The Celestial Toymaker
The Nightmare Fair
The Keeper of Traken
The Twin Dilemma
The Armageddon Factor
The Dark Path
Resurrection of the Daleks
The Deadly Assassin
The Mark of the Rani
The Time Meddler
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
Arc of Infinity
State of Decay
The Five Doctors
Genesis of the Daleks
A History of the Universe
|Synopsis: Aeons ago, a group of young Time Lords tried to understand the very nature of the Celestial Toymaker. It went horribly wrong. One of those Time Lords eventually absconded from Gallifrey and became a wanderer in the fourth and fifth dimensions... but the Toymaker exists there too, watching and waiting.|
A Review by Graeme Burk 18/11/99
It was a strange sight to say the least: Two gentlemen, sitting on a Greyhound bus, reading the exact same book, pausing frequently to make derisive remarks. Ratings Guide editor Robert Smith? and myself both read Divided Loyalties during our 13 hour bus ride to Boston. We began just outside of Buffalo, and finished it just as we came onto the Massachusets Turnpike -- it sustained us the entire 7 hour drive through New York State. We mostly kept up with each other, but by the end I was a chapter ahead of Robert.
In a private mailing list I'm on and on rec.arts.drwho, Divided Loyalties is something of a poster child for all that's bad in Doctor Who fiction. Indeed several of my friends and colleagues have all given it 0 out of 10. I went into reading it with a tremendous amount of anti-hype, if you will. What did I find when I read it?
It's bad. But not as bad as everyone is making it out to be.
Yes, it's pretty damn dire. It has excereably-written phrases (which blame needs to be shared practically anyone with the word "editor" in their title, including consulting editor, commissioning editor, editorial assistant and copy editor -- a humble proofreader on contract should have deleted or radically restructured "the levers and lights blinking like an epilectic disco" line. It's a shameful indictment that this book was basically sent out "as is"). It shamefully wallows in continuity like a pig in its own feces. It gives a hugely unfavourable and grossly out-of-whack portrayal of the Doctor and companion team, which I feel is inexcusable.
It's basically terrible.
But is it worthy of the the worst book in the line, zero out of ten, Gary Russell-is-the-harbinger-of-the-apocalypse-of-Doctor-Who treatment I've found it getting from some fans?
First of all, I think there has been worse novels published this year alone. All the EDAs between Revolution Man and Autumn Mist are excerable, self-indulgent, badly plotted, badly written affairs which demonstrate equal amounts of hackwork and continuity fecal-wallowing (only internal to the novels instead of external to the TV series). I was able to read Divided Loyalties from cover to cover-- I couldn't do that for Dominion or Deep Blue, both of whom had far, far worse writing-- the only difference was, you couldn't as easily point and laugh at individual passages, like "the levers and lights blinking like an epilectic disco" or "She would prove herself a courageous daughter of Hull." In spite of its encumberances, Divided Loyalties still reads infinitely better, and clearer, than any novel by David McIntee.
Lets talk about the continuity fanwank. It's prodigious, and it's horrible-- no argument, there-- but worst-ever? Not a chance. The "Young Doctor Who" sequence is bad-- and basically boils down to the Doctor and his pals and gals encountering a mishap while joyriding-- but the Hartnell stuff in Lungbarrow is equally risible in its transparency and level of useless minutae. The story itself at least tries to occasionally do things-- I didn't say they were particularly successful, but he does make the effort-- with the Celestial Toymaker, as opposed to any Terrance Dicks sequel which just performs bus tours of the previous stories settings.
And as for the characters. I can't really defend them, but they do improve a bit at the end, which is something no one has bothered to say.
Don't get me wrong. This is a dreadful book. I like Gary Russell's books, and I hated this one intensely. But I don't think it's that terrible. It's not a zero. Not if I can actually read it without difficulty. And certainly not when there's been at least 6 other novels equally as bad released in the same year-- four of them at least claiming to be original at the outset. At least Gary admits he's a hack.
Part of me thinks this book is only getting slagged off for political reasons, rather in the same way the entire Pertwee era received a 0/10 from a Popular NA Author whom shall remain nameless. I think people are offended by the fact that DL is essentially a pulp book. Furthermore, because Gary Russell is tied to Big Finish, people find themselves yet again disgruntled by who is perceived to "own" the vision of Doctor Who; if this was written by Gary Russell the hack writer of Legacy, as opposed to Gary Russell, the current producer of the closest thing we have to dramatic, non-book Doctor Who, I think we'd have a very different response. We book lovers get rattled when we think that others are encroaching on the good work the books are doing and essentially ignorning them, rather in the same way many NA fans became indignant when Gary Gillat killed off Ace in the DWM comic strip.
Personally, I think the thing that bugs me most about this novel is the occasional glimmerings that Gary Russell is just give us a tacky-but-enjoyable novel like Legacy, which fade about a page later. Similarly, there are points where I liked the attempt to use the Celestial Toymaker too, but they quickly fade when all of a sudden we're getting the entire cosmology of Doctor Who shovelled into a couple of paragraphs.
