|ISBN#||0 563 53814 1|
|Featuring||The Fourth Doctor and Leela|
|Synopsis: The department of parapsychology is experimenting in telepathy, remote viewing and precognition. Leela finds herself on the run from a phantom, and the Doctor takes the waters, while the whole of existence is threatened.|
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 11/10/01
Chris Boucher's name on a book does not inspire confidence. The excellent Script Writer of classics from Doctor Who and Blake's Seven has been sadly lackluster in his original novels. I wasn’t going to buy this book, but a few complimentary reviews in major magazines changed my mind. Will this really be the Chris Boucher who wrote Robots of Death and Image of the Fendahl? Or will it be the one from Last Man Running?
I am pleased to announce that Pscience Fiction is nowhere near the depths of his previous original novels. He once again uses the 4th Doctor and Leela – he created Leela, so you expect that. And he has nailed these excellent characters perfectly. I found myself exclaiming “Yes, spot on” time and time again, as the 4th Doctor entered the fray. The 4th Doctors’ manic, alien Doctor has rarely been captured so well. Leela too, is well portrayed – the main stars of the book then couldn’t be better.
But a book is also reliant on the story it tells, and the secondary characters that round out the drama. The story is about Paranormal goings on round a college. Barry Hitchins is the radical teacher who insists on experimenting with these unusual forces, and he finds 6 students willing and able to participate. Thus the story sedately moves along. The 6 students are given lots to do, all of them leading to trouble. You find yourself evaluating each, and trying to work out which (if any) are not telling the whole truth.
The Doctor and Leela join this group of people. The Doctor, as ever, has his own ideas – and pursues his own agenda. Leela tends to wander from place to place, trying to grasp the complexity of the supernatural forces at work.
The book is creepy in places, particularly the students experiments into the unknown. The book is also easy to read, making the nearly 300 pages seem a great deal shorter. This is all in the books favour.
So has Chris Boucher finally given us a classic book, to go with his classic serials? The ending unfortunately lets the side down. It just doesn’t live up to the rest of the book. It is not that it is a cop out, it just didn’t work for me. I found myself finishing the book, and saying “Is that it?”. The heart of the book was so good, maybe I just expected too much.
On reflection then Pscience Fiction bear lots of familiar hallmarks of the 4th Doctor and Leela’s time on the show. Characterization at its best. But the story and secondary characters, whilst being a great deal better than the bulk of the books, fail to come up with the goods. 7/10
A Review by Finn Clark 5/11/01
No spoilers lurk within this review, dribbling at the possibility of jumping on unwary readers and ruining their future reading pleasure. Spoilers have long legs and are very hairy. I lead expeditions into the darkest interior and shoot them on sight.
By George, I think he's got it! The omens for Psi-ence Fiction were scary - not only was it slap-bang in the middle of a dreadful run of PDAs, but Chris Boucher had not yet given me reason to welcome a book bearing his name. Last Man Running was simplistic to the point of reader pain, while Corpse Marker was a big improvement but still not quite there.
His third novel is hardly a marvel of post-modern sophistication, but it shows that he's learned from his mistakes. The leap from Corpse Marker to this is easily as great as that between his first two books. It's not a complex story, but doing the simple things well is enough for a good book.
It has been commented (by their author, unless I'm much mistaken) that Chris Boucher's three novels parallel his three television stories. Last Man Running and Face of Evil are underenergised runarounds on nameless primitive planets o' death with a high-tech secret. Corpse Marker is a direct sequel to Robots of Death. And now we have Psi-ence Fiction, which like Image of the Fendahl is a spooky contemporary Earthbound story in which scientific investigations are being hampered by dangerous paranormal phenomena.
I mention this in order to say you can disregard it. Psi-ence Fiction is no more a retread of Image of the Fendahl than any of those previous novels reprised the television stories with which they have similarities. It's a book in its own right.
We start off with squabbling teens dabbling in psychic experiments, which seems to pigeon-hole the novel straight away. By the time we reach the odd pop culture reference, it seems a dead cert we're in the genre of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer - teens get bumped off one by one in limp-wristed horror. There are certainly similarities, but thankfully that isn't the case. For a start, these teens are British not American. (You think I'm joking? Genre conventions are important!)
