Love and War
The Psi Powers Series
Virgin Books
Return of the Living Dad
Psi Powers Part Six

Author Kate Orman Cover taken from the excellent Broadsword home page
ISBN# 0 426 20482 4
Published 1996
Cover Mark Wilkinson

Synopsis: Benny seeks out the Doctor's help and they find her presumed-dead father, alive and well in 1983. But what is Isaac Summerfield doing with a house full of Aliens in mid-eighties Britain?


A Review by Dave Odgers 24/7/99

Right. Before I start, a little admission: I do have a habit with Doctor Who books of skipping pages. Now, I don't do this randomly, but instead look for any page in which the Doctor himself is featured and read them. This works terribly well with the Missing Adventures, all BBC books, and, above all, the Target novelisations (with the notable exception of Slipback). It doesn't generally work with the New Adventures for two rather good reasons. Firstly, you'd often have very little book left as the Doctor can prove very elusive. However, this isn't as terrible as it may sound, as the excellent Eternity Weeps demonstrates, thanks to the second reason: that, for the first time since Hartnell, Susan, Barbara and Ian went their seperate ways, you've got a TARDIS family of which every member is capable of holding your interest. If you don't believe this, watch Benny carry half of Just War.

All this is actually more relevent to this review than you might think because Return of the Living Dad has bucked that trend. The Doctor features prominently and from as early as page 15, and, from about page 50, I felt no desire to read any scenes in which he features. Indeed, by page 200, I was losing interest in those scenes which did feature him.

This is particularly odd as, not only is this a New Adventure, but it's one by Kate Orman, of whose work everything else I've read (Left-Handed Hummingbird, So Vile A Sin, the start of The Room With No Doors, and Seeing I) I've enjoyed tremendously. However, the last of these may explain the problem. I found the latter half of Seeing I, in which lots of blue things run around doing stuff, a bit disappointing, especially after the superb first half, which had followed Sam having to make a life for herself while the Doctor languished miserably in prison. Now, quite a while back, Kate Orman wrote an article for DWB called That's What I Like. She talks of how she is researching for a Doctor Who book, photocopying government reports on domestic violence because "the Seventh Doctor's stories are adult, because they talk about the real world." She also criticises Trial Of A Time Lord for "contemplating its own navel," which is fair enough.

Unfortunately, despite a few token references to Jason's child-beating father, Return Of The Living Dad does little to tie itself to the real world. Of all the extras only Woodford (or something like that) has any real impact, and even if they had, it would have made little difference as none of them ever really get hurt. Even the Doctor, who usually gets beaten senseless by Orman, escapes (fairly) unscated. At the same time, the plot itself seems rather pulpy, concerned as it is with an alien seeking to initiate a nuclear war. Oh, and the original plan had been use a minor nuclear war as a means of speeding up the arms race and hopefully, therefore, leave Earth capable of resisting the Dalek Invasion of 2164, which is fairly contemplative of the programm e's naval.

...Actually, having done all this ranting, it all seems so perfectly up the wrong tree that I fear I may have missed the point. None-the-less, I'll stick to my guns. Whilst it's really not that bad, I found it was a bit shallow and humourless, the lack of really juicy emotional content being particularly conspicuous in a book which witnessed Bernice finding her long lost father. It's never a good sign when you keep reading about people crying and yet find that you really couldn't care less.

A Review by Shaun Lyon 27/8/99

Because, when I read Doctor Who, I tend to think of it as serious science fiction with an occasional humorous slant rather than the other way around, I'm usually pretty sure that I'm going to dislike a book by Kate Orman. Kate's way of looking at Doctor Who is playful, almost childlike in her approach to the Seventh Doctor, more like the Sylvester McCoy of Time and the Rani and Delta and the Bannermen than the more dark and mysterious persona he gave us in Ghost Light and The Curse of Fenric. However, like these comparisons offer, it is possible to portray both the dark and the light side (gee, I think I just convinced myself while writing this!)

