Interference: Book 2
Interference (two book set)
The Compassion/TARDIS arc
BBC Books
Interference: Book 1
Shock Tactic

Author Lawrence Miles Cover image
ISBN 0 563 55580 7
Published 1999

Synopsis: Sam Jones has discovered that her entire life has been stage-managed by a time-travelling voodoo cult, that the amorality and corruption of the human race pale in comparison to others out there and that she's a minor player in a million-year-old power struggle. So is the Doctor. Both of him.


A Review by Elsa Frohman 11/1/00

Well, I'm through Book One, and now officially half way through Interference.

This book suffers from the same flaw as Alien Bodies only amplified a few magnitudes. (Alien Bodies was fine once it got started, but the first 100 pages consisted of Miles clearning his throat.)

It's boring... DEAD BORING ... mainly because the story hasn't started yet. Three hundred frigging pages and I feel like I'm still reading a throwaway prologue.

I'm reminded of a Monty Python routine: We seem to be having trouble getting our Norse epic started...

Oh, things have happened, but none of them seem to advance anything, or advance at all. He's setting the scene, and setting the scene, and setting the scene, and ...

That said, at least the prose isn't painful. Miles seems to be able to write a decent sentence with a subject, verb and object. It's just he writes too many of them without going anywhere.

I have the sick feeling that when I finish Book 2 -- if I finish Book 2 -- I'm going to say that it could have been done with a single 300-page book, if the editor could have been bothered to read it and do some editing.

Format breaking... by Joe Ford 20/2/04

Bold, innovative, striking, daring... Interference is all of these things; it's also really, really slow. I'm not sure I will ever know the reason behind Miles and Stephen Cole deciding to write (and edit) such a mammoth Doctor Who book but I can only imagine it has something to do with (as Robert Smith? so deftly points out) BBC books being desperate to crawl out of their predecessor's shadow and form a distinct identity of their own. I can think of a million and one ways to do this frankly, making the first twenty or so books readable for a start (or even likable which the large majority were not!) but writing this huge text re-writing continuity, taking characters down deliberately disturbing paths and dragging everything out so the page count impresses is not one of them. Reading Interference reminds me of Zagreus, when every single second of the experience screams, "Love me! I'm different!" I think both the writer and the editor have lost the plot.

Starting this review with such a negative tone might make you think I did not enjoy the book, I did but there were a list of problems that mount up against it, I just hate having my buttons pushed so forcefully (no, it's the fact that you know somebody is trying to push your buttons whilst reading which somewhat diminishes the effect!). There are many good things about this first book of the pair and many bad things, the overall experience quite unsatisfying when the individual elements were enjoyable.

Prose is all-important and this book could not have been written by anyone but Lawrence Miles. His style is like a slap in the face (especially compared to David A McIntee's bland scribblings in the previous book), imaginative, unusual and full of nuances. His ability to explore his characters is second to none and their thoughts sprawl all over the pages, we get to know his characters better than practically any of the other writers. But it's not just that there are some intriguing prose tricks Miles explores to keep his reader interested in the content, hysterical diary entries from Sarah's point of view, a scripted chapter from Sam's POV that brilliantly skips over Gallifreyan History, plus there are some highly amusing chapter titles (my personal favourite is 'A Fistful of Meanwhiles... what everyone was doing before the big fight started') ...oh yes this is stylish book and no doubt. The BBC books are heading into dangerously experimental territory and Miles ensures it is a relatively easy ride, not through his plot which is as sprawling as ever but by how he tells his story, although the book was so long and so stretched I had no trouble leaping through it mostly due to Miles' impressive ability to tell a story.

In all honesty the first one hundred pages are practically redundant (in a startling parallel to Zagreus which also began its story with a tediously drawn out introduction, I can almost see Gary Russell foaming at the mouth over this book what with its rampant amount of continuity and deciding to structure his monumentally disappointing event story the same way... actually that is a bit harsh, the difference between Zagreus and Interference is that Interference actually gets better). It's true, the main events of that wad of pages is 'Doctor, Fitz and Sam receive call from Space Time Telegraph, team up with military, Sam infiltrates weapons trade workshop, meets Sarah' and to my mind that is barely enough plot to fill up a few chapters. I am reminded of Justin Richards' Sometime Never... which draws some interesting parallels, re-writing continuity and the like, but which manages to do more in its first six chapters than Interference does in its first book!

Do you know what Interference strongly reminds me of JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, a story that is revered, the epic, timeless landscape as awe inspiring as its reputation. But Tolkien and Miles both spend far, far too long setting the scene, examining the characters and putting pieces in place, their climaxes are powerful and gripping but their setup leaves much to be desired. As a result Interference is one of the most detailed and deep (in respects to imaginative ideas and exploring them thoroughly) Doctor Who stories I have ever read but also the most elongated, the book stalls and stalls and stalls... not offering any payoffs of any kind in its 300 plus page number. It refuses to even do anything with its set up leaving all the explosive stuff for the second book, reading Shock Tactic is like assembling all the pieces on the chess board before letting the game begin in Hour of the Geek.

And don't get me started on this "It's part one of a two part book!" rubbish because it did not wash with me in The Lord of the Rings and that is a literary masterpiece (apparently) so it will not wash here. Why can't books or films that have a running story going through them, an overall arc, why can't each individual story have a definitive ending to its segment in the story? Frankly when you read something that is this long (and you may argue that Interference isn't as long as say, a Harry Potter book but I say compare the font size and how many words they squeeze onto a page of Interference and it suddenly leaps to a similar page count to Goblet of Fire) you expect, no demand an ending of some kind and leaving everything dangling like Shock Tactic does just isn't good enough. As a self contained novel (which it is otherwise why didn't they do something really daring and release them together?) this is a frustrating and hair tearing experience.