This book is clearly the work of a screenwriter turned novelist. A lot of it is carried by sharp and snappy dialogue, which is sometimes better than it seems on the page. Imagine these lines being performed by actors and they'll surprise you by how much they sparkle. Chris Boucher's prose started out as "sparse" three years ago and has now evolved into "spare". (Yes, there is a difference.) The story is master and the words are economically deployed to speed it on its way. This book reads quickly, my friends. The pace is so well handled that you're already on page 200 before you realise that in the hands of many writers this plot might have looked skimpy. Like I said, this book is an example of the simple things done well.
The relationship between the regulars is one of the book's highlights, though they're separated for much of it. The dialogue between them is perfect, though the Doctor's characterisation is perhaps a little less on-the-nose than Leela's. You probably need to be a little mad to get inside Tom Baker's head, but we reach brilliance when the book starts raising the terrifying prospect of a Fourth Doctor himself going insane. These scenes are terrific, though to me they seemed pitched about right for Tom in his normal condition. Maybe there's a lesson in this somewhere.
The Tom-and-Leela feel is evoked so wonderfully that it's a jolt to find contemporary 2001 references. "Contemporary" is a strange, time-warped concept in Doctor Who and for this particular TARDIS crew it definitely means "the seventies". I couldn't shake the bizarre feeling that this was actually a near-future story, despite the fact that in my terms it's no more than up to date. I need help.
I'm not mad about how things are wrapped up at the end, but only because I don't like that kind of thing on principle. This is a well-written, fast-moving spooky book of strangeness and paranormal experiments. Recommended.
A Review by Michael Hickerson 20/1/01
As a screen-writer, Chris Boucher has given Doctor Who three remarkable serials--the classic stories of Face of Evil and Robots of Death and the underrated Image of the Fendahl. As a novelist, Boucher has given the BBC Doctor Who line a couple of books that were of varying quality. Last Man Running was a book that got the characterization of Leela exactly right, but unfortunately had little or no interesting plot to back-up that characterization. Corpse Marker was a book that had a great plotline, some better characterization, but unfortunately wrapped up a seemingly complex plot in too few a number of pages--almost as if the editor had said, "Well, Chris, you've got 20 pages to wrap this up" and Boucher had obliged.
So, here was the dilemma I faced in deciding whether or not to purchase and read Boucher's latest offering, Psi-ence Fiction. All of Boucher's offerings for Who the TV series were great (and his Blake's Seven scripts were nothing to sneeze at either) but his track record for novels wasn't as good. I was wavering on whether or not to give Psi-ence Fiction a try, but decided to after reading the back cover, hearing some good on-line buzz and remembering that while Boucher's previous two novels hadn't been all I'd hoped for in the plot department, he had done a pretty good job with the characters.
All that said, I decided to take a chance on Psi-ence Fiction.
And overall, I can say, for the most part, it was worth it.
Set somewhere between the events of Robots of Death and Invisible Enemy (the back cover never states exactly where the novel fits in the established television continuity--not that it really matters), Psi-ence Fiction is Boucher's attempt to bring some of the Gothic horror elements of the Hinchcliffe era into the setting of the early 21st Century. The Doctor and Leela arrive outside of the University of East Essex, where experiments are taking place into parapsychology. A group of students there has gone into the woods to hold a séance and contacted what appears to be a demon of some kind that haunts two of the female members of the group. As with most Who stories, there's a mysterious death (though thankfully the Doctor and Leela aren't suspected of it just because they're new on the scene) that is integral to the final wrap-up of the plot. Also, there are a bunch of red herrings as to exactly what's going on--including the Doctor's investigation into bottled water that is being freely distributed on the college campus. (Boucher used the bottled water plotline well, bringing it up enough so that it feels like a red herring but putting enough questions in the reader's mind that it keeps you interested in just what might be developing with it and if it is vital to the plot or not.)
As with Boucher's other novels, the biggest strength of this book is his characterization of Leela. This isn't really a surprise since he helped create the character. We're treated to long passages that focus on the Leela and her internal monologue. These passages really shine as we feel Leela's frustration at the Doctor's teasing, her devotion to her warrior training and her mistrust of the university environment. There are also nice some allusions to Face of Evil, with Leela thinking the university crowd might be some new group of Tesh and the Doctor might be some sort of new version of Xoanon. Once again, Boucher shines at getting the reader inside Leela's skin so that we know what she's thinking and feeling and making this exploration integral to the plot. We even get to see Leela put into action one of the Doctor's lessons from early in the novel in the later stages as she confronts one of the students about her fears and how certain monster may or may not be real.