Kate Orman's latest, Return of the Living Dad, is one of those light-hearted, playful, almost childlike novels (not the writing, but the Doctor and his surroundings). Although there is some hint of danger, especially toward the end of the book (where it belongs, of course!), nobody ever seems to be doing anything more than having a decent time of things, in between rows. The Doctor, in one message to a teenager named Joel about midway through the book, even quantifies this by analogizing his encounters with the nasties in the universe: it's a lot of boring months intersticed with moments of terror and battle. Nobody, not even the people on Star Trek, can have that many adventures in one day.

I do have one problem -- when companions left Doctor Who during the 26 years it was on television, they were gone. Finished. Good riddance. That was, of course, dictated by the fact that the actors had decided it was time to move on, and any returns they made were really special occasions, and few and far between (only The Five Doctors and very brief cameos at the end of The Caves of Androzani spring to mind). The novels, on the other hand, aren't bound by this, and we at last have companions that come back to haunt the Doctor, in good and bad ways. I'm not particularly fond of this... I enjoyed the end of Set Piece, another of Kate's novels, and the departure scene between her and the Doctor. Why is it that Ace has made no less than three returns in the past year? It's like she never left. Go away, already, and let's get on with the future!

That's the curse of Benny Summerfield, the intrepid hero of years of New Adventures novels, the first companion created purely for the books -- and in my opinion, one of the finest companions of all time. She left after marrying Jason Kane in Happy Endings, but now she's back (and she's due back again, and again... the door is open so that Virgin Books, when they lose their license next May, can publish original Benny novels while she's still fresh in everyone's mind). Benny and Jason are on Youkali at an archaeological dig when an old woman gives her a clue to her father's whereabouts, missing for all these years. Naturally, when Benny discovers where her father might actually be, Who does she call? Ah, but you're way ahead of me.

Most of Return of the Living Dad is set in rural England in 1983, in the charming hamlet of Little Caldwell. Here, Admiral Isaac Summerfield has come with the remnants of his crew and a group of aliens stranded on earth. Their mission: to rescue other stranded aliens and to "clean up" after the Doctor and UNIT after all of their battles with the dreaded villains from outer space. Naturally, Isaac knows all about the Doctor and his exploits, and he doesn't necessarily trust the Time Lord. His motley band includes Joel, a teenager who (much like Ace) was blown several years back in time; Ms. Randrianasolo, an old woman who hasn't yet lost her verve; Albinex, who came back with Isaac when the latter's ship encountered the Daleks and entered a time hole (Albinex' ship was near the wormhole); Tony, in actuality M'Kabel, a stranded Tzun (from David McIntee's First Frontier); and several others. The Doctor, on holiday with Chris and Roz in Sydney, 1996 (near the house of a certain author of this novel, ahem!), pick up Benny and Jason and follow the time hole back to 1983.

The theme of Kate Orman's novel is a very simple one: a parable against racial hatred. This is carried out very well in the novel, as many of the aliens who have once hated Earth have now chosen to defend it, while others simply need to understand how to put aside their differences. There are many instances that carry this theme, most notably in a Thatcher-like Earth female whose favorite way to pass the time is to string up aliens and pull them apart for kicks (in the name of science, of course, lest we forget). Another subtheme involves Joel and his devotion to fandom of all forms. There are so many references to Star Trek, role playing games, 80's television... even the Doctor himself. (Yes, the Doctor and his mythical exploits have become very much the stuff of conversation. What really throws me, I think, is the fact that Orman has Joel discussing things that parallel current discussions about the series... is the Doctor human? What years do the UNIT adventures actually take place in? I think she's really poking fun at the whole thing.)

I didn't enjoy this novel until half way through, and I'm not sure why. There's plenty of good stuff in the book -- my favorite being the humorous attempted courtship between Chris and Roz. We've known for several books now how devoted Chris is to her; he's made mention before that he cares for her deeply. So, her enamored squire attempts to profess his love for her and, in at least one scene, really come on to her. Of course, by the end of the book, Roz has told Chris that they're probably better as friends (even though, as Chris is massaging and kissing her neck, she bids him not to stop because it feels so good. Roslyn Forrester is definitely not the same stoic Adjudicator we met in Original Sin!)

