The Taking of Planet 5
I love it when a novel draws me in, the first hectic page leading to a cascade of blistering dialogue and intriguing story. This novel does not do that, and in fact takes around 150 pages to get going. This is mostly due to a lack of plot explanation - it's clear that the events taking place are a side story to the Time Lords' war with the Enemy, but the reasoning behind everything doesn't appear until later on.
When it does appear, we're told that it's related to the Gallifreyans taking the form of Lovecraftian creations to blend into a scenario in which said creations have never existed but are being forced to exist by the Celestis. Not only that, but the Fendahl is involved (cue the mysterious planet 5.) We've also got an Antarctic base under threat from Celesti Archons which can assume different forms (so a bit like The Thing then.) I'm not usually the one to fry fanwank, but, well, fanwank! And not just Who fanwank either.
Skipping to the end of the book, we're informed that the maths/physics element to TP5 is based on one of Bucher-Jones' scientific papers. This doesn't surprise me in the slightest, since the novel is riddled with complicated science stuff that a less patient reader may become irritated by. In the end, I just about got my head round it, but it certainly doesn't make for an easy read.
Fortunately, events pick up pace and the last 100 or so pages are entertaining and exciting, with sensible chains of events leading up to a mouth watering finale. Therefore, if you can keep going through the first half, you'll find something worthwhile waiting for you, including a couple of laugh out loud jokes - fancy that!
As for the characters, the Doctor is average, no better. Fitz is his usual excellent self, and Compassion somewhat more endearing than in her previous outings - perhaps it's because she actually gets something important to do here.
'One' was particularly interesting, due to his relationship with the Hermit. The same Hermit, we assume, that mentored the Doctor during his early years. It was good to read a little of the Celestis' society and backstory, giving us insights into their involvement in the universe and their place in the grand scheme of things. Finally, the strength of the characterisation of Hume was so good, I recognised him as Homunculette ages before his scheduled reveal.
The remaining characters - especially the Gallifreyans - are extremely forgettable two-dimensional drones, with little to do except serve the Doctor's necessity for exposition and die gratuitously when the author feels we haven't had a death for a while.
All of which brings me to (surprisingly) liking the novel despite its flaws, I'm just unable to give it a higher score due to the severity of them. It feels like a Who novel tacked onto an idea rather than an idea generated for a Who novel. However, it's several orders of magnitude better than The Death of Art, and it nets a reasonable...
Review by Tom Hey