And to a lesser extent, Boucher succeeds in his characterization of the fourth Doctor. Of the eight Doctors, most novelists seem to struggle to really capture the essence of the second and fourth Doctors. I chalk this up to the fact that the actors that played them brought so much to the role and a lot of the character of each Doctor was because of the intangible things that Patrick Troughton and Tom Baker brought to their role respectively. Indeed, a lot of the fourth Doctor's wit came from, well, Tom Baker's wit, delivery and timing of lines. So, capturing that in a novel can be difficult to do. And there are passages where Boucher succeeds admirably. Even the plotline of the Doctor wondering if he's losing his mind is well done and works fairly well. However, there are times when it seems a bit forced.
As for the rest of the characters, there are some memorable ones. There's Chloe, a student haunted by the demon she and her friends apparently raise and Josh, a student who shows signs of extraordinary telepathic ability. There's a few academics thrown in, some police officers and various other characters, all of whom seemed to blur together and had it not been for the importance of some of the faculty characters to the plot's resolution, they would be far from memorable. The supporting cast here is good, but it's no where near as strong as Boucher's supporting cast from Corpse Marker. Part of this may be that since a lot of Corpse Marker's secondary cast were featured in Robots of Death, I had stronger memories of them.
But let's face it--any Who book can be strong in characterization, but if there's no plot to go with that, it's not going to work well. In terms of plot, Psi-ence Fiction works well for the first 220 or so pages as Boucher sets up the story and the pieces only to lose steam in the final 30 or so. Boucher spends a good deal of time developing that the students may have unique ability and that something more than we know is going on here. However, the final 30 or so pages work far too hard to tie everything up satisfactorily. And after spending 250 or so pages with this plot and the characters, the final resolution left me feeling a bit hollow. It's almost too convenient how Boucher is able to easily wrap up everything. And that's a shame really because Psi-ence Fiction, until that point, does a remarkable job of creating and sustaining a great world that really envelopes the reader and makes you not notice how quickly the pages are turning because you're so caught up in the story and the characters.
So, once again, I come away from a Chris Boucher novel disappointed. I'm not as horrifically disappointed as I was with Last Man Running, but I still feel the same sense of an empty ending that I did with Corpse Marker. Make no mistake--Boucher is a good novelist. He's a good writer--we've got evidence of that time and again. His skill shows through time and again throughout Psi-ence Fiction. The problem is that he just doesn't seem to know how to provide a satisfactory ending. He's getting better through each of his novels. I'm just waiting for the day when he gets it all right and offers us a complete Doctor Who novel from start to finish. That will be something worth writing home about.
Three out of Five by Jamas Enright 5/2/02
Haunted woods, psi-abilities, strange technobabble, machines doing things they're not supposed to... but enough about Image of the Fendahl. Chris Boucher continues his run of Fourth Doctor and Leela stories with what seems like a rewrite of one of his previous TV stories. See if you can guess which one.
The story is played out really well, good pacing with some wonderfully executed horror scenes. The plot is such that I think the audience is able to keep up with, and not get ahead of, the events, and still keep the twists as surprises. Psi-power based stories always interest me, but this also hammers home the point of using psi-powers as an explanation to enable true horror scenes to be told. It'd be interesting to see Chris Boucher do horror without needing such a crutch. The final solution does come as a deus ex machina, and I was left with the feeling that there could have been a better answer.
The Fourth Doctor shines in some moments, but is largely taken out of events by the effects of 'the field'. From this, he suffers from momentary amnesia and swings in personality, which, while intriguing to see, mainly serve to keep the ultimate resolution from happening too quickly.
Leela, however, is very much Chris Boucher's character, and he keeps her in her primitive-warrior mode throughout the story. Thus she is very effective in that way, but there is little sense of growth in the character. In many ways this story could have taken place directly after The Face of Evil, which is a shame as Chris Boucher obviously thinks he is the one that should be handling Leela, with the flip-side being that he should be the one maturing her.
The students are an interesting mixture. It's hard to imagine that they would be friends if it wasn't for their powers bringing them together. On the other hand, they do have a lot of give and take which any group of friends exhibit, with undercurrents of terror and paranoia infecting their relationships as the horror works its way with them.
Barry Hitchins is an unusual parapsychologist in that he remains sceptical even of positive results in his paranormal tests. Whilst in our universe this is a good thing, in the Doctor Who universe this is a sure way to screw things up, as he does on a few occasions. An amusing touch of realism there.