But once they get rid of the side plot regarding our xenophobic Thatcher clone, the book really gets interesting. The Doctor spends a certain amount of time coming up with a rational hypothesis, only then to realize that he's wrong and his quandary is working for someone else. That happens at least twice in the novel, as the Doctor keeps going up the ladder, so to speak, to catch the culprit. When he finally figures it out (no, I'm not going to spoil it, although it involves starting World War III in a nuclear holocaust!), he manages to convince his quandary of the error of his ways and set things to right. But, of course, there's trouble lurking around the corner. (And in another brilliant conception, the editors of Virgin manage to involve the Daleks without using the Daleks... bravo!)

Okay, I'll admit it. I really liked this book. It was fast and furious and full of fun. There is a particularly wonderful scene about two-thirds into the book where the Doctor, Benny, Chris, Roz, Isaac and several others are involved in a frantic dialogue that goes on about four different ways at once and it's wonderful. The tension between Isaac and Benny is so thick you could cut it with a knife, and that's a tribute to the author that it turned out to be so well written. I'd hasten to say that Kate Orman had more fun writing this book than any of her previous novels, and it shows. It pokes a little fun at fandom in the process, but why quibble? We've always taken the humor with the serious side of Doctor Who (a whimsical bon mot and a jelly-baby from Tom Baker amidst the chaos of a galaxy-threatening crisis, and that was every week!)... why not in the novels? Return of the Living Dad takes the dark, sinister side of Sylvester McCoy's Doctor, mixes it up with the playful, childlike man we first met, and gives us a blend that works. And I guess that's what a good book is really all about.

A Review by Sean Gaffney 6/10/99

OK, raise your hands if you can't guess my final rank?

My reaction to Kate's book was similar to the one I had after seeing World Without End II - a general WOW! all around.

Plot - Intriguing. The villains of the book are all done in nice shades of grey. The Witch Mark loose end - which I had completely forgotten about - is done up in a scary scene that manages to be both touching and disturbing.

The Doctor - Perhaps at his most tragic. This is an emotional book, and SlyDoc doesn't deal with emotions very well. His asking why Chris and Roz kissed broke my heart. The kiss he gives Benny at the end made me jump up and down and say wibble a lot. :-)

Benny and Jason - Great. I wanted to be clever and say how Jason reminds me of Jon, but he doesn't, nor does Benny remind me of Kate. I liked Roz's comment that Benny was in love now, so being a companion full-time was not an option. Her reaction to Isaac is totally wonderful. Bring on So Vile a Sin.

Chris and Roz - This broke my heart, mainly because it was so happy. Seeing visions of Chris and Roz married depressed the hell out of me. Still, it was lovely to see Roz finally acknowledge the love Chris has for her, and the fear she feels in reciprocating it.

Isaac - He lived! This truly amazed me! I thought he would be cannon father!

< pause >

Sorry. Anyway, the similarities between Isaac and the Doctor are well-drawn, and for once I didn't see the twist coming here.

Others - Pretty cool. The Jacqui scene is a tortuous bit of continuity, showing the Doctor's actions harming the innocents around him. The Hummer bits fit right in. And why didn't Graeme join the TARDIS crew? Waaah! I want Graeme!

Style - It's Kate. There you go. Still, I didn't see as much of the TV style as Dave Owen. I did feel that this book was relaxing. Yeah, yeah, I know. But it's true. it's a bit of a breather for everyone. I suspect this may be the last humor we get in the NA's for a long time. Death of Art and Damaged Goods look grim.

Ending - The final two pages made me kvell. And right after Steven's story did, too. (Since people asked: KVELL - the warm feeling you get in your tummy when something strikes you as RIGHT, on so many levels.)

Oh, and in case you wondered: Tom Truszkowski, R.J. Smith?, Don Gillikin, E. Larry Lidz, and Eva (as a man?) Jacobus.