This is a terrible book. It's a 3/10 book-- which puts it under the worst book score I've given this year thus far (4/10, to Unnatural History), but only because I deducted an extra point because the editors need to be penalised for how bad this book is.
At the same time, it should be noted that 3 may not be a zero, but it's pretty damned close.
A Review in the voice of Rowan Atkinson by John Seavey 20/11/99
Responding to Graeme's review here -- I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to disagree with you. It's exactly that bad. It's precisely that bad. My cup runneth over with badness. It's a whole bag of bad here. It's a pre-emptive bad. It's bad from beginning to end, not sparing a moment to cease badness. It's superlatively bad. It takes previously bad novels, and shoves them up the ass and spits them out without apparent effort. It's the 'bad' by which all other bad is judged. And I say this without any malice towards Mr. Russell, whom I'm certain plays with cute fluffy animals just as well as the next person. But this is bad. It's easily surpassing Dominion in its badness; Dominion was simply a mediocre, forgettable novel, with plodding prose and a slow plot. It beats out Autumn Mist in its badness; admittedly, Autumn Mist was quite, quite bad, with a fanwanky "I want to write a fantasy novel, but can't" feel to it; and, OK, Deep Blue reached, and reached hard to attain the level of badness extant in Divided Loyalties, and nearly succeeded. But Divided Loyalties dug deep, and had the strength to sustain its badness long after Deep Blue was but a faint scent on the water. Because it wasn't enough that it was bad, it was bad and carved out a major chunk of Doctor Who continuity to call its own. I mean, Deep Blue was bad, but it was inconsequential. We can all say, "OK, Deep Blue happened, but if it hadn't, things would be much the same, so we can all just let it die." But NO. Gary had to try to sculpt the past of Gallifrey together from all of its disparate elements, like a blind man adding arms to the Venus De Milo. He's like Bloody Stupid Johnson from the Discworld--not just bad, but ambitious...the kind of man who would drag 2000 tons of rock in front of a window "because it would drive me mad to have to look at grass and trees all day long". He reaches further than anyone else ever had, and as such, the shadowy gap between his ambitions and his reality is that much more apparent. In short--it's not much worse than all of the other bad novels, but because it tries to be so much better, we hate it that much more.
A Review by Michael Hickerson 22/11/99
I've enjoyed Gary Russell's Who-related offerings for years--even going back to the time when he served as the chief reviewer for Doctor Who Magazine. His books have always been interested in bringing back less-developed villians and characters and giving them a bit of depth, background and updating. For the most part, he's been successful and has created some enjoyable books.
That trends continues with his latest offering, Divided Loyalties.
Russell's latest offering takes place in the early goings of the 5th Doctor era and the reader is quickly able to tell that Mr. Russell has an afinity for the era. In an era that was swamped with TARDIS companions, Russell does something few of the television writers were able to do--give each character something interesting and relevant to the plot to do without it seeming forced or making the character one-dimesional. Russell even goes so far as to try and explain why Adric is, at times, wishy-washy as to which side of a conflict he's on. (No small feat there).
As he's done with such previous efforts as the Scales of Injustice, Russell gives the supporting cast of an era a bit of depth--depth that directly impacts the novel. Russell has each of the three companions questioning their role in the TARDIS, their relationship with the Doctor and the rest of the crew, their reactions to each other (Adric's self-image is hysterical at times--he can't understand why the crew doesn't love him and how his attempts to be one of them can fall so flat on their face) and the consequences of leaving their lives behind to travel with the Doctor. It's fascinating to read, especially as its revealed late in the book why these issues are brought up and how they affect the outcome of the novel.
The other major success of the book is the Doctor--both in this fifth incaranation and in an early incarantion back at the Acadamy on Gallifrey. We see how the sins of the Doctor's past catch up with him and get a large portion of continuity in the second section of the book. It's interesting and Russell thankfully avoids the pratful of having the story take place too much in the past and, thus, lose the driving narrative of his novel. Also, we see an interesting take on the fifth Doctor--one that comes out of the time and place in which the novel is set. It's early enough in the era that the new Doctor is still figuring out his place and identity but enough in that he's not too niave. We also see a bit of the dark side of the fifth Doctor begin to emerge.
It makes for a fascinating novel...
Add to all this the Celestial Toymaker, who gets the lion's share of development--into this past, present and future. To say too much would be to reveal some of the joys of the late stages of the book (and even the early ones at that!) and would ruin some of the fun. Let me just say that it fits together fairly well and doesn't directly contradict much in the TV show. It also tries to tie in the lost episode, The Nightmare Fair with good success.
The only drawback about Dividied Loyalties is the cliched situation of a remote Earth outpost facing unknown danger. The characters on the space station are poorly drawn and end up being little more than one-dimensional military characters for the Doctor to interact with while things are happening to the TARDIS crew. There should have been a stronger way to use these characters in the overall scheme of the story and it's the only really major drawback about Russell's latest offering.
