The novel is an exercise in survival for the Doctor and Leela as they find themselves on a unique alien world. The first half of the novel is quite captivating as we follow them along with some spacecraft survivors as they work their way through the jungle environment and the various beasts they encounter. The end of the novel is not as interesting and a bit confusing when we start to encounter duplicates of the Doctor and others. I would have much preferred a straight jungle adventure and done without the scientific gobbledygook towards the end. 6 out of 10.
Russell T Davies is known for saying (and I paraphrase) that no one is interested in watching stories about Zog from the plant Zag. I was always adverse to this notion and lamented the lack of alien worlds during his first stint as showrunner. However when reading this book I couldn’t help but think about this comment. I found my interest waning when the book focused on the aliens only to be brought back into the narrative when Chris and Roz or The Doctor and Bernice popped back into the story. I did like some of the explanations outlined by Stone for The Doctor’s attitude towards his companions. Bernice ponders about her relationship with the Doctor and how she originally thought that they could work together as equals. She comes to the realization that he is so much more advanced on the evolutionary scale than his companions they are instead of equals nothing but beloved pets. This is much the same as how Missy described them in the “Magician’s Apprentice“.The other point I found interesting was the explanation of why there are so many humanoid races in the universe. The Time Lords eliminated many non humanoid races like the Sloathes in their early years. 6 out of 10.
I loved this book. When I was reading it I was thinking only a woman could have written it with its detailed description of pregnancy and childbirth. I was surprised that the author Jacqueline Rayner did not have children at the time of writing. Bernice is one of the very best companions and her adventures are always a delight. The other characters in the novel are both interesting and captivating. There is Grippa the Fifth Axis assassin, Sophia the knowledge craving Grel, Zim the Terpsechian whose nasal mucous acts as an analgesic and most endearing the lovable PakharClaire. We also see the return of the Fifth Axis operative Straklant from “The Squire’s Crystal” as the main protagonist. In the epilog during the naming ceremony for Peter it is a nice touch to name him Peter Guy Summerfield. The middle name Guy is honoring Bernice’s one true love Guy de Carnac from the New Adventures novel Sanctuary. 9 out of 10.