Okay, Yes, But... by Andy Hicks 12/7/01

I hate to do this. But I guess I have to.

See, it's tough, though, because Kate Orman is one of the most consistently good Who novelists currently writing. Set Piece was brilliant. Vampire Science was brilliant. The Left Handed Hummingbird was really quite good. More than that, she was the first woman to write original Doctor Who novels, and only the fifth (if I'm counting correctly) woman to write for Doctor Who at all.

It's especially tough because the book I'm about one paragraph from laying into, Return Of The Living Dad, is so close to being a good book that it's painful. Our heroine, Bernice Summerfield, traces down her father, who's living in 1983 on Earth helping displaced aliens from the varied invasion fleets and such find a safe, comfortable home on Earth. Bernice enlists the Doctor to help, and here we get another glimpse of one of the things that made the NA's wonderful: the concept that the Doctor's actions have not always resulted in the best course of action for everybody. A lot of the displaced aliens are there because of him, and in order to save the day, he must get them on his side. Everyone dreams of killing Daleks, but no one thinks about the Dalek's mum. Speaking of the Daleks, Isaac (Bernice's dad) wants to prepare the Earth for the Dalek Invasion in 2164 using nuclear weaponry and < gasp > changing the course of history.

A small coffee shop English village as a refugee camp for alien invaders. Brilliant. It predated the Men In Black movie by a year. More of the Doctor facing the consequences of his actions. Great. Continuing storyline. Roz and Chris hooking up and exploring the facets of their relationship. Cute, very cute. And it's nice to see Benny again. And Jason, it's nice to see him, too. And Benny's Dad, he's nice. And so are the nice lesbian couple. And the fanboy. And the nice abused women at the Women's Camp who go around sabotaging military bases, but in a nice, root for the liberals sort of way. And most of the nice aliens. Nice, nice nice. And the bad lady you think is the villain actually thinks she's being nice, but she's not really nice because she's obviously an Evil Judgemental Type. And the alien that turns out to be the real bad guy is Not Nice, but he's only Not Nice because his race is supposed to be really nice. Nice, nice, nice... do you see my point yet?

A good chunk of my friends happen to be gay. We were all sitting around outside the bookstore one night and one of my gay friends was thrashing out a tirade about some ex-friend of his who had pissed him off. He finished his rant with "and he's so judgemental!" This sort of led us to a very interesting conclusion: no one is more judgemental than the groups of people who are supposed to be above that sort of thing. The comic book Johnny the Homicidal Maniac hit upon the same thing in reference to the goth scene, when a character says something along the lines of "ever notice we spend half the time getting mad at people for judging us, and the other half of the time judging people?" So here we are; Doctor Who fans, notoriously the most strange of all Sci-Fi fandoms (and we like it that way), and here's our author who's a hardcore feminist (and we like her that way.) Shouldn't, logically, this liberal sci-fi Doctor Who feminist Wiccan woman writer from Australia, who has probably known a thing or two about being unfairly judged, not want to do the same thing in her writings?

You'd think so, right? And then you'd meet the woman in Return of the Living Dad who wants to get rid of and dissect all the aliens because they're different, and abberations of humanity, or something. She's obviously a reference to the uncaring, close minded types of people who judge people on being different, and yet here Kate allows her but a cipher of a character. She is there simply so that we, the liberal sci-fi feminist Doctor Who fans, can point and go "Bad Lady! BAD!"

And God forbid any of our heroes have a political opinion that strays from that of The Group! While Joel, the Admiral, Graeme, Tony, and the whole gang might seem like people I'd like to get to know, and that I'd probably agree with on most issues, I don't want to read about them if there's absolutely no possibility of conflict. More than that, the characters DON'T REALLY CHANGE AT ALL. They learn more, they experience more, but they don't seem to go on any really specific journey. (Unfortunately, as I read it, this seems to be Unnatural History explained to a T; Sam's timeline gets altered and she becomes a bad-ass goth chick. The Doctor takes her to San Francisco. The TARDIS is trapped. The Doctor and Sam splash about in a fountain and hang out with other nice liberal people. The Doctor and Sam share a nice dinner, vegetarian of course. Sam gives the Doctor a backrub. Fitz shares a few wisecracks. Oh yes, and some voodoo cult is doing things to fowl up space time. Bad voodoo cult.. and so on.)

