A Doctor Who novel, written by Andrew Cartmel. The sixth of Virgin Publishing's New Adventures.

Previous story: Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible | Next story: Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark

WARNING! LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD!

Regular characters

The Seventh Doctor

Ace

Major developments

The TARDIS continues to recover from the damage sustained in the previous story.

My opinion

While the quality of the writing in this book is about the same as in the previous two, this has two advantages over them: the plot is easier to follow, and it does not indulge in fanboyishness such as the history of ancient Gallifrey or manifestations of the Doctor's previous incarnations. My main reservation about this book is that it involves the Doctor actively plotting to take out an underground bunker, killling everyone inside. I thought at first "the Doctor doesn't do that", but realised that that is exactly the sort of thing the Seventh Doctor does, if he feels he needs to. Also, there is not much humour in the book. It presents a bleak dystopian future, and is generally grim. Apart from that, this is an excellent book, and well worth reading.

Quick outline

Earth in the near future is becoming uninhabitable due to worsening pollution. The Doctor visits an old friend of Ace's in hospital, where she is dying of an autoimmune disorder brought on by poisons in the atmosphere. He convinces her to publish an article in her name (she is a science journalist) on a possible link between telepathy and certain blood proteins, which she does just before she dies. The Doctor then attends to some other details of the plan he has underway, hacking into the computer network in the corporate headquarters of the Butler Institute, and finding out from a serial killer the location of a gray plastic barrel.

The Doctor sends Ace to retrieve the barrel from Turkey, which she does with the aid of some hired mercenaries. She brings the barrel back to the Doctor at his house in Kent, and they open the barrel, which contains a teenaged boy who has been in a chemically induced state of suspended animation. The Doctor tells Ace that Vincent (the boy) is a powerful telekinetic, but his power needs to be channelled through the emotions of another person. As Vincent is recovering, the house receives another visitor - Justine, a teenaged girl with an intense hatred for technology and pollution, who has been lured there by an article in an underground magazine that suggests the house is a doorway to other worlds. She has broken into the house and finds Vincent recovering upstairs. When they touch Vincent's power is unleashed, making every car in the street explode into flames. Vincent and Justine form an instant bond. The Doctor is now ready to start putting his plan into motion.

O'Hara, head of the Butler Institute, has devised a way for the rich and powerful to avoid the problems caused by the increasing environmental degradation - downloading their consciousness onto computers. As part of one of the final experiments of the project, a New York cop is shot and his consciousness loaded into a chip that is to be used in the targeting system of an experimental handgun. The gun is given to the cop's partner, Mancuso, to test, although she is unaware of the gun's nature. O’Hara plans to us his son in the first full trial. The project is being run from a near-impenetrable underground bunker.

The Doctor, Ace, Vincent and Justine go to New York. The Doctor arranges to have Vincent picked in the sweeps regularly made by Butler Institute of Central Park that round up homeless people to harvest for organs. Vincent's blood is tested, and contains the protein mentioned in the article the Doctor planted earlier, so Vincent is taken to the bunker. The Doctor, Ace and Justine then go to a drugstore where a robbery is in progress. As planned, Mancuso attends the robbery and the Doctor is able to eventually convince her of the truth about her partner and her gun, and she agrees to help the Doctor. The plan also calls for Justine to take a drug that makes her appear to be dead, and she will be taken to the Butler Institute for harvesting. However, Justine is upset about Vincent and takes the drug too early. As a result, they are unable to have her taken inside by the harvesters and are forced to go directly to the bunker themselves.

At the bunker, O'Hara has learned of the Doctor's plans, and emerges for a confrontation, taking Vincent with him to use to lure the others into a trap. In the final face off one of O'Hara's employees, distressed after seeing O'Hara's son killed for the project, pushes O'Hara and allows Vincent to get free. He runs towards Justine and they make contact, but now Justine feels only love for Vincent, and Vincent's power can't use that. The Doctor tells Vincent to run, and O'Hara chases after him. When O'Hara catches Vincent he is able to use O'Hara's emotional coldness to generate an ice storm, killing O'Hara and destroying the bunker.

With the project destroyed, O'Hara' other corporate backers are forced to turn their efforts towards cleaning up the environment instead of trying to escape it.

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