the character of Ace. The main conception could work, perhaps, if more attention were paid to the background. Darvill-Evans has some nifty ideas, such as tortured faces floating in space, a giant space station with twisted and useless appendages, brain harvesting, and so on. He seems determined to shove every nifty idea into the novel and not concern himself too much about answering why the thing is in there. Plus, he pulls the old "It's The Doctor's fault" routine, which is even by 1993 too tiresome to bear. Ace's character is more problematic. Like many of the novelists for Doctor Who, he seems to have latched onto just the idea that she likes explosions. Other aspects of Ace's character are touched on, but not really developed. So now, she is an explosives expert in the army. She is now constantly looking for a fight, uses sex as a deception to get what she wants, talks "tough" all of the time, and generally acts like someone's idea of a "soldier." I have been around enough military and ex-military personnel to know that they really do not act that way. So, rather than making Ace's character more interesting and deep, Darvill-Evans has made the character more caricatured and shallow.
To summarize, this is a novel with many nifty ideas, but also with many defects and plot holes.