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Interference Book One & Book Two

By Lawrence Miles

Book review by Brad Schmidt

The Eighth Doctor novels are often accused of being too traditional, too nice, too vapid when compared to their Virgin counterparts. Too often, perhaps - even fans of Virgin's most radical of efforts would be stunned by the events of Lawrence Miles' long-awaited Interference novels.

These events are mostly executed in the second of two Books. So are several other characters, surprisingly. The plot is really quite simplistic, but seems grandiose in its variety of provocative locations and blatant philosophy. The oldest question of the series is answered in Interference, addressed from the first page of the first Book.

Mysterious agents - at first almost curiously mysterious in their lack of origin - are active on Earth in 1996, supplying advanced weaponry to secret government agencies worldwide. This is Sarah and Sam's territory. The Eighth Doctor steps in when the action extends away from the planet, and the Third Doctor is eventually showcased on a dusty planet called Dust to conclude answering the “oldest question”, but he does little else - except allowing Faction Paradox to have their way.

The Faction feature quite heavily, but they're not quite as villainous as they were in Alien Bodies or Unnatural History. It's probably intentional that they weren't clear-cut enemies - as Lawrence Miles relates in his foreword, he has no agenda, and the story is about “all of us”. And it is. It's an interesting story that's strangely neutral in closing old doors and kicking through walls to make new ones.

The events surrounding the story and the new histories presented may have hooked this reader entirely, but also belittled the Doctor's uniqueness in the process. The upcoming story-arc is a fairly long one - which will be enjoyable - but after what happens here it's possibly not long enough to restore the damage that has been done.

Quite how - or if - this damage will be reversed seems uncertain. The “universe-in-a-bottle” device presented (which is exactly what it suggests) seems to be nodding towards further explanation in upcoming novels; the riddle that plays a major theme through these two books is rather obviously linked to it, which is worrying. Doctor Who stories have rarely been so ominous.

For a story boasting the inclusion of both the Third and Eighth Doctors, in both advance promotion and on the covers, they are absent for a great deal of the story. I daresay it's that the reader knows of the Third Doctor's upcoming inclusion which subtly sustains the interest in the first Book - along with waiting for the Eighth Doctor's “anonymous” (ha!) philosophical discussions to end and for him to take control of the situation. The Third Doctor's last words are “This is wrong”, but he's certainly not talking about the recognisable characterisation of the Season Eleven partnership.

Sarah is just as central a character as either Doctor, leading the exposition in Book One. There's a new companion, two familiar ones who have their histories altered, and K9 - Book One seems at times like K9 And Company at the hands of Philip Segal.

Sam's frequent torture and introspection is just as tiresome in Interference knowing she would be leaving so many pages later, as it was back in 1998 knowing she wouldn't. Even the Doctor is overly casual about the exit, which has all the fanfare of an asthmatic trumpet player. But she will be missed now, if only for one point-of-identification. It used to seem as if the TARDIS crew didn't know each other all that well. Now, none of them seem to know themselves, let alone the reader being able to identify with them.

All in all, Interference is an epic adventure. And it is one adventure - the division into two novels is utterly pointless from a narrative point-of-view; it's only financial, and it will undoubtedly work. Neither book can be read alone.

Disturbing. But, that's what interference is. [5/5]

This item appeared in TSV 58 (September 1999).

Index nodes: Interference: Book One, Interference: Book Two