However, I can tell you that if you like Gary Russell books, this one's for you. If you've never read his stuff, this is a good one to start with.
All in all, an enjoyable Doctor Who effort.
A Review by Finn Clark 9/1/00
This was no ordinary Gary Russell novel. We thought we were prepared, but no human mind could have comprehended the full measure of the horror. How could we have known? We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of fanwank, that we were not meant to explore. Some day the accumulated weight of fan speculation will open up such terrifying vistas of anal retention that we shall either go mad from the revelation, or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
There are books too terrible for the Doctor Who fan to read. Such tomes include the dread Necronomicon by the mad arab Abdul ad-Azrad, Cultes des Goules by the Comte d'Erlette and Unausprechlichen Kulten by von Juntz. But now there is another, kept safely under lock and key by trained gorillas at Miskatonic University. It is Gary Russell's Divided Loyalties.
Okay, okay. Enough with the Lovecraft rip-offs (but if only).
Divided Loyalties is by turns monumentally irritating and lots of breezy fun. It could only have been written by Gary Russell, but sometimes it seems like a very cruel parody going almost too far to be believed. The Russell tendencies are all present and correct, blown up to gargantuan proportions. Let's start with the fanwank.
Bloody hell, there's a lot of it. Great undigested gobbets of continuity are spewed up in our faces, albeit sometimes chewed up a bit. Reactions to this will vary. Do you live for endless references to televised stories, books, comics, Audio Visuals stories et al? Do you enjoy clip shows on TV? If you've suffered twenty years of insomnia because you didn't know Tegan's middle name, this is the book for you. If nothing else, you could try sending yourself to sleep by counting the continuity references (though it would probably be quicker trying to count the TV shows which aren't referenced).
Oh, I'm being mean. There's actually a lot of fun to be had in that kind of thing, if you have an open mind and are among consenting adults. Yes, it pushes one's Whoish buttons to squeal in recognition of this or that old story. If nothing else, it's a sort of crutch for the imagination. Much of Divided Loyalties will play inside your eyeballs in a sequence of remembered images.
However it's also a pain in the arse. This book had me swearing out loud. Every so often a nugget of fanwank would slip its needles under my fingernails and I'd utter "buggeroff buggeroff buggeroff" or "fucking hell". Such obscenities were particularly common during the middle section, popularly dubbed Gallifrey Hills 90210. Is it epic? Is it awe-inspiring? Or is it just too banal for words? There's stuff in there which I just don't want to know.
I could go on. To pick one random irritation, why the hell should the Traken Union only contain five or six planets? I'd always assumed it was an awesome federation that had dominated hundreds of star systems for uncounted millennia. Wasn't it also Gary in Legacy who decided to make Galaxy Five just a little terrorist organisation and not a galaxy at all? What's the big deal about making everything small?
But in a way, all this is justified. Divided Loyalties is a book about the past. The Toymaker, the Doctor and even his companions have their past lives raked over. Old wounds are opened, old loyalties tested against new. If you can't go apeshit with fanwank in a book like this, when could you?
And it's not just thematically relevant, but it also gives us the book's best elements. Gary's strengths have generally been in taking past Whoish elements and exploiting them for his own use, as with Liz Shaw in Scales of Injustice and the Colin-and-Bonnie team in Business Unusual. Adric, Nyssa and Tegan are companions who have all drawn criticism in the past, but their portrayals here are the strongest bit of the book.
Admittedly their characterisations here are so broad as to be pisstakes, but at least they're full of energy. These are caricatures rather than portraits, maliciously exaggerated and hilarious to read about. Some of this is laugh-out-loud stuff. Sometimes it even manages a subtle new perspective that makes you stop and think for a moment.
If you like Adric, Nyssa and Tegan you'll enjoy this... and if you hate them, you'll enjoy it even more!
About the original characters... well, I suppose there must be some. I can't remember who they were offhand. Some guys on a spaceship, I think. Nothing terribly memorable. The Toymaker's up to something bad, but that didn't imprint itself on my memory either.
In summary, this is probably a much better book than I've painted it. Divided Loyalties pissed me off magnificently, pressing all my wrong buttons, and this review is no doubt unfairly biased. There are a lot of Gary Russell fans out there and this book has been well received in many quarters. Besides, he's now in charge of the Big Finish audios (all hail!) and deserves far better than to have me being rude about his books again.
It's ambitious (which is good) although backward-looking (which isn't necessarily bad). But if you want to read a good Celestial Toymaker story, personally I'd point you in the direction of Endgame (DWM 244-247).