Simpson and the security supervisor (who goes, as far as I can tell, largely unnamed, merely 'Fred' at best) come across as inserted so that Chris Boucher can have two characters antagonistic at each other. There might be something to that relationship, but it is mostly something Chris Boucher has forced just because he wants to. Definitely could have been better.
The villain of the piece remains effectively hidden. By the time the villain is revealed, I was ready for it, perhaps in advance of it, but enough clues are placed so that it comes naturally from the preceding events, and not something the audience couldn't handle by that point.
In the end, Image of the Fendahl is my favourite story, and I don't really think it needed to be rewritten like this. However, Psi-ence Fiction is a good enough story on its own to be enthralling enough.
A Review by John Seavey 12/3/02
Psi-ence Fiction is definitely worth a re-read or two. Its characters sparkle with wit (occasionally a little too self-consciously... the scenes with the students tend towards a sort of Algonquin Round Table style of dialogue, with each character trying to one-up the next, until it all gets a little too cute for its own good), but underneath the wit, there are undercurrents of fear. The Doctor is clearly being influenced by strange forces, and it's affecting his ability to think rationally -- the same is true of Leela as well, but it's the Doctor that unnerves us. After all, if the hero of the series, renowned for his magnificent brain, can't think straight, how is any of this ever going to get solved?
As it turns out, more or less in the first five pages, but we don't find that out until the end. (This is my other complaint about the book.) At the beginning of the book, the Doctor sets the TARDIS to repair the temporal anomaly... and sure enough, at the end, when everything is at its darkest, the TARDIS repairs the temporal anomaly. "Good job, Doctor", I suppose, but it is a bit of an anticlimax.
OTOH, there are some great scenes of demonic terror, some excellent plot twists (including a wonderful double-red herring that I won't spoil) and Chris Boucher, as you'd expect, does a great, wonderfully fleshed-out Leela. Well worth the money.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 3/4/02
Chris Boucher has become a novelist.
I didn't read Last Man Running. I thought Corpse Marker was good, but had some serious flaws, the biggest being a detached narrative that kept everything at arms length.
Psi-ence Fiction corrects these flaws.
The story is quite good. Experiments at the Parapsychology Department among a group of gifted students might be affecting local events and channeling things from beyond. Their Professor, Barry Hitchens is about to be fired due to problems with his superior, Professor Finer. The Doctor and Leela arrive on the scene, with Leela seeing darkness and evil, and the Doctor worried about the bottled water....
Psi-ence Fiction shows that Boucher has finally learned to use both plot and character to push the story forward. The students, especially Chloe and Josh are smartly developed. In fact, most of the major characters have their moments to shine, and rarely slide into cliche mode.
We get a very interesting portrayal of the fourth Doctor, a notoriously hard character to get a hold of on the page. Boucher lets us get glimpses into his mind, with suspenseful results. We get a 4th Doc who questions his own sanity throughout most of the story, a rational explanation for some to classic 4th Doc speed-babbling. There are also moments where we see his serious side as well, creating a good mix of 4th Doc traits.
However, the star of the show, for me, is Leela. Nobody, and I mean nobody, writes Leela the way Boucher, her creator does. She is the warrior par excellence, not book smart, but savvy, cunning and able to reason her way through the strange events that occur without panicking. We see Leela's logic process, her adaptability and her bravery and loyalty to the Doctor, despite their sometimes combative relationship. I loved her to pieces.
Boucher, unlike Corpse Marker, manages to draw the reader in to his story. His style, as mentioned by Finn Clark, is spare, not sparse, akin to Terrance Dicks at the top of his game. Also, because of the more character driven style, Boucher is able to allow a slower, more cohesive build-up of events and scenes.
Niggles? There¹s a Deux et Machina ending, although, if you read carefully enough, was foreshadowed by earlier events in the novel. It worked for me, but might not for others.
In the end, the payoff has finally met the expectations. Chris Boucher hits the Home Run I thought was in him. Psi-ence Fiction is a wonderful DW novel, able to stand with the other 4th Doc classics (Tomb of Valdemar, Festival of Death).
10 out of 10
Psi of relief by Robert Smith? 30/4/02
If Last Man Running was Chris Boucher's full length novel version of Face of Evil and Corpse Marker was his novel length sequel to Robots of Death, guess which Boucher-written TV story this strongly resembles? We even get a retread of the cow joke. I'm stumped as to what Boucher is going to do next, though; hopefully we'll be spared full length novels based on old Blake's Seven scripts.
