THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVELS "INVASION OF
THE CAT-PEOPLE" AND
"DYING IN THE SUN."
OFFICIAL BBC PAPERBACK (ISBN 0-563
-40565-1) RELEASED IN
the TARDIS crew
STUMBLE UPON a
weekend, But it seems
some of THE guests
ARE taking things a
little too seriously...
The Murder Game
To be quite frank, I felt rather let down by The Murder Game. In the past I have found Steve Lyons to be amongst the staunchest of Doctor Who authors, but unhappily this misguided attempt at demonstrating versatility very nearly falls flat.
The first half of the book is confined to a hotel in space that is hosting a murder mystery weekend. Yes... you can see it coming. Shock horror; the guests actually begin murdering one another, and it is up to the second Doctor, Ben and Polly to solve the mystery. Now this
could have been a half decent start to the novel, were it not for the fact that Lyons’
characters are not even half as remarkable as the clichés that you would find in Cluedo.
Nevertheless, about a hundred and fifty pages in, the Selachians show up and the quality of the novel improves spectacularly. The whole premise of the computer virus / super weapon may not be particularly gripping, but the Selachians themselves more than make up for this through their sheer inimitability.
Simply put, the Selachians are humanoidish Sharks that have to wear armour filled with water so that they can breathe, not unlike how human astronauts have to wear space suits. The concept may not sound that radical when summarised so brusquely, but on the page it really does work remarkably well. Some of Lyons’ prose – for example the passage in which he describes what the Ockorans do to themselves ‘to fit’ into their Selachian armour – is pretty gruesome, and even the Selachians’ ship - which is full of water rather than air - smacks of ingenuity. And if that isn’t enough for you, their monstrously overbearing personalities are pulled into sharp focus by Lyons’ morally ambiguous ending. Oh yes, and they refer to humans as “plankton”. Genius.
There are a few other nice little touches littered throughout the novel, though they are few
and far between and generally centre on Ben. His loose-fitting romance with the duplicitous Terri is rather interesting; I really liked how Lyons portrayed what goes on inside Ben’s head as being much more hesitant and guarded than his gruff exterior might suggest. The veiled references to Ben and Polly’s presumably mutual lineage are also quite fascinating, though hardly all that surprising.
In truth though, the strengths of The Murder Game in no way make up for the novel’s fatal flaws. The only way that I managed to drag myself through all 284 pages was by playing a game of ‘spot the in-joke’. Terra Alpha… UNIT… patchwork coats and yellow pants… Those who frown upon novels replete with winks and nods will have a field day in dissecting this one. I suppose at least, if nothing else, Lyons has managed to craft a novel that perfectly replicates the pace of an old Patrick Troughton six-parter, though whether that is a good thing or not is of course a wholly subjective matter...
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This novel’s blurb places it between the television serials The Power of the Daleks and The Highlanders. Within this gap, we have placed it between the novels Invasion of the Cat-People and Dying in the Sun,
which it was released in between.
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