The Final Test by Jason A. Miller 5/5/00
Reading the first four reviews of Gary Russell's Divided Loyalties is a bit like playing that old Sesame Street game. Three of these things belong together. One of these things is not like the other. We have above us four reviews, all penned by erudite contributors to this site. One of them is very polite, mildly deferential, and a bit courteous. The other three are, well... self-explanatory. It is, unfortunately, not the place of this review to even the scales.
What a woefully-written book that was, wasn't it? Divided Loyalties went off on so many wrong tangents and got lost in so many unfortunate turns of phrase that it's hard to tell just what the final product was supposed to look like. This brings us to the first positive comment of this review: The book is made up of short, quick sequences and chapters, none lingering long enough individually to be odious. However, taken in the aggregrate, at the shorter-than-usual-for-the-BBC book length of 249 pages, all those sequences add up into something more sinister.
Among those who liked Divided Loyalties, the buzzwords seem to be, "It's like a Terrance Dicks" book. But it isn't. Superficially, yes -- it ties in to previous and popular stories, explores Gallifreyan mythology, and is made up of numerous short chapters and scenes. But while Dicks' novels resurrect the past, they don't, by and large, try to explain the past. Make no mistake, new stories are being told -- perhaps with only 63% original material, but they are new.
Perhaps Gary Russell's biggest failing here is that he tries to explain too much. We have the Celestial Toymaker, seen over a period of four weeks, thirty-five years ago; perhaps only because Michael Gough is still a productive, in-demand actor that the Toymaker is also still in demand. But Russell explains the entirety of the Toymaker's origin -- so he stands around delivering exposition, not doing anything for literally the book's middle 200 pages. Russell redefines the role of the Black and White Guardian (there's now a council of 6). There's a lot of Lovecraftian name-dropping. For heaven's sake, he even gives an origin to the boxy robot (seen on the book's back cover in an ill-disguised screen capture from the original story). Does it add anything to our appreciation of the DW Universe that this robot came from a planet called Kakkena? Why didn't the robot do anything new in this novel?
This same eye for inappropriate detail is also turned toward the companions. I agree with Michael Hickerson above -- it's an achievement that each of the three TV companions is here given something to do. There is the sense that Gary wants to round everyone out. It's just that, again, we perhaps learn too much -- we meet Adric's parents, learn Tegan's middle name, and find out who Nyssa slept with before leaving Traken (all right, it was a teddy bear. Called BeeBee.). We learn about Alzarian body chemistry, and just why Adric was so smelly (for those of you whose VHS cassette of Full Circle came with the scratch-n-sniff sticker set). The lone appreciated element here is Tegan's family tree -- we met more of Tegan's relatives on Doctor Who than those of any other companion, so it was nice to feel that they all tied together somehow. We get lost for pages at a time in their internal dreamscapes -- shuttling back and forth between there and reality without much logical explanation.
Without giving more than token mention to the mind-numbingly silly "Time Lord Kids" sequence in the middle (which ran about 30 pages too long and encompassed too much mythology for a treatment so superficial), let's make one final comparison. The back-cover blurb of any Virgin New Adventure would always describe accurately the first 40 pages of its novel. Anything beyond page 40 was left up to plot twist and authorial invention. But on the back of Divided Loyalties, all the terms of the back-cover blurb aren't met until just shy of page 200. Had I been with the Toymaker while reading this book, I could have asked him to state "GO FROM PAGE 200!", and skipped the beginning, relying only on the blurb. Without all that weight, the conclusion may have seemed less derivative. It may have made more sense. Even the return of the biggest DW cliche ever -- the Doctor lives because a one-dimensional tertiary character engages in an act of pointless self-sacrifice -- may not have grated, liberated from all the book's earlier cliches.
There are many things I wanted to learn about the Doctor's childhood, and about the Celestial Toymaker (for indeed, Toymaker is a marvelous story). It's just that this was not the right vehicle. When Gary Russell says in his postscript that he wanted to "discover" more about the Toymaker, one may be forgiven for getting the impression than he wanted to "create" the Toymaker -- and one day be the answer to the trivia question in The Sixth Doctor Who Quiz Book, "From which planet did the Toymaker's Magic Robot come?". I only wish the book's other details -- prose, internal logic, characters -- had been so meticulously laid out.
FTRCODW by Robert Smith? 13/3/00
Everything you've heard about this classic is true - and more. It encompasses everything that's truly, truly awful about Doctor Who fiction... and does so in a way that's a joy to read from start to finish. Kitschy and trashy in all the best ways.
It's long been a personal tenet of mine that Doctor Who can survive being bad, but it can't survive being boring. Gary Russell's last novel was the mind-meltingly dull Placebo Effect, where the only mild relief to be had was the hysterical so-bad-it's-funny religious 'debate' at the centre of it. With Divided Loyalties, he's taken that central idea and turned it into a novel.
Make no mistake, this is a terrible book. Words cannot adequately describe how bad this is. I've read some pretty bad fan fiction in my time, but this surpasses even that. The Eight Doctors was bad, but in a childlike and terribly naive way. The Pit was bad because it aimed too high and fell on its face. The original novels of Barry Letts combined appalling writing with idiotic plot points. Divided Loyalties sweeps all of those aside without even trying. It takes everything wrong with those books, and incorporates them without even breaking a sweat. This is an awful book.