The comedy patter of the students leaves an awful lot to be desired. This might have worked well onscreen, with actors bouncing off one another, but in a novel it just seems forced and almost never amusing. It reads like someone's father trying to speak in the hip and groovy language of today's ginchy youngsters, little realising how badly he's misinterpreted the way a generation beyond him actually speaks. The problem is that the students don't actually talk to each other, and rarely to anyone else, they just leap into their comedy routine at the first sign of anything. Occasionally this works, believe it or not, but I think I'd have preferred some more believable dialogue.
And then there's the complete cheat of the ending. Given what doesn't happen, it's actually to the book's credit that it doesn't aim higher, given that it all gets the Voyager reset button anyway. This is really weird. The whole thing takes a bizarre left turn right near the end, with the TARDIS flitting around of its own accord and suddenly the whole of everything at stake, except that it still feels extremely small-scale... and then it's all undone.
Given these strikes against it, this should have been a complete failure.
It's not. It actually works. Part of this is the way that Boucher seeds important details within characters' internal thoughts. The merging of Chloe's thoughts with Josh's dialogue is quite striking and even delving into the Doctor's mind works, because he's completely out of his depth, allowing us to understand more than him for once, which is probably the only way you can get away with this sort of thing.
What's more, Boucher's trademark political wrangling is a treat. Just like his previous novels, it comes out of nowhere somewhere in the last 70 pages, but he couldn't do this sort of thing badly if he tried. The identity of the villain honestly surprised me, which is something of a minor miracle with such a small cast. Speaking of which, I think Boucher has shown some nice maturity with respect to his cast size this time around. We don't get a whole new cast introduced in the last quarter of the book this time, which helps enormously. The clues as to Josh's true abilities are really well done and Boucher even tells us they're there, although I missed them completely.
Oddly, it's Leela who feels most redundant here. She's characterised well, naturally, but she's a bit too out of place for things to work. The police officers get some good stuff, although they're weirdly forgotten about towards the end. I can handle Gallifrey being misspelled on page 129, but the mystery of the "grizzly" (sic) murder on the back cover shouldn't be too much of a puzzle - clearly the bears did it.
Psi-ence Fiction is a bit of an oddity, but it's one that works, almost in spite of itself. I can't wait for the day that Boucher finally figures out how to tighten his work up a bit and produce the fantastic novel we all know he's capable of, but until then, this is more than adequate. It has its share of problems and I still can't believe the cheat it pulls at the end, but there's still a great deal that's worthy here. Nice title, too.
A Review by Jason A. Miller 28/10/03
I just watched a montage of some of the cheez-iest moments in Doctor Who history, in a special "40th Anniversary" montage on the new DVD release of The Dalek Invasion of Earth. This is the way Doctor Who was meant to be seen -- rapid-fire clips of men in rubber masks; BBC-repertory actors gesticulating wildly; random shots of the Doctor pumping his fists; cheap special effects and wobbly models. The last chapter of Psi-ence Fiction, if filmed, would look an awful lot like something out of this montage. There are strobe lights, shouting villains, and Tom Baker yelling out characters' surnames.
The rest of Psi-ence Fiction is clearly meant to be contemporary, not retro. Author Chris Boucher, who wrote three scripts for Who back in the seventies, populates his English university with lots of modern-day pop culture references: The X-Files, Kevin Williamson-style horror movies, and the Doctor reflecting nostalgically on the works of Charles M. Schulz. But I could never decide if Boucher was writing this story on a modern day, Russell T. Davies-sized budget... or for that old, studio-bound, Seventies Who feel.
The best parts of Psi-ence Fiction involve Leela and the Doctor. One of the great things about Doctor Who, that has sustained it for forty years of ongoing adventure, is that the adventure is never really done. Louise Jameson the actress quit the TV show in 1978, but here's Boucher in 2001 still generating new insights into Leela the character. The Fourth Doctor, likewise, still has a zany head to be explored, and Boucher has fun parroting his thought processes.
The story itself is a bit thin, and the cast is small. Oddly, the lack of death in this story takes some edge off the horror sequences: no-one ever dies on-screen. The order of the day instead is witty banter: five college kids insult each other with winks and nods; a couple of policemen tease each other in a way that Briscoe and Logan would never have tolerated.
