I had received this book for Christmas and only got around to finishing it recently, so I wanted to share some thoughts on it while it was still fresh in my mind.
In summary, the plot involves the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria landing on an asteroid where the remnants of the Haddron Empire are located. Certain factions are pitted against each other, and one has robots employed to do a lot of destruction in order to retrieve a certain figure who is being held there. There is a lot of political intrigue that the Doctor and his companions end up being embroiled in and it’s interesting to see how they figure into it. If I had to guess, it seems the story is set after The Ice Warriors; the Doctor makes some comment about them having been “froze out”, which I took to be a reference to that serial. If that’s not the case then it is definitely set after The Tomb of the Cybermen, as mention is made of Victoria’s new shorter dress, and Toberman from that serial is brought up by Jamie.
In the foreword the author describes his inspiration for the novel (something about having watched a documentary or miniseries – can’t remember which – on the Roman Empire), as well as his affection for the Second Doctor. He mentions how it might be hard to get his persona through the written word because he’s so expressive with his facial expressions and gestures. Despite that, I thought he did a very good portrayal of the Doctor. Jamie and Victoria were also very well-written.
The Doctor and his companions don’t show up right away; first there is some background on the Empire/Republic and its major players to set the stage for what our heroes are about to face. The characters are all quite interesting and although the politics is lightly touched upon, it makes for some interesting background information as well.
Not long after the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria show up, they come across the body of a dead man and, natch, are accused of having killed him. They eventually earn the trust of Trayx, the man who for all intents and purposes is in charge here.
There is also a chess metaphor set up in the story, which features heavily. Two men, Kesar (whose face is hidden behind a bronze mask after having been badly injured/burned beyond recognition in a battle) and Kruger, are seen at various times engaged in a chess game.
After a while they figure out all is not what it seems in more ways than one and have to unravel this mystery. There is a lot of action with battles taking place between robots and humans. There is also a pretty neat twist regarding Kesar not being the man he was thought to be all along.
As I mentioned earlier, the Doctor and his friends were very well written; although they don’t feature very heavily, the author seems to have gotten their personalities down quite well. There’s a funny moment where the Doctor is explaining to Jamie something related to the chess match, and bringing up some trivia regarding Leo Tolstoy and chess games. Jamie’s response is something to the effect of: “Doctor, I don’t care.” LOL.
It was a very engaging story that kept me wanting more with every turn of the page. I wasn’t sure how interested I’d be in it given all the political intrigue, but it really held my interest.