Yet, that really doesn't seem to matter. I loved it anyway. Every page gave up a fresh horror, so much so that after a while I stopped shuddering in disbelief and just went with a flow. And seen with those eyes, the book works a treat. It's tacky fun, like bad seventies art. It's fan-fiction taken to its illogical extreme.
But it positively flew by! I like that. Don't worry about characterisation, or plot, or consistency -- this book is clear proof that these things really aren't that important. A speedy read can save even the most lifeless book... yet DL is more akin to a comedy villain who just won't stay dead. Every time you think you've reached the absolute nadir of the book, the next few pages reveal new depths of badness. The words "so bad it's good" don't even begin to summarise it.
To list the faults of this book would be a novel in itself. Indeed, it essentially is. The regulars are terrible, squabbling and unlikable the whole way through. Adric's body odour is a subject I thought the novels would simply have the good taste to avoid: nope, it's here along with everything else.
We have flashbacks galore and every second one appears to be to The Keeper of Traken for some reason. We've got ludicrous and nonsensical backstories for more characters than we can sensibly grasp. We've got an attempt to tie into The Nightmare Fair that manages to destroy the central revelation of that book by having the Doctor mention it in passing no less than three times.
"Whatever phantom zone she had found herself in, she would conduct herself with all the strength of a true daughter of Hull." Bwahahaha! On page 83, Adric's keen analytical mind is carefully and logically examined in novel form, when his brilliant scheme for getting back to Alzarius involves... reversing the CVE coordinates! I swear, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.
The Young Doctor Who segment has to be seen to be believed. And even then, I'm still in awe. The Doctor in these flashbacks isn't played by William Hartnell. Oh no. He's played by Peter Davison in a bad wig, hamming it up, like a flashback episode of The Golden Girls.
We've got yet another character named Townsend, partly to remind us this is a Gary Russell book (I half expect there to be a different Townsend in every Big Finish audio production), partly to tie into Deadfall, just in case the three billion other stories this book references aren't enough.
This isn't a Past Doctor Adventure, it's a Target novelisation of A History of the Universe. The Big Fish has outdone himself with this book. It's FTRCODW, but it's doing it shamelessly. It's worth every cent I paid for it -- although to be fair, I should mention that it was a birthday present.
Divided Loyalties is, despite every intention to the contrary, not the worst Doctor Who book ever published. Unashamed hackwork, yes. Appalling in every measurable way, yes. But it's never boring and I have the sneaking suspicion that it will age like vintage late-seventies Who: in years to come it'll acquire a cult following for its pantomime-like awfulness. Sign me up now for a lifetime membership.
Provided Novelties by Richard Salter 9/5/00
Oh dear oh dear oh dear.
Most amusing things about Divided Loyalties from most amusing to least most-amusing:
A Divided Loyalties Confession by Judi Grant 4/3/00
... if you just read one word after the other; if you don't think about it for one second, if you don't remember episode plots; if you think about some of the worst, nonsensical, badly acted, scenery wobbling episodes; if you skip over the Young Timelords thing, and the last 20% of the book...
... Divided Loyalties was quite enjoyable in a backward sort of way. It took me back to DW at its campy worst. My impression is that DL was not meant to be taken seriously; I certainly didn't. In fact, it reads like a send-up, it's so terrible. This is more than I can say for some other travesties passed off as serious science fiction.
4/10, for delightfully deliberate cheesiness.
PS: I didn't pay for the book either :)
A Review by Steve Traylen 11/2/01
Being a year or so behind everyone else I've finally got to this.
It's bad. I mean it is just so full of shit that I don't know where to start. I'm still in shock I think. I mean I knew what was coming, I had read the reviews but I still nearly screamed on the bus when I read about Adrics BO. I'm pretty sure that every single story was referenced at some point, usually with some dire retcon. I can remember nothing about the original characters ecept they were from a space ship and the Doctor was female and German. Characters get introduced and then diappear for no reason, the MP from the start the Daughter from Hull?
Then just when you don't think it can get any worse we have the Young Doctor Chronicles. So every famous Gallifreyan was in the Deca, the Doctors gang? Good job there wasn't just 6 of them, they could have been the Sexa.
Anyway on top of all that I would like to say it is a travesty to steal the songs and lyrics from the mighty OMD for your chapter titles too.
A Review by Eva Palmerton 1/6/01
I wasn't going to review this, but I doubt the nightmares will stop until I express my true feelings... :)
This was (as everyone warned me, I know) one of the most painful reading experiences of my life. Thankfully, I owe part of that to laughter pains, which is the only reason I didn't give the book 0/10.