Another HUGE criticism (I do hope Finn and Rob aren't reading this...) is the treatment of some of the characters, which I felt was very, very wrong. In particular Fitz who frankly at this point in the EDA's is the most interesting character of the main ensemble but its sidelined completely, popping up occasionally for two page chapters (okay they aren't chapters... interludes?) informing us of his updates. Fitz is basically kidnapped and forgotten about and decides to join up with the Faction Paradox. Huh? Considering how much depth Miles gives Sam (huh?) it is astonishing how he little time he has for dear old Fitz and considering how much more interesting his plot was it seems even more of an oversight. Perhaps it is dealt with in more detail in book two but Fitz draws the short straw here, I don't for one second buy that the Doctor would leave him or that he would sign up with the Faction Paradox cult and frankly it is an abuse of a character who I greatly admire. Shame on you Mr Miles... don't critisize Orman/Blum when your treatment of characters is just as lacking.

And Sam, dear old inventively named Sam Jones, the only person with a more boring title than Sarah Jane Smith. Who the hell is Miles trying to convince? This book seems to have been written to convince us fans that Sam was in fact a rather wonderful companion all along, that she was there for a purpose, that she will leave a great legacy and that Doctor Who won't be the same without her. Well poo to that. There is nothing in this book (or most of her others) that convinces me she is anything more than a generic, rarely three-dimensional character who just happened to be fortunate enough to be introduced to the Doctor Who universe. The Doctor has to make some huge, universally important decision to ensure this little twerp has a safe life after he has left her... I don't know why he bothers, if she really does vanish after she has left him (as is strongly hinted) he would be doing the world a favour. If the Faction Paradox did engineer her into the Doctor's life it was truly the most evil thing they could have done and they deserve the title 'Evilest enemy ever'.

Sam's sections of Interference are deathly dull, she has no real personality, outside of her possible life (unhampered by the Paradox) and the fact that she loves the Doctor but has had enough... I feel I know as much about her as I ever will which is sod all. She took drugs once (maybe) and snogged someone outside the bike sheds. That's about her entire life history. I think I preferred Lost Boy the Ogron, we find out more (or at least more interesting things) about him in his miniature contribution to the book.

Even the Doctor(s) are mistreated. Doc 8, one of my personal favourites spends much of the 300 page book in a cell getting all psychological and dissembling his adventures and why he will not get directly involved in the history of the Earth. Virgin's New Adventures were notorious for leaving the Doctor a vague character, the editors demanding you write know books from his direct POV, now I understand why. Jesus he might as well be the fifth Doctor he is so utterly useless, sitting there scrawling equations in his blood with no involvement to the main plot (oh right it hasn't started yet has it?), going over the same argument about three times with Badar and even bitching at how useless he is himself! Then get up and do something fool! Save Fitz! Save Sam! Save Sarah! Save yourself! Don't just sit there...

Doc 3 is practically spot on, rubbing his chin down like sandpaper and 'Good griefing' all the time. However I do not like how Miles seems to comment on the series at the time and how much darker it is now. The reason we did not having scenes with blood running down the TARDIS walls is because it is tasteless and disgusting, I mean that TARDIS portending the Paradox? I ask you! The third Doctor stands there, blood collecting in the roundels and pooling on the floor and says, "This really isn't me at all, is it?" You said it mate, fucking around with the TARDIS and continuity seems to be all the rage these days and I say it has to stop, this is not the way to shock the fans but enrage them, I'm all for experimenting, and deliberately placing characters in situations that are of the imagination of today rather than 1970 (or whatever) can be enthralling (Rags anyone?) but to quote Robert Smith? this is wrong. And besides leaping forward to Sometime Never... again Justin Richards manages to twist our perception of continuity in a far more original, far more convincing and far less obvious way. Give the third Doctor an alternative death by all means, in fact it is an idea so dramatic it demands to be used but try to not shoehorn him so awkwardly into a story that doesn't suit him (coffee thrown in his face indeed!).

Right after all that moaning let me tell you one character who I thought was used to utter perfection, written convincingly, cleverly, engagingly... our very own Sarah Jane Smith. Oh boy her sections just lit up the book; she even managed to make Sam palatable in places! Her 'notes' sections were brilliantly funny and very in character and when she teams up with Lost Boy we are seeing the story from the POV of two very entertaining characters. It is so Sarah to be embroiled in such diabolical affairs, bringing down Members of Parliament, disguising herself in weapons trade negotiations and throwing herself into the latest alien involvement.

The place where Miles scores his highest points is in his astonishing ability to build entire worlds out of thin air, to create sprawling, vivid, easy to visualise but impossible to imagine landscapes that cause you take a breath at the sheer scale and audacity of them. Pages 170-74 are breathtaking, Sam gazing out over the surface of Anathema is a glorious piece of writing on Miles' part, his exploration of the interior of the main transmitter is just as gorgeous as is his descriptions of the soul sapping planet of Dust. But best of all the frightening, nightmarish suggestion of the eleven-day Empire, an idea I would LOVE to see captured on screen. There is no doubt about it, Miles has a formidable imagination and uses it to create a story on a genuinely epic scale, the switch of locations so different is jarring in a good way and the world building feels more in depth than most mainstream SF novels.

It is a shame that Shock Tactic is such a frustrating experience because I fear there is a fabulous 150-page book to be made out of this. I think the entire two parts could have been told much more economically, cutting out so many of the flabby Earth based scenes that go on and on and on...

All set up and no payoff; let's hope the second half is better.