9780563405870 / 0563405872

Placebo Effect (Doctor Who Series)


Publisher:BBC Pubns



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About the book:

Placebo Effect has at its heart an interesting idea: the insectoid Wirrrn (from the 1975 story "The Ark in Space", with spelling taken from Ian Marter's "Target" novelisation of that same story) want to use athletes visiting an artificial planetoid for the 3999 Olympic Games to carry their spawn out to other worlds. What is confusing is how long the Wirrrn have been inside the planetoid in the first place and how they managed to develop pills which in the first part of the book are meant to inhibit full conversion into a Wirrrn larva but in the later stages seem to do exactly the opposite (humans touched by Wirrrn larvae turn into Wirrrn themselves). Maybe they had human operatives working with them all along, but there's no sign of them, and in any case, how did they avoid detection when there would have been no way to prevent infected humans from turning into Wirrrn too quickly?

In addition to the Wirrrn/Olympics plot there is a lot of material about Foamasi operatives (from the 1980 story "The Leisure Hive") and their various Lodges which seems to have been imported from another novel entirely as it has little or nothing to do with the main Wirrrn story.

On top of all this there are some Teknix (from 1965/66's "The Daleks' Master Plan") roaming about, not to mention Stacey and Ssard from the Paul McGann Radio Times comic strip of 1996 and a cornucopia of alien races lifted from the pages of TV Comic, the Doctor Who annuals and several of the Virgin novels. If there's one thing Gary Russell likes, it's continuity. Add to this strange mix some operatives from the SSS and a bizarrely over-the-top ruler of Auckland with her foppish attendants, and you have a book buried under its own ideas, with the plot--what there is of it--struggling to surface.

The enthusiasm of the writing carries Placebo Effect along, and aside from a period of tedium in the middle of the book it's all good fun. It climaxes with a riot of randomly exploding athletes and a hasty conclusion with no-one knowing quite whether the others are human, alien, Foamasi pretending to be human, Wirrrn pretending to be human or even Wirrrn pretending to be Foamasi pretending to be human. Though not breath-taking it's a strangely enjoyable novel. --David J Howe

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