Where to begin... first by saying that I don't want to know how long it took for the friction burns to heal, talk about fanwank! He gave absolutely everything and everyone a backstory, even giving a name to Nyssa's teddy bear?! How ridiculous can we get?! Every Tegan thought process (or nearly every one) was a continuity reference. Hell, half of the book consisted of continuity references!
But enough on that... let's examine the merits of the story... er, let's examine the story. There did seem to be a coherent plot, I'll grant that. It was even a quite simple plot, probably could have been executed quite well as something novella length or shorter (refrain from obvious "it never should have been written" jokes).
Which means that the vast majority of the book was nothing but spacefiller. How else can one explain what inspired Russell to liken anything to an "epileptic disco"? What on Earth is an "epileptic disco"?! And why oh why did anyone want to know what Adric smells like? There are better ways to reach your wordcount than creating terrible similes and grossing out your audience. And Russell found a good one... three Nyssa dream segments started with the exact same two paragraphs. That's brilliant, I say! Great way to reach 80,000!
To the credit of the author, I must say that the young Doctor on Gallifrey segment was incredibly funny! Oh wait, it wasn't meant to be? That was the bit intended to set up the serious moral dilemma for the Doctor? Oh well... live and learn, I guess...
In summary, I think that if the premise of this book had been handed over to an author who has the ability to perform an action beginning with the letter "w" other than the action we saw performed by Mr. Russell, it may well have been a decent story.
It made me laugh hysterically at several points, so I have to give it merit for that. 1/10
I feel better now... sanity regained...
A Review by Terrence Keenan 9/4/02
A one word review?
Um, got it now....
Gary Russell has achieved something special. He has created the DW book equivalent of Plan 9 From Outer Space. There are some horrors you have to experience for yourself: watching a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode or Stop or My Mom Will Shoot, or reading anything by the OrmanBlum.
Divided Loyalties is just such a horror. I had read some pretty harsh reviews, however, like root canal, or giving birth, some painful experiences must be gone through to truly understand.
Um, we get a whole bunch of very hammy amateur actors from the local playhouse running around doing a Doctor Who skit for their friends. That is the extent of characterization for Divided Loyalties. There is a plot, of sorts, but the plot would only encompass about fifteen pages.
But this book is neither about plot or character.
It's about continuity. And we get enough to fill the Marinaras Trench... twice. Almost every book and TV episode got namechecked, ret-conned and explained. I found myself swearing and rolling my eyes about every five seconds.
However, the real treat is in the appalling hackwork of the writing: "Its flashing lights, little levers and computer screens were all blinking out of time with each other like an epileptic disco." TEE-HEE...MMMPH..(SNICKER) "Whatever phantom zone she found herself in, she would conduct herself with all the strength of a true daughter of Hull." BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
And then there's the Gallifrey Hills 90210 segment, which special dishonor must be given to. Um, picture Peter Davison imitating Richard Hurndall doing William Hartnell, and you have the general idea of how atrocious it is.
I could go on, but one must experience the following for themselves: Adric's BO, Nyssa's teddy bear, Tegan's conversion to Judaism, the "where are they now" chapter, the past story summaries in the middle of the climax, etc.
The only good point is that it's a fast read. You easily get caught up in how god-awful this book is and three hours later it's over. The psychological damage might take longer.
A Review by John Miller 15/10/15
Forget what you've read, this book is brilliant.
When Doctor Who went off the air in 1989, the story was carried on in various novels and published by Virgin Books.
However, these books, while popular with a minority of people, tended to alienate the masses. Meanwhile, Gary Russell's traditional Virgin novels tended to be overlooked.
With Divided Loyalties, Russell essentially spoofs the Virgin Books era, and it's a masterpiece.
Even before the story begins, we are treated to the fact that the title itself is that of a Babylon 5 episode (very "in" in the mid-90's), and that the story takes place after The Visitation (despite the fact that there's no gap between The Visitation and Black Orchid).
The chapter titles are all those of 80's synth band OMD, spoofing the Virgin authors who named their chapter titles after indie bands.
The novel spends most of the time looking backwards. Each of the major characters gets a lengthy 'flashback' sequence that a) doesn't actually match what we know about the characters, b) adds new information just for the sake of adding it (such as Tegan being Jewish), c) only takes place in a dream state, and d) actually contradicts what we know (such as Tegan missing her father's funeral, when we know that she actually was there).
There are numerous attacks on Adric, his stubbornness, his bodily odour etc, for no other reason than the author seemingly having a grudge against this one particular character.
And then comes the Main Course: the Deca sequence. There is so much here, I'll just keep to some bits.
First, the Doctor falls asleep, and the chapter is clearly called 'DREAMING'. But here's the best bit. Before this dream, the story never feels like a Fifth Doctor story, and the Doctor never comes across like the Fifth Doctor. Now that we move into a First Doctor story, the story never feels like a First Doctor story, while the Doctor himself is suddenly a very accurate Fifth Doctor.
