Cold War tensions between East and West are threatening to
bring about a nuclear holocaust. The extra-dimensional Players,
bored with using Earth as their plaything, are keen to bring
such a catastrophe about. The Doctor doesn't remember who
he is or who the Players are, and doesn't wish to be involved.
But despite himself, he soon is involved...
with their previous appearance, in Dicks' Sixth Doctor novel
Players, the mischievous entities are once again influencing
Earth politics for their own deadly entertainment. In fact,
together with Virgin Publishing's Timewyrm: Exodus
and Blood Harvest, this is the fourth Doctor Who
novel written by Dicks to be concerned with extra-terrestrials
interfering with prominent people and events of the 20th century.
The prominent people on this occasion include US President
Harry S Truman, Soviet dictator Stalin and the infamous British
defector to the Russians, Kim Philby. Philby, who also made
a fleeting appearance in the previous book, Paul Leonard's
The Turing Test, is depicted here as a complex individual
whose allegiances are difficult if not impossible to weigh
up. The author offers a convincing motivation for the man
who would be condemned as a traitor to his nation.
character who is decidedly less enigmatic is, oddly enough,
the Doctor himself. For the first time in several books, we
are allowed to be a party to the Eighth Doctor's thoughts,
instead of observing him through the eyes of others. Although
this denies him an air of mystery, it does allow us to witness
the rebirth of his love of life and hatred of wrong-doers,
aspects that lie dormant at the novel's outset. We also see
how confused fragments of the Time Lord's repressed memories,
which will nevertheless be familiar to the majority of fans,
are beginning to break through.
many a spy thriller, this novel has a distinctly episodic
plot, with the Doctor flitting from London to Washington,
back to London, then to Moscow and back to Washington again
like a veritable James Bond. Slow to get going, the story's
conclusion is then let down by these shifts in location, which
dissipate the sense of a satisfying resolution.
novel also betrays signs of its late delivery and hasty editing,
both in its slapdash punctuation (you can tell that I proof-read
for a day job, can't you?) and occasional editorial blunders,
such as when Kim Philby drinks his "second" glass of whisky
twice on the same page.
if you wish to while away an entertaining few hours without
taxing your mental processes too much, then this could be
the book for you.