The Second World War is coming to its bloody conclusion, and
in the American desert the race is on to build an atomic bomb.
The fate of the world is at stake - in more ways than one.
Someone, or something, is trying to alter the course of history
and destroy the human race. Posing as nuclear scientists,
the Doctor and Ace play detective among the Manhattan Project's
physicists, while desperately trying to avoid falling under
appropriate that this book, which may well be the final regular
adult Doctor Who novel, should return to where it all
began: the travels of the Seventh Doctor and Ace, who were
the current TARDIS team when Virgin Books launched The
New Adventures back in 1991.
Writing this novel is one of the architects of that era: Andrew
Cartmel, script editor of the Sylvester McCoy years and author
of the New Adventures' War trilogy. However,
the plot is more straightforward than was typical of The
NAs. The narrative is fairly linear, apart from a prologue
that takes place two-fifths of the way into the story, and
the Doctor and Ace are involved in the thick of the action
from the beginning. The only truly New Adventure-ish
aspect is the Doctor's use of hallucinogenic substances for
Native American-style vision quests.
terms of series continuity, the Doctor (albeit wryly) checks
that the historically ignorant Ace knows who the Nazis are.
Therefore, this book is probably set before the Big Finish
and the NA novel Timewyrm: Exodus, both of which
heavily featured the Third Reich. It certainly takes place
Curse of Fenric though, because the TARDIS
crew refer back to that serial on a number of occasions.
surprisingly, given the identity of the writer, the Doctor
and Ace's dialogue sometimes jars, but Cartmel also crafts
some memorable supporting characters. These include the hard-boiled
Major Rex Butcher, who is in charge of security at the Manhattan
Project, and a grotesque bunch of real-life physicists. The
vivid, almost Fleming-esque descriptions of these scientists
include the following, about Klaus Fuchs:
a tall, thin stick insect of a man ... A young man with
a huge, domed forehead, tiny ears and a risible little lick
of hair adorning his large curve of skull. The young man's
eyebrows echoed the curve of the huge round spectacles that
gave him a bug-eyed look. His Cupid's bow mouth was bracketed
by the scattered trace of scarring from adolescent acne.
get rather silly during the second half of the book, in which
invaders from not only another time but another dimension
are revealed. Quite apart from the fact that this is the third
Who book in the last few months (after Spiral
Time Travellers) to feature a parallel world
or timeline, it is never adequately explained why there should
be a duplicate for every inhabitant of the alternate Earth
despite a time difference of at least 55 years. Had the dimension
travellers been from the same era, the existence of doppelgangers
would have been perfectly acceptable, but are we supposed
to believe that there's a double of, say, Duke Ellington in
the alternate 21st century? Somehow, I doubt it. As in Silver
Nemesis and Battlefield, magic plays a part in
achieving the crossover, which goes some way to explaining
the unlikely coincidences, and the author succeeds in springing
at least one surprising revelation about the parallel world's
relationship with our own.
zillier (sorry, sillier) is an alien called Zorg, who, for
some reason, pronounces everybody's name with a "z" at the
beginning and contributes hardly anything of relevance to
the plot. Fortunately Cartmel's colourful characters, in particular
Major Butcher, stick in the memory far longer than the plot's
more outlandish aspects.
is truly the end of an era, though the paperback series doesn't
quite go out with the atomic bang that it might have done.
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