Conflict, the battleground of grey between the black and white, is what great stories are all about. You can have ultimate good fighting ultimate evil, and you can visit that battleground. You can have light grey fighting dark grey, and you can visit that battleground. However, when you have an army of shiny happy people, characterized only by their wonderful political correctness and acceptance of everyone who is also a wonderfully politcally correct-ish person, battling a group of people who are characterised as evil simply through the virtue of being "not like us", things get dangerous. Fascistic, even.

Maybe in these post-modern times, where the medium is the message and all that, you can't write a liberal-leaning sci-fi adventure with the good guys vs. the bad guys without sounding like a big hypocrite (back to the Daleks mum's again...), and that's too bad. And yet, people have managed to write such things. And, to tell the truth, ultimately what I was left with after reading this book was not a sense of a skewed opinion being forced down the reader's throat, but rather a knowledge that I had just been told a well-crafted story, with foreshadowings of the end of the seventh Doctor's time, and with my favorite companion making a guest appearance. It wasn't until later on when I realised why I had also found the book slightly unsettling, and just because I happen to agree with an author's politics doesn't mean that I'm comfortable with the author presenting a world where that is the only correct choice.

A Review by Finn Clark 9/12/01

Sleepy was an underwritten manifesto for the cause of soppy niceness, with the conscious goal of being about people instead of planets. Return of the Living Dad is... well, more of the same. As a Doctor Who policy statement I admire a focus on the little people, but as the recipe for a novel it's dangerous. Damaged Goods keeps that focus while still holding the reader's attention like a vice, but I struggled to get a grip on Return of the Living Dad.

Apart from anything else, Damaged Goods's ordinary people are ultra-realistic. Return of the Living Dad divides the world into two camps: (a) nice, nice liberals doing their very best to Make A Difference, or (b) horrid silly bullies. The one exception, thank the lord, is Roz Forrester. She's a bigoted bloody-minded sarcastic right-wing obnoxious thug and thus a great character. (Whereas Sam Jones was a liberal self-sacrificing politically correct left-wing virtuous paragon and the most annoying companion of all time.) Whenever the tweety birds start singing and the Walt Disney music starts playing, at least we've got everyone's favourite grumpy bastard adjudicator to throw in a few sour-faced comments. I don't think I'd have been able to read the Greenham Common sections without Roz's commentary, for instance.

(I should clarify that "underwritten" tag. There are scenes with subtext, but it's addressed so casually that you'd think the perpetrator was Terrance Dicks. He said, she said, he had a facial expression, he said, next scene. I wouldn't ever claim that Orman wasn't trying at this point, but I think I can sense relaxation after establishing her name with her first two books.)

Then there's the winks to the audience. Asides, namechecks... I hate them all! Kate's new manifesto of "sod the fans" for The Year of Intelligent Tigers was long, long overdue. All those cute in-jokes are a horrible distraction, and as for the character names... when Jack Beven turned up on page 121, I wanted to kill something.

Similarly, the fan politics and Virgin agendas felt dated. It's not just the guns vs. frocks dichotomy, but the characterisation of the Doctor himself. The NA Doctor was Time's Champion, doing terrible things to preserve history. He's old and tired. He thinks he's seen it all. Virgin made such a song and dance about "Time's Champion, oooooooo!" but in 2001, this seems almost comic. In the 8DAs we're dealing with an Eighth Doctor who's faced down Faction Paradox, endured the Interference retcon and finally pulled That Lever in The Ancestor Cell and possibly erased Gallifrey from existence. In hindsight the NA Doctor looks like those people back in the sixties who were agonising about the impending ice age. Er, guys? Global warming? And as for all that Time's Champion Angst (TM)...

