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By Justin Richards

Book review by Brad Schmidt

Reviewing a novel such as Demontage seems particularly appropriate, considering the process involved in doing so mirrors the meaning of the title. And in stripping down Justin Richards' latest work, one is left with the distinct feeling little was original, but can't pinpoint it all the same. Perhaps it's because Richards re-employs themes from his earlier novels, or perhaps it's simply hard to pinpoint anything in the cacophony of rolling dice, clinking glasses and flashing claws that is the space station Vega.

The TARDIS crew has already arrived on Vega and established themselves, as seen in the Doctor's and Fitz's light-hearted banter during a round of their gambling competition, while Sam must wearily play mother. Amidst the Casino, the Hotel, an Antique Shop and an Art Exhibition, odd events are taking place; events that while seem new, have roots in other times and places. Mysterious moving figures in static paintings that come and go as they please strongly echoes Roald Dahl's The Witches, while the series acknowledges itself with a nod to the Fourth Doctor. This nod is significant in highlighting how the Eighth Doctor novels of late have evolved, into well-crafted, humorous stories similar to the Tom Baker era. In keeping with this notion, there's an oddball duo of half-hearted criminals, who are vaguely menacing in their own way but more humorous than anything, this format similar to countless Who character combinations.

Demontage is not only significant for this reason alone - Sam stays intact, albeit in a remarkable way, and finally the series gives birth to new ‘monsters’. They're not hugely original, but they're a start.

Richards has unfortunately become a predictable author. While his youthful embodiment of the Doctor stands out as bold as any brushstroke, the rest of the ‘cast’ are all rather jaded, coming across as some kind of fictional default setting in place of innovative characters. By all rights, the main plot-twist shouldn't be at all surprising, considering it's a trademark of Richards' now - but it is. Any bets, I ask in my best croupier-style, on how long it will be before that trademark becomes a cliché? [4/5]

This item appeared in TSV 57 (July 1999).

Index nodes: Demontage