I'd just said few weeks back how I hadn't read any tie-in novels for a bit, when the good people at Blogging for Books
offered this. Seemed like a good way to get back into them.
Things got off to a rough start when the argument that the Doctor and Clara were having about their next destination (she wants to meet King Arthur, he wants to go somewhere else) reminded me too much of the argument in "Robot of Sherwood" -- but there's a great punchline that redeemed it. They don't head off to Camelot, because the Doctor finds some sort of sign of nuclear power in Victorian London which seems far more urgent.
The Doctor doesn't want to trouble Madam Vastra and her crew when they can take care of this themselves. Besides, The Great Detective is investigating a locked-room murder, and Strax is off looking into the death of a friend. I'm sure no one at all will be surprised to discover that the investigations are soon intertwined. And we're off to the races -- peril, aliens, impossible weapons, The Shadow Proclamation, Strax being Strax. Loads of fun.
This story is best suited for a novel rather than a TV episode -- it's just unfilmable. Too many special effects, too large a cast, plot couldn't be boiled down into the less than 60-minutes necessity. But it feels like an bonus-length episode, right kind of pace, right kind of mix of tension and humor. In other words -- exactly what this kind of book is supposed to be.
Here's the only thing I didn't like about this -- Richard's characterization of The Doctor. Which, yeah, is a pretty significant piece in a Doctor Who novel. But here's the thing, this thing came out September 9 and season 8 premiered August 23. So, I'm betting while Richards had plenty of access to scripts and whatnot, he hadn't seen a final cut of an episode starring Capaldi before he finished this (maybe one or two -- definitely not a lot of them). So he couldn't really capture the full flavor of the Twelfth Doctor. He could get some of it -- the stuff that's in the script -- but all the intangibles, gravitas, the full je ne sais quoi that only happens when an actor becomes the character wasn't available for Richards. I'd like to read something he writes after the end of season 8 just to see if he can capture it -- I'm betting he can (he nailed the characterizations of Clara, Vastra, Jenny and Strax).
Still, this is just the sort of thing for the fan who can't be satisfied with twelve episodes of TARDIS-based adventure.
---Note:I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. Which was generous and cool of them, but didn't impact what I said about the book.