Transformation. It's at the heart (or spine if you prefer a more literal review) of this novel. Some of the characters transform, and the novel itself transforms from a seemingly decent pulp sci-fi yarn into a meandering, directionless recycling of a hundred other plots.

The cover gives the story away somewhat, and the werewolves are not, in fact, werewolves, but creatures changed by a virus (yawn) that was originally brought to the planet Kursaal by humans and which later adapted itself to proliferate within native wolves. I'm trying to describe the plot right now, but it's so virtually non-existent that I can't really put words to it. How about this:

The Doctor and Sam land on a planet, are swept up by the events and politics of the time, get into and out of some sticky situations and try to stop a race of indigenous virus-wolves from killing everyone.

The opening in the cave steals all its thrills from Earthshock, Captain Kadijk reminds me of Ankh-Morpork's finest, Sam Vimes, the Doctor pulls a John McClane by jamming some lift doors and legging it to the roof, then jumping off. I could go on.

The virus is known as the Jax, and despite being a virus rather than a werewolf, it still causes infected people to transform at a full moon. Eh? A virus is a living organism, I don't for one second think that it would develop in such a way to allow transformation only under a full moon. The dead begin to transform straight away, so what's the difference between the transformation in the infected dead and the infected living? I'll tell you - Plot Device™. Frankly, sticking with simple werewolves would have been much more interesting and believable. In addition, we've recently had vampirism explained as a virus in Vampire Science. Who knows, maybe all monsters are created by viruses (especially when plots are a bit lacking.)

The whole thing seems disjointed - there's no beginning, middle or end. The Doctor just breezes from one situation to another with no sense of the plot actually moving on. In fact much of the book consists of chase sequences. Even at the end, there's no real resolution. The Doctor saves Sam but even that's by luck rather than judgement. Events happen to the characters, not because of them.

The secondary characters are largely wolf food. One or two do get a chance to develop a little before they get bumped off, but I found I didn't care much for any of them anyway.

Overall, it's passable fare for the first two thirds, but it then degenerates into pointless twaddle as the author runs out of ideas. The cardboard bad guys don't do it any favours.


Review by Tom Hey


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