So yeah this is definitely a plot right up the alley of a B-movie from the 1950s, but that is really only the plot and a few of the character archetypes. Darvill-Evans knows that in these novels you need to have good characters along with a good plot and all the characters are really well written. You have the people of Arcadia who are stuck in medieval times while serving this supercomputer who has frankly insane demands. The supercomputer plot is revealed really well as the twists are kept in the shadows for the first quarter of the novel where we hear the thoughts of Elaine, a young girl who is starving and slowly dying on the supercomputer’s orders. She was taken from Francis, the Scribe, who is the archetype coward and it really is funny as he has to deal with Elaine’s torture and comes off as a real person in the story. The computer’s servants are also great as their dialogue and the descriptions of their movements give off this otherworldly atmosphere that elevates it above your stereotypical hypnotized performance. There are also a team of people from Starfleet as this takes place after the Dalek Wars where there are now Dalek Killers and we see exactly what happened to Ace after she stormed off at the end of Love and War.
This brings us to what fans have dubbed the New Ace, who has been hardened for three years fighting the Daleks. As she is introduced here I quite like the new portrayal as it seems like a logical progression and I want to know how the authors are going to go with her new persona. The scenes she has with the Doctor in the Zero Room are a special treat as the Doctor can’t really believe he’s seeing Ace again. Her chemistry with Abslom Daak is also great as Daak is literally a walking stereotype and it is hilarious. Even with the bits that I find comedic the novel is actually quite dark as there is horrific imagery involved in the novel much worse than the shocking image on the cover which reveals what the computer is made of.
What is the highlight of the novel is Professor Bernice Summerfield who is probably the most entertaining here as she has ever been. Darvill-Evans gets Benny’s sarcasm and cynical nature down pat and you really feel her anger when she discovers Elaine all tied up. There are however a few problems with the novel in the department of pacing. The pace at the beginning and the ending doesn’t really have a consistent speed that I couldn’t really get behind. The beginning isn’t that bad, it’s just really long winded, but enjoyable all the same. The end is the really bad bit with some stuff stuffed in the novel to meet a page quota. I will say that the Appendix at the end is great outlining the Second Dalek War and a nice few pages from Darvill-Evans about the goals of the New Adventures which are great fun and promise for more great upcoming adventures. So despite its flaws Deceit is a great novel that I gladly give a 95/100 as the flaws in pacing don’t detract that much from the story and it is really refreshing after The Pit made me want to stop reading.