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by Peter Darvill-Evans

Book review by Chris Girdler

The return of Ace, Abslom Daak appearing as a 'guest', and the tying up of loose ends from previous New Adventures; that's a lot for a writer to tackle, thus Peter Darvill-Evans accepts his own challenge. All the elements are dealt with admirably but the novel's content is another matter. Before judging Deceit, let's forget the cover. Luis Rey has provided a painting that manages to be overbearing and dull at the same time.

Deceit can be compared to Love and War and Apocalypse in that they all involve planets that are not what they appear to be, with the villain's hide-out above the planet which turns out to be an experiment (very familiar territory). The pathetic Lacuna is a carbon copy of the Grand Matriarch from Nigel Robinson's book. Love and War also had many difficult elements to deal with (Ace leaving, Bernice arriving), but Paul Cornell does it so much better because he focuses on characterisation, with very few obstructive sub-plots to get in the way.

Deceit however is a more action-orientated story, but action on the printed page is not exciting. There are a few drawn-out action sequences that are tiresome, featuring Belle's troop. Belle is one of the best characters, as is the disturbed Elaine; unfortunate that both of them fade out towards the climax. Like The Pit, the climax is the strongest point, especially the way the Doctor tricked Pool into the TARDIS.

With the novel's dedication and other reviewers' hype, I had expected Ace to turn out to be one of the villains! The fact is, she hasn't changed much at all. OK, she's more arrogant, but she always had this trait and she's always been violent. Thankfully, she's less childish. I really didn't find her any more unlikeable than in other novels. At last we have more than one companion, with Bernice acting as a breathing space between two egos. It will be interesting to see how the TARDIS crew develops in future novels.

The back cover blurb for Deceit ends with 'Nothing is what it seems to be'. The problem is that everything was what it seemed to be - the events of the novel were predictable with too many over-used concepts. I was far more interested in the interaction of characters and the formation of the TARDIS crew than the secrets of Arcadia/Landfall/Pool. Darvill-Evans has kept to the structures and limitations he placed on other writers, but failed to produce an entertaining novel.

This item appeared in TSV 36 (November 1993).

Index nodes: Deceit