It's all fun in small doses, but there's that budget factor again: this all would have played badly in the Seventies, with hammy actors interpreting the scripts. It would look flashy today on a Hollywood budget, but every time I was ready to picture Gwyneth Paltrow as Chloe, the nominal female protagonist (who's described as a "leggy blonde" and who's fetchingly nude for pages at a time), she kept devolving into Elisha Cuthbert. Maybe watching all that Doctor Who has rendered my theater-of-the-mind incapable of thinking big.
A Review by Brett Walther 7/4/04
Having recently become addicted to the Living TV program, Most Haunted, I've developed a craving for spooky-Who. The haunted house theme of the first episode of Day of the Daleks only served to whet my appetite, and I turned to the bookshelf for another fix. Psi-ence Fiction seemed to fit the bill, promising seances in haunted woods, researches in the paranormal, and lots of creepy goings-on.
Unfortunately, it's also got Chris Boucher's name on the cover.
Psi-ence Fiction is in the same vein as Corpse Marker -- a tedious, lifeless novel in which there's no sense that the story is going anywhere until the last ten pages. The plot simply does not progress, and there's certainly no build-up to the finale. The characters don't get any closer to solving the mysteries that are springing up around them, and instead, the page count is reached only by lurching from one set piece to another.
In between these set pieces, Boucher dwells on minutiae in every excruciating detail. It's positively tedious to have the Doctor harangued by the university's campus cops, but it becomes a fairly lengthy sequence, which amounts to nothing as the real police just release him anyways. (That's only after they exchange 'hilarious' banter amongst themselves, of course.) It doesn't help that Boucher's paragraphs run on for an absolute eternity -- some lasting nearly a page. <>The relationship between the Fourth Doctor and Leela places Psi-ence Fiction very nicely in the gap between Seasons Fourteen and Fifteen. Translated, the Doctor treats Leela like garbage throughout.
Although I shouldn't really say "The Doctor" treats her badly, because Chris Boucher isn't really writing the Doctor. He's writing Tom Baker. The Doctor in Psi-ence Fiction is a rambler, and it reminded me uncannily of Baker's largely incoherent autobiography, Who on Earth is Tom Baker? Sure, there's the excuse that the Doctor himself realizes that he's acting strangely due to the influence of some drug-laced bottled water (!), but the characterization does not sit well regardless.
And in a bizarre canonization of Baker's behind-the-scenes distaste for the character of Leela, Boucher's Doctor is irrationally cruel and unfeeling when it comes to his travelling companion. The tension in their relationship is at first amusing, but quickly becomes unsettling when the Doctor's impatience with Leela's fairly reasonable questions takes hold and he basically ditches her, leaving her feeling insecure and unwanted. It's heartbreaking. It doesn't help that the two of them don't have casual conversations -- rather, they have 'discussions', which tend to ramble and become extremely tiresome.
Which is a shame, because as I noticed in Corpse Marker, Boucher writes an incredible Leela. I love how Leela is constantly relating her new experiences back to the life she knew on her home planet. She refers to the students with psychic powers as "Tesh", for instance, and is regularly reciting the mantras taught to her by her warrior chiefs as she faces life-or-death situations. We never forget that she's an intelligent hunter, and she's refreshingly "real" as a result.
Any development of Leela's character is buried beneath the mounds of crap that are the supporting characters. Despite a fairly riveting early scene in which they're conducting a seance in a haunted wood, the university students are thoroughly repulsive. They're caustic, sarcastic, self-aware and smug to a degree that has to be read to be believed. It's like the cast of Friends have somehow been transported into the world of Doctor Who, and it's criminal. My profs would cuff me upside the head if I ever carried on the way these kids do in their presence, all catty comebacks and raging hormones...
There are some chills to be had here, notably in the seance scenes I've mentioned above. But these are few and far between, and Boucher's big horror-movie moment in which the students are massacred (don't get your hopes up -- it's all an illusion... Or something...) isn't so much scary as it is stomach-turning in its gruesomeness. People drown in blood, they bleed from every pore, they slip on blood and die, etc. It sickened me, but that was about it.
Not only does Psi-ence Fiction lack atmosphere and a decent cast of characters, it also strains credulity to the point where you just stop caring and hope the book will end before it gets any worse. Psi-ence Fiction is based on the premise that an ordinary human (a boring university prof, no less) without any extraterrestrial assistance, has created a device that will cause the collapse of all universes and all of time. Gee, it's a good thing the TARDIS saves the day -- on its own volition, I might add -- by causing said machine to blow up.
Forget the collapse of the multiverse. This is a book that collapses in on itself.