The story then starts throwing out continuity references just for the sake of them. Ones that 98% of people who had watched the episodes they are from wouldn't even recognise. Every Time Lord, sash, piece of machinery from every story is suddenly there, at the same time, without actual story justification for that.
Nothing makes sense. Type 30 TARDISes are new one page, yet the next page Type 35's are being tested (despite the Doctor's Type 40 having been an antique). 'Rassilon Imprimatures' mentioned in The Two Doctors become actual essentials for Time Lords, as without them, no one can even travel in a TARDIS (so what about everyone from Barbara and Ian, right through to the Doctor's current companion?).
The book also exposes the stupidity of the whole Master/War Chief split that Peter Darvill-Evans insisted upon. By using 'Magnus' and 'Koschei' as two separate characters, Russell makes you want to stand up and cheer. Because not only are the two characters virtually identical, with Koschei wishing that he was Magnus, but it shows how limited a 'War Chief' who is not the Master would be. And let's not forget that "Magnus' had already specifically been used as the name of the Academy-era Master before, yet we're now told that 'Magnus isn't the Master, he's just the War chief'. Magnus spends virtually all his time talking and fantasising about working with the War Lords, to the point that he's totally one-dimensional, and there's nothing of him beyond the fact that he will one day work with the War Lords. Better still, we even find out that everyone knows what became of the War Lords and the War Games, yet he still goes off to that fate. Because, separated from the Master, the 'War Chief' is not a character, he's a nonentity. Better still, the Master uses the name 'Koschei', a name the Doctor fails to recognise in The Dark Path. The name 'Koschei' was used in The Dark Path because it was supposed to tie into Russian folklore. yet here it's just a name, and shows the absurdity of giving everyone a 'real name'.
And then there's 'Mortimus. An entire New Adventure cycle was based around the fact that this character was supposedly stranded on the ice planet after The Daleks' Master Plan and had never met the Doctor before The Time Meddler. So Russell inverts this, by having Mortimus be part of the 'Deca', being level-headed, and actually leaving Gallifrey before the Doctor. So we've got our "real name" reference, but, by doing so, we've created more continuity problems then anyone had planned or actually need to be 'fixed'.
And then the Doctor himself, the loner who scraped through with 51% on his second attempt, is the leader of a ten-strong Beverly Hills 90210 gang, and the star pupil. At least until he's expelled, meaning he'll never get that all-essential Rassilon Imprimature. Without which he can't even travel in a TARDIS, let alone control one himself.
The sequence (and the entire book, but especially the Deca sequence) also includes numerous continuity references just for the sake of making continuity references. These do nothing to enhance or progress the story, and are merely constant reminders of the fact that all these words and terms exist in Doctor Who. This perfectly shows up numerous authors who fail to understand that making references to past Doctor Who stories is meaningless if you don't understand what it was that made those stories work in the first place. Saying 'Omega, Rassilon, Morbius, Azmael, K'anpo Rimpoche, Borusa, Spandrell' doesn't mean you "get" Doctor Who. It just means you've memorised words and terms.
The sequence ends with the Doctor waking up, remarking on the weird nightmare he's just had, and wondering whether he was drugged. But the best is yet to come.
When the Celestial Toymaker arrives, Nyssa demands to know whether he is the one making them so uncomfortable and anguished. The Celestial Toymaker happily boasts that all these dreams were not literal flashbacks, but rather his attempts to toy with and upset the characters.
This is the masterstroke. The Virgin New and Missing Adventure writers had seen it as their "duty" to give a real name, and origin story, and ultimate fate to every character, major or minor who had ever appeared in Doctor Who. They even 'fleshed out' various characters, with information that was at once irrelevant, utterly against the characters we knew and actually had the effect of limiting rather than enhancing the characters. So, eg. we found out that Dodo slept around, got an alien STD, and that was why she left in The War Machines. She was later killed by the Master in the early 70's, because that's when the Pertwee UNIT stories were set. Or that Mike Yates was actually homosexual, and ended up living with Tom from Planet of the Spiders. The Virgin stories tried to redefine Doctor Who (the female PM in Terror of the Zygons is Shirley Williams in 1973), and tried to remove other stories from the 'canon' (the TV Comic stories take place in The Land of Fiction, Dimensions in Time was just a nightmare).
The one character, aside from the Valeyard, that the Virgin Books wouldn't touch was the Celestial Toymaker. He was seen to be a one-dimensional, prejudiced, limited individual who wielded great power, yet for all that power resorted to petty games trying to alter the perceptions and understandings of the universe.
