A Doctor Who novel, written by Paul Cornell. The ninth of Virgin Publishing's New Adventures.
Previous story: Nightshade | Next story: Transit
WARNING! LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD!
The Seventh Doctor
The TARDIS remains infected, and the Doctor uses the effect it currently has on his mind to help obscure his true thoughts from the Hoothi. Angered by the Doctor's sacrifice of her new boyfriend, Ace leaves the Doctor's company, to fight Daleks. Professor Bernice Summerfield joins the Doctor on his travels.
This book pits two master planners, the Hoothi and the Doctor, against each other. This makes the plot necessarily quite complicated, and while some books with a plot as complicated as this one would be confusing and probably quite boring, Paul Cornell gives enough excellent characterisation to make it all flow well. The fact that the Hoothi, as well as being master planners, are particularly gruesome monsters is an added bonus.
After taking Ace to the funeral of Julian, an old friend, The Doctor and Ace visit the planet Heaven to look for a book that the Doctor wants to borrow from the library there. Heaven is an idyllic planet used by Humans and Draconians (a race of reptilian humanoids) to bury all their dead from the war against the Daleks, and acts for both cultures as a place of rest, both before and after death.
While Ace meets and develops feelings for Jan, a Traveller (a sort of interstellar Gypsy), the Doctor attempts to locate the book he's after, and finds that the book is not in the library, and the librarian appears evasive and uneasy. He meets the head of the military forces on Heaven who confides in him that there is a large sphere heading towards Heaven that his ships have been tracking, but have been unable to intercept.
Ace, meanwhile, has gone to the Traveller's camp in pursuit of Jan, and is disappointed to discover that he is in a relationship (albeit an "open" one) with another Traveller, Roisa. At the camp Ace also meets Professor Bernice Summerfield (Benny), who is leading an archaeological expedition on Heaven, excavating one of the few buildings remaining from Heaven's original inhabitants.
Later, the Doctor visits Benny and easily opens the door to the now fully excavated structure. Inside they find an observatory and the skeleton of the building's inhabitant shackled to a wall, apparently having eaten a note and imprisoned herself. Neither the Doctor nor Benny are able to decipher the alien writing the note is written in, but the smell of mushrooms that permeates the remains appears to tell the Doctor something.
Over at the Traveller's camp, meanwhile, Ace is invited to join the Travellers in a meeting they are going to have at the "Great Wheel" (a specially designed area of the virtual reality they call "Puterspace", which is simply cyberspace by another name). She learns that Jan and Christopher (another Traveller, who acts as a sort of priest for the group) were both subjected to experimental drug trials as an alternative to being drafted to fight in the wars against the Daleks. Jan took only a small amount of his drugs, with Christopher taking the rest in addition to his own. As a result of this, Christopher was transformed into an asexual being with great mental powers, and Jan gained the power of pyrokinesis.
At the Wheel, Roisa begs the Travellers to leave Heaven and leave her behind, but is unable to explain why before they are all attacked by a strange mottled sphere, and Christopher is killed defending the rest of the group as they flee to safety.
The Doctor joins forces with the Travellers and together they learn more about what is happening on Heaven. It appears that a fungoid lifeform called the Hoothi, who use spores to infect and control any lifeform, living or dead, plan to raise an army of the dead on Heaven to invade Gallifrey and thus gain control over all time and space. Their agents on Heaven are the Vacuum Church, but they have also infected Roisa and certain members of the military. The Hoothi-controlled members of the military take over the planet's orbital weapons platform, isolating Heaven from the rest of the galaxy. The Doctor is able to recover the book he was seeking from the library, which contains a note from himself (left there by a future incarnation) that enables him to decipher the writing in the observatory. From this he learns that every dead body on Heaven has been infected by Hoothi spores.
The Doctor uses the observatory's superstring telescope to locate the Hoothi sphere, and discovers that it is almost upon Heaven, and there is little he can do to stop it. Roisa, in a last act of defiance against the Hoothi control of her body, straps explosives to herself and goes to the Vacuum Church planning to destroy it. However, their control over her is enough to prevent her from detonating the explosives, and she is transformed fully into one of the fungus creatures. Seeing that the Doctor has apparently given up, Jan comes up with a plan to destroy the Hoothi sphere: he, Ace and a number of other Travellers hijack a ship with the intention of piloting it into the ship and escaping in the escape pods at the last minute. As they draw near to the sphere Jan asks Ace to marry him, and Ace accepts. However, Jan and all but one of the Travellers suddenly transform violently into the fungus creatures, and Ace realises that they must have been infected some time ago. Ace and the remaining Traveller escape in the pods, the Traveller piloting her pod into the Vacuum Church but failing to destroy it completely.
The Doctor travels with Benny by TARDIS into the Hoothi sphere to give them a chance to surrender, but they reveal that he, too, is infected by a Hoothi spore. They offer a deal of their own: if the Doctor destroys Heaven's communications system, they will allow the Doctor and his friends to go freely. The Doctor returns to Heaven and convinces the leader of the military to shut down communications, and immediately the Hoothi sphere appears above the planet and the harvest of the Hoothi's army of dead begins.
Ace, intent on revenge, has gone to what remains of the Vacuum Church to find and kill Phaedrus, its leader. She follows him in to Puterspace, but becomes trapped there. The Doctor follows here into Puterspace, apparently to rescue her, but it transpires that he is going there to carry out the final parts of the plan he has been following all along. He (together with Christopher, who had been thought dead for some time but had been able to extend his life through his mental powers) contact what remains of Jan on the Hoothi sphere and encourage him to use his pyrokinetic powers to ignite the gasses that fill the Hoothi sphere, destroying them completely.
Ace, feeling betrayed by the Doctor's manipulation of events, and his using her boyfriend's life to destroy the Hoothi, leaves the Doctor to join SpaceFleet and fight the Daleks. Benny joins the Doctor on his travels.