Return of the Living Dad foreshadows the future in little ways - some deliberate (TVM references: costume, father) and some serendipitous (page 229: little do you know!)

I should probably discuss Return of the Living Dad's plot, but it hardly warrants much attention. Benny returns to 1983 and meets her dad. Stuff happens. The end. That was all I took away from my first reading, and this rereading didn't significantly change things.

The book's characters are more important, or even the general tone. This book is appallingly gooey, with babies, hugs, romance... dear God. I blame Jon Blum. If he'd just been an ugly, misogynistic bastard who liked biting the heads off pigeons, then Kate wouldn't have been so revoltingly happy during the writing of this and a few more diabetics might still be alive. Roz and Chris - what the fuck is that? Where'd that come from? Get outta here. Even the Doctor gets a female admirer... well, sort of.

But beneath all the cuteness, some real nastiness is being swept under the carpet. Torture, murder and drunken child abuse are just some of the issues being drowned in syrup.

I really admire much of Kate Orman's BBC work, but this is just more nice people overcoming misguided silly billies. A nasty paranoiac's mentality is set up to be shot down. It's glutinously nice. That's all I remembered first time around. Isaac Summerfield doesn't make the impression he should, because nothing does in this book. Potentially interesting things do happen from time to time, but only as afterthoughts. They're not the book's raison d'etre and it's hard to get worked up about them.

But... yes, it is pleasant. I found it an amiably frothy break from the more usual Who fare, but that doesn't mean it's not candyfloss.

A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 8/2/04

Oh dear. Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Return of the Living Dad. A Kate Orman novel that I didn't like. And I don't really think it's a particularly bad novel, per say, but rather that there were a lot of little things that annoyed me, and they slowly built up. By the time I got to the end, I just wasn't in the mood for it any more. Too much in-jokiness. Too much fluffiness. In short, too much style, not enough substance.

I think that the book's biggest problem is that, paradoxically, it contains both too much and too little plot. There's a lot of actual action, but very little feels of consequence. Let me describe what I'm talking about. The book starts with Benny and Jason finding a clue as to what happened to Benny's long-lost father. So, they meet up with the Doctor, Chris and Roz. Then they jump back in time. Then they go through a time warp. Then they spend some time in 1983. Then someone gets captured. Then there's a jailbreak. Then someone else is captured. Then there's another escape attempt. Etc, etc, etc. There is actually a lot of plot; the problem is that it's all paper-thin.

And there's also something that had previously annoyed me in Paul Cornell's Human Nature that is turned up to eleven here: the fandom in-jokes. Specifically, the near constant references to rec.arts.drwho. Now, I was a regular in that newsgroup during the period that this book was written, so I recognize many of the references. The problem is that as soon as I come across one of these, I'm mentally taken out of the book and placed back into USEnet of the mid-1990s. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, of course, but I don't think the author expects me to be thinking more about long-dead running jokes and flame-wars than about the book that's in front of me.

Don't get me wrong. Sometimes references to outside material can add immensely to a story and can make the reader think about things in more than one way. This is true whether the reference is to a previous story in the series ("Oh, so the bad guys from story X were working for the evil guy from story Y. Hmmm, that's quite interesting.") or to material outside the fiction completely ("Oooh, a subtle satire of early-20th century American foreign policy! How clever!"). With references of the kind seen here, my reaction is rather different ("Hey! It's old whatshisname from rec.arts.drwho! What a nut that guy was! Wasn't he the guy who stole someone's airline ticket to get to Visions and then drunkenly demanded that Sophie Aldred look at his crayon drawings of K9?" -- this is a simulated convention story; if it were an actual convention story, it would involve an NA author and alcohol poisoning.) Slight references I can stomach, but I swear that some of the conversations were complete cut-n-paste jobs (the UNIT-dating example springs instantly to mind).

