Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
The Deviant Strain: Justin Richards, January 3—11, 2015
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
The Doctor and Rose find themselves in an abandon Russian village in The Deviant Strain; the fourth instalment of NuWho’s book series. This time joined by Captain Jack Harkness, they are faced with a being that is ageing and jellifying its victims.
While some of the previous editions of the series read like screenplays, The Deviant Strain is very much a novel and embraces its point of difference. Elements such as the unreliable light would be frustrating to watch on screen, but atmospheric in print. The whole story is much creepier than could have been shown in a television episode which gave it real bite. There were also some great twists that made it consistently interesting.
Richards has a firm hold of the Doctor, Rose and Jack’s voices. The Doctor has some witty lines, while this is the first time Rose doesn’t ramble on about the oddity of travelling time and space with an alien. Whether this is indicative of Rose’s character development in the wider arc or Richards’ sensitivity that it’s getting a bit old, it was very welcome to see a move away from this. Although the number of guest cast made it a little confusing at first, there were good back stories and some interesting personal subplots. Again, Richards took advantage of the power of print to explore the complex background of the setting.
The pace is spot on. Where The Clockwise Man had a painfully slow start and The Monsters Inside had an ending that was dragged out to an inch of my life, never mind its own, The Deviant Strain maintains a great structure; a brilliant balance of action and dialogue and a running tension with perfect timing.
By embracing the opportunities of print, devising a creepy and suspenseful story and really getting into the skin of the lead characters, Richards delivers the best Doctor a Who novel so far.