War of the Daleks
I wasn't looking forward to this one, based on the fact that nearly everyone I've heard comment on it thinks it's crap. But you know me, objective as ever, I gave it a chance.
The opening sucked me in, made me care about the three Thal troopers Ayaka, Cathbad and Dyoni by showing them in their natural fighting state and pitting them against an inexorably advancing Dalek force (which is described in extensive detail.) It sets the tone of the novel quite nicely, and there's a nice foreshadowing of the Daleks' 'pit bull with atomic weaponry' behaviour later on. Oh, and the Thal trap brought a smile to my face.
The Doctor attempts to fix the TARDIS (once again) and has to take part of the door off so he can fiddle with the lock. Unfortunately, while he's doing so, the TARDIS is sucked into the intake of a human scavenger ship. Captain Balatan and his son Loran are intergalactic rag and bone men, and I couldn't help humming the theme tune to 'Steptoe and Son' when they turned up. Their ship also collects an egg shaped pod of Dalek manufacture, which turns out to be something both the Daleks and the Thals want to get their 'protuberances' on.
Loran fancies the ship's engineer, Chayn, although he never gets round to telling her because he gets killed about halfway through the book. It's a tit for tat thing, invading Thals (seeking the pod in the ship's hold) kill Balatan, and Loran tries to get revenge, eventually getting killed himself. Balatan and Loran were the weakest parts of the book for me, they seemed to exist only to get killed. OK, they were piloting the scavenger ship, but I get the sense Peel didn't know what to do with Loran having killed off his father, so he decided to bump Loran off too.
Sam, as in practically every other EDA thus far, is worried about the Doctor copping off with another woman again. Ayaka is described as being perfect in appearance, so Sam doesn't understand why he's not interested, and Chayn obviously has the hots for him. While we're on the subject, Chayn is a stupid name. It's only acceptable if she's actually called Jane and speaks with a German accent, meaning everyone else thinks she's called Chayn.
Otherwise, there's little in the way of characterisation, and Sam is useless for the bulk of the story, making one or two important contributions but never seeming like more of a peripheral figure. In one way that's good, because after Genocide I was getting sick of her idiotic moral standpoint. Conversely, it might be nice to see her develop into a more experienced character and there's not much of that happening here.
The Thal commander Delani is made out to be such a bastard, that when Ayaka blows his brains out, we couldn't really give a stuff. I think we're supposed to supposed to feel sympathetic because he's doing what's necessary to save his race, but it's handled clunkily and he becomes another cardboard bad guy.
Further casualties having been avoided, the Daleks turn up. They're also looking for the pod. Strangely, they don't kill anyone (explained later in the book), they just take everyone aboard the Thal ship and fly it back to Skaro. Yes, that's right. Skaro. Wasn't it destroyed? Apparently not, it's a retcon. At first I was annoyed, because I felt that the retcon undermined the 7th Doctor's grand 'wiping out the Daleks' gesture. However, I eventually decided that they'd have to come back at some point, and their homeworld being obliterated might have been something of a snag in that regard.
So, in the event that we forgive the retcon, and look on the bright side, it actually makes the Daleks, or at least the Dalek Prime, appear very smart. The Dalek Prime weighs up everything that's happened in the past and swaps Skaro for another planet, which the Hand of Omega then destroys. Couple this with the tense, exciting battle of wits between the Dalek Prime and Davros at the end of the novel (not unlike the business between the Doctor and the Master in The Curse of Fatal Death) and you get the sense that the Dalek Prime has some of the 7th Doctor's scheming about it.
Finally, I must point out something that every other review on this book fails to mention. Davros gets atomised. Everyone thinks he's dead. Hello? Did no one else read the paragraph in which Davros describes his possible 'friendly' spider Dalek pressing the atomiser button? The atomiser's basically a teleporter, it disperses Davros, but it's not supposed to reassemble him. We're never told that it reassembles him in Skaro's sun, so it's safe to assume he's been teleported somewhere else by his last remaining supporter.
In summation, I wasn't disappointed. I was expecting 'crap', and I got 'pretty good'. It's never going to win any literary awards or change the way Doctor Who books are written, but it's entertaining enough all the same. It's the book version of a dumb action film, so if you like dumb action films on some level, you'll probably enjoy this.
Review by Tom Hey