Getting back to the story proper, this desperately felt like it wanted to be a Happy Endings style adventure, where there's little in the way of plot and just a lot of fun frolicking instead. But it seems almost afraid to go too far in that direction. Every time it looks as though it's going to settle down into pure romp mode, someone needs rescuing, or an alien's gone missing, or the Doctor gets angsty. It felt as though it was trying too hard to be fun and to be an adventure, and instead of being a fun adventure, it just ended up as a misfire. Benny's father, Isaac, would appear to have to bulk of the story resting on his fictional shoulders, but since the character just didn't quite work for me, I could never really get into the book.

Still, it's not all bad. It's an Orman novel, so we're assured of some deft prose. The story is well paced and I never felt bored (compare this to Death of Art which I'm struggling through right now; I may literally fall dead of old age before I get through it all). There are a handful of nice scenes and great character moments. They just sort of felt grafted on, or isolated.

I was disappointed rereading this one. I don't really recall much of anything from my first reading, which should probably have set off some warning bells. Of course, when looking back at this period of the NAs, it's noticeable that if you don't like the Kate Orman novel you're reading, there's no need to worry: a different one will be along in a couple of months. And fortunately, I think everything else she's done has been better than this one.

The Cult of Kate by Godfrey Hill 11/5/05

Character A - "I'm going to say something really obvious right now."
Character B - "I missed you too."
A - "Let's go."
The Doctor - "Can't let you do that, I'm afraid."
B - "What?"
Reviewer - "Zzzzzzzzzzzzz....."
Ok, I made up that last line. Please forgive me. But you get my general drift.

When reading sci-fi and fantasy novels in general, I like to sometimes miss out "he said, she said" lines and the manner of the replies so I can concentrate on major descriptive paragraphs and pure dialogue. So that you know, it feels like you're watching it on the big or small screen. Unfortunately, when you apply this particular model to Return of the Living Dad, I felt like I was watching the "Argument" sketch from Monty Python - just without the humor and gags. You know the one with Palin and Cleese.

Palin - "An argument is a connected series of statements to establish a definite proposition. It isn't just contradiction."
Cleese - "Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position."
P - "But it isn't just saying "No it isn't.""
C - "Yes it is."
P - "Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says."
C - "No it isn't."
P - "Now look..."
C - "Thank you. Good morning."
Classic. And I was thinking about this one in the same vein. This book is really difficult to get hold of - it's gotta be good. More fool me. It's a Kate Orman novel. Should have known better. Not that this review is an out-and-out Orman trash-fest. No, sir . Wouldn't do a thing like that, sir. It's just, sir, that it's pretty simplistic and rather hard going. I'm prepared to give any Who novel its chance as long as you learn some backstory and character development. You can excuse missing this device in one novel, but missing this device in two novels is just careless.

The failing in Orman's previous Set Piece was that character development was sacrificed in favor of multiple locations. Here, character development is sacrificed in favor of multiple - well, characters. Now this is OK if you're using this to a particular end (like trying to namecheck each previous NAs' characters in Happy Endings.), but here you're supposed to empathize with each set of a multiple set of aliens - it's a hard sell and doesn't entirely work. Apart from the various races' collective hatred and distrust of the Seventh Doctor - a very well-worked moment. Since he has meddled in each of their histories, his description by Isaac as "The Oncoming Storm" is very apt and stayed with me throughout the book (obviously , its stayed with Russell T. as well - see Clive (Mark Benton)'s description to Rose in the new TV series.) Graeme the Auton is also a nice additional extra and the history of the ghost is well-explained and makes sense. And I loved the TNG Darmok reference.

Regrettably, it's the negatives that stay with you. Jason has absolutely nothing to do except walk around a space yacht for most of the novel. You can cut out Roz and Chris' developing relationship - the novel works perfectly well without it. And it's hardly a surprise about the villians of the piece - oh look, he wants to be a time traveller as well, but he doesn't have the balls to set the pieces moving. He can't imagine every eventuality. He's only human.

I don't want to draw conclusions from this book alone, but Orman took on a third of the last NA's (SLEEPY, The Room With No Doors and infamously, So Vile a Sin). I offer up the following prayer -

Prove me wrong.Prove me wrong.
Onwards to more death, then.
Oh Kate...

BTW, really liked the Darmok reference.