Thursday, November 21, 2019

Demontage by: Justin Richards

When writing these reviews, I usually begin with an idea of where I am going.  I’ve always read the book, or listened to the audio, or seen the story, and got a general idea of what the final score is going to be.  This is one of those cases where I genuinely have little idea as to how this review is going to go.  Demontage is the twentieth Eighth Doctor Adventure published by BBC Books and the second to be written by Justin Richards.  The cover of the novel doesn’t actually relate to much of what happens in the novel, as the style of the day only allowed one centralized image to intrigue readers and Justin Richards wished to dispel rumors that the Eighth Doctor couldn’t appear on the cover.  The design looks like a stock photo from the TV Movie with a Snapchat filter applied to make it look like a painting because the work of an artist plays a major role in the story.  If I wasn’t attempting to review the entire Eighth Doctor Adventures range, very little would make me wish to pick up the book based on the quality of this cover.  The description on the back cover fares much better, describing the three plot threads of the Doctor and his companions as they get into shenanigans on the planet Vega dealing a murder mystery, an assassination plot, and various other investigations.

Justin Richards writes a novel with a description which promises three distinct plotlines set on this planet, yet with his writing style they all mesh into one mostly coherent story.  Richards’ style of writing is one that is incredibly easy to become invested in, bringing the readers into the story with the characters and letting them experience the world.  It makes the plot, which is a pretty standard Doctor Who story, stand out among the crowd at least a little bit.  Richards’ best ideas here are the stuff with the missing painting “Murdering Art”.  The painting is one which intentionally changes in a manner similar to the Weeping Angels in the New Series, shifting position and becoming closer.  Richards plays this off as if the painting is being replaced with several forgeries as Martinique is one of those dead artists who became incredibly popular in the event of their death.  To someone reading before Blink, that line of reasoning is incredibly credible, as this is Doctor Who, not some fantasy show where anything can happen so the third act twist works on a structural level.  There is also an anti-discrimination and a cultural integration storyline present in Demontage which isn’t handled nearly as well as the art storyline.  The Vega Station, the setting of this novel, is mostly home to the Battrulians while the Canvine (a race which isn’t quite described, but implied to be canine in nature) are allowed to live and are nearly equal, but there is this sense of separation between the two races.  Richards just fails to do anything interesting with the storyline and almost drops it half way through.

This is also the first novel where Fitz Kreiner is actually a companion and Richards makes him the highlight of the novel.  Vega is a station where a large portion is devoted to gambling and the Doctor and Fitz have made a bet as to how well they do at a week of gambling.  On the first night, Fitz loses all his money and spends the rest of the novel trying to avoid the fact that he lost while the Doctor remains clueless. Sam realizes just how much Fitz is all talk, but no real bluster which is hilarious, as the character means well.  Fitz also has to deal with the fact that as a man from the 1960s he kind of has a low key smoking addiction which he must overcome.  Richards is also incredibly fun at writing the Eighth Doctor, as Richards realizes just how much fun the Doctor has at gambling.  The Doctor has accrued enough money to buy up Vega Station if he ever were to cash in on his winnings, but as this is the Doctor: he wouldn’t attempt to gain money, just continue to gamble for fun and to win the bet.  Demontage overall is a novel with great ideas, some fun characters, and a plot that is at least interesting, but it can only be said that overall it is only slightly more interesting than its bland cover.  Much of it I enjoyed, much of it dragged, and some of it was hilarious, I think I’ve come to a decision for the score.   6/10.

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