Mortimore effectively integrates Leela into the major setting of the novel. The reader is taken to the 1800s and entrenches the reader, and the characters, in Victorian culture. Much of the book feels like a high seas adventure as the Doctor, Leela, and the crew of a ship are travelling to Easter Island where there is a pretty standard alien invasion plot occurring that takes the characters through a wormhole. Mortimore however makes the novel interesting by employing a non-linear narrative structure. The reader has to piece together the various plot threads as the chapters occur out of order. It is used to create a mysterious atmosphere of what exactly happened on Easter Island, which doesn’t begin being revealed until about halfway through the novel. The potential issue with this format is that it could easily be seen as a cheap gimmick to drum up conversation about the book, yet Mortimore employs it carefully. He demonstrates a knowledge of just what to give the reader and when to switch to a different section of the storyline. The plot is split up into four even segments which each could have been told chronologically as a standard four episode format, while the events are rather scrambled to fit better thematically. Of course, there are a couple of storytelling twists thrown in for good measure. The major theme is the idea of belief and what people will do for those beliefs. It’s a comment on the integration of religion into the then current society, according to a note from Mortimore (who himself is an atheist).
Mortimore also uses the first person narrative to give the reader a rare glimpse into the head of the Fourth Doctor. Now this is something that will be revisited in Tom Baker and James Goss’s Scratchman, and while between the two novels they are portrayed as the same character, Mortimore writes the Doctor’s sections from a slightly more reserved portrayal. Think more The Seeds of Doom or The Talons of Weng-Chiang, as the Doctor realizes that there is a potential threat to the entire planet and is acting accordingly. Mortimore also has the Doctor shot at one point and the reader is given the privilege of seeing into the recovery process for the character. There are flashbacks to an early incarnation, possibly the Second Doctor pre-The Abominable Snowmen, showing just how the Doctor deals with pain. It’s a riveting section of the book and is another highlight. Finally, the prose style of Mortimore is incredibly easy to read, grabbing the reader and is perhaps his best novel yet. It is the first of the BBC Books published novels that reaches the heights in storytelling that the highest Virgin books did. It can easily stand amongst the likes of Lungbarrow, Head Games, Just War, Love and War, and the many other classic Virgin novels. 10/10.