This book shows the reason the Virgin authors were uncomfortable with the Toymaker. Cornell, Darvill-Evans, Orman, Blum and the rest of them were themselves Celestial Toymakers, playing games with the Doctor Who Universe, distorting the characters, situations, and reality to suit their own petty ends. It's no coincidence that this is a past-Doctor story rather than an EDA. All the characters here date from the pre-Virgin books era, and they're all used inaccurately, made to look ridiculous, and warped around to suit someone else's agenda, something they were never meant to be, and never should be. Nyssa (a good representation of 80's Who) angrily demands to know why the Toymaker is treating the Fifth Doctor, Adric, Tegan and her so poorly, and the answer is "Because I have the power to, and I can!" And, of course, we get everyone from Borusa to Azmael to the Rani, to the split Masters on Gallifrey, all made to behave in a manner that has nothing to do with the Gallifrey of Seasons 1 to 26, but is littered with multiple references to the Virgin books.
And, surely the First Doctor would have remarked upon the fact that the Michael Gough face was that of his dear friend, stolen by the Toymaker in their first television encounter?
And then, to cap it off, this book tries to lead directly into The Nightmare Fair for the Toymaker. Only problem is it completely contradicts The Nightmare Fair.
What we have then is a book set in a non-existent television gap, which tries to be a sequel to one story and a prequel to another, while being incompatible with both the intended prequel and sequel. Continuity references are used for their own sake, simply to use them. Characters ranging from the First through the Sixth Doctor's eras are used poorly and don't actually resemble the characters they really are. Characters are insulted, anguished, tormented and played with, all to gratify a bored being from another universe, one who has the power, ability and brains to do something far more intelligent and constructive, yet is content to merely mess around with people and situations for the sake of it.
In short, this is a critique of the Virgin Era. Gary Russell has said on many occasions how Doctor Who is not about the Doctor's past, or the companions' personal lives. it's about Dalek invasions, giant maggots, mad scientists etc. Certain writers disagreed and gave us stories about the Doctor's past, the companions' personal lives etc. Others felt it was a good idea to reinvent the wheel and retcon the entire Doctor Who universe to suit their own personal beliefs. Divided Loyalties shows these stories up for what they truly are. A bad, internally inconsistent retcon, stuffed with continuity references for their own sake, and a story that takes place outside Doctor Who continuity (set in a nonexistent gap), and in this case literally takes place outside the Doctor's universe, in the Toymaker's dreamscape.
A Review by Steve White 4/2/16
Gary Russell is one of those authors who irritates me, although his novels are usually fairly entertaining. Both Business Unusual and Placebo Effect are fairly solid books, but Russell just seems hell bent on adding as much continuity as he can, even if doing so is fairly pointless. Seeing as Divided Loyalties is a 5th Doctor novel featuring the Celestial Toymaker, I'm afraid it will another case of continuity overload. Oh, and Russell's writing style comes across as very smug which serves to irritate me further.
Divided Loyalties does indeed start off with a continuity overload and smugness abounding. To my surprise, the continuity is just time placement (other than the obvious inclusion of the Toymaker) but the smugness is almost unbearable. Adric has BO? Why do we need to know that? Are we meant to hate him more than we already do? It's just frustrating how Russell seems to enjoy these glimpses into the characters that serve practically no purpose whatsoever.
The novel doesn't start very well, in all honesty. The Toymaker seems to be taking people from time to play his games, including the Doctor's companions; however, there is little closure to be had. We have 4 people in a game, but none are concluded satisfactorily, which rather begs the question why the time was taken to explain the games in reasonable detail. The thread about the TARDIS' arrival and the silence of Dymok is interesting, but it takes a back seat to the Toymaker.
The middle section of the book then goes off on a wild tangent and explores the Doctor's life as a student of Gallifrey and his very first run-in with the Celestial Toymaker. This bit is really good, and, despite it being Russell smothering on some more continuity, I ended up really enjoying it. The important bits could have been condensed to a prologue, but it was interesting nonetheless.
The end, however, is very convoluted and not really that enjoyable. Russell again tries to join up far too many dots making references to both The Key to Time and The Nightmare Fair, before delivering a totally unsatisfying ending.
The Doctor is the often-bland 5th, diluted even more by the fact Divided Loyalties has only 250 pages and a good portion of those are dedicated to the pre-TV-era bit. The little he does have to do is a good representation of the era, although it's hard not to write for the 5th. Tegan is shown to be more brash than usual, which I didn't enjoy; likewise Adric seems even more annoying than his on screen persona which again isn't enjoyable. Nyssa isn't given much to do, but at least her representation is true.
The villain of the piece is the Celestial Toymaker, a great character but sadly ruined by Russell's prattling. He is revealed to be a Guardian (in the same vein as the Black and White guardian), which is again yet more layering of the continuity Russell seems so fond of. The tie-in with Time Lord history is actually quite clever, and Rallon's struggle is fairly poignant.
Speaking of Rallon, the Deca students are all very well-written, and, despite my annoyance with Russell over this sort of work, I did enjoy these bits. The remaining cast all fade into obscurity, however, which is never good.
As I suspected, Divided Loyalties is another fan wankfest from Gary Russell but with an interesting enough story to hold it together, albeit only just. It isn't going to win any prizes, but it isn't horrendous either.