Books 1 and 2
Politics, culture, media, influence, control, power, society, personal development. Interference is about all these things, the way they affect each other, and the multiple means by which we further affect and are affected by them. Every single character has their own agenda, although some are less forthcoming about theirs than others. There's one exception - Fitz. Rather than pursue his own 'agenda' (drink, smoke, get laid), he keeps finding that the agendas of others are foisted upon him, whether he wants them or not.
As you might imagine from a novel containing so many themes and ideas, the plot can become somewhat complicated. In fact, there are many sections in which you're not sure whether you're reading about the third Doctor or the eighth, which planet/time you're on/in, and who's who (since some characters turn out to be two characters that's hardly surprising.) All is eventually revealed, and when it is revealed it's done extremely well.
I'll attempt to sum it up - The 8th Doctor, Sam and Fitz investigate the activities of 'The Remote' on present day Earth. Sarah-Jane gets involved, the Doctor gets stuck in an Arabian prison, Fitz gets abducted to the future by the Remote, and the Remote change their plans by receiving signals from the Earth media. In among all this lot you've got Faction Paradox stirring things up, various non-connected shady Earth organisations trying to further their own greedy ends, and the conspiracy of the century.
Meanwhile, in our future (the Doctor's past), Sarah Jane and the third Doctor end up on Dust, an abandoned human frontier colony at the edge of the galaxy.
The Faction are a much stronger force in Interference than they were in Unnatural History. Clad in mean sounding armour, their soldiers' antics on Dust are only thwarted by an extremely powerful force, although not without a great cost. In my opinion, it's much better to have them like this than represented by a lone little boy. A lone opponent is not usually a match for the Doctor, but several time-travel aware guards with bristling weaponry could well be, because it's less likely he can talk his way out of a situation if a military force is (nearly) as smart as he is.
As with Lawrence Miles' other novels, Interference is punctuated with a somewhat dry but often hilarious sense of humour, the bit about the vandalism of the Blue Peter garden representing the cream of the crop.
Some of the new ideas thrown into the pot in Interference are excellent additions to the Who mythos. For example, the Ogrons' method of speaking apparently owes much to diaphragm inflation/deflation. Previously, we were unaware of the subtleties of this, but it makes sense if you think about their penchant for grunting.
The other major addition concerns the Doctor's new DNA. The Faction infects him with a virus, causing small alterations in his timeline that we're made aware of, but obviously he is not. His shadow turns up again, having been stolen in Unnatural History. I find it somewhat difficult to believe that the Faction's changes would not affect the Doctor throughout his next four incarnations, but I'm prepared to accept it for the sake of dramatic licence.
Interference does a lot of things right, but on the whole I think it's a little too long, and Miles has done a great job of bringing the whole thing together given the amount of threads that have to be tied. Inevitably however, he sometimes has to dip into explanation so much that the flow of the novel suffers and it becomes a chore to read.
As for characterisation, the 8th Doctor, Sam, Fitz and Sarah were all convincingly portrayed, but I felt that the 3rd Doctor was quite wide of the mark apart from the occasional piece of dialogue. Which is probably part of the reason I couldn't tell which Doctor was which during certain sections.
It's basically 8 parts brilliance and 2 parts mediocrity, because it tries to do too much. Alien Bodies was a much better read because the action more or less took place in the one building, and the plot focused on telling one story.
Of course, the big question is - have I been altering my views because of the influence of Interference? I suspect not, since everyone else seems to think this is worth 10/10, whereas I'm going to give it:
Review by Tom Hey