The Taint

Why on earth does everyone keep calling this 'Doctor Who and the Taint'? Does it say that on the cover? No, it doesn't, it says 'The Taint'. Therefore, that is what I'll call it.

The Taint introduces us to Fitz, a guitar playing, cig smoking semi-vagabond with a penchant for bulls**t and chatting up women. If you look beyond the downsides of that little lot, he's not a bad bloke, which is a good job really, since he's around for quite a while.

So, we've got a new companion, and his personality comes out during the course of the novel. I personally felt that he wasn't really central to the events of the novel, which he perhaps should have been with it being his intro. However, I'm prepared to accept that many more facets of Fitz will be scrutinised in later novels, which means he's pretty good in his first outing.

The setting is the home-come-psychiatric-ward of one Dr Charles Roley, who together with nurse Bulwell, is trying to prove the existence of race memory in his 6 subjects - Captain Watson (soldier), Lucy (slut), Peter Taylor (thug), Russell (nancy boy), Austen (scruffy git) and a certain Muriel Kreiner, Fitz's mum.

Into this madhouse, cometh the Doctor. He's been there two minutes by the time he's running the show, trying to prevent Dr Roley from starting off a chain reaction in his subjects that could lead to a catastrophe. Once again, the Doctor outwits his human contemporaries by dancing around them with superior knowledge (although come the end of the novel you really think he's got nothing left and is therefore done for.)

Turns out the nutjobs have got a leachy organism inside them that's coordinating their thoughts. Sam gets one implanted by the friendly neighbourhood alien robot who's out to stop other-dimensional beings called 'The Beast' from draining humanity's life force. If you think that sounds complicated, that's not even the half of it. In fact it's so long-winded I'm going to leave it there, and talk about something else before I get a headache.

There's very little in the way of battles between good and evil, as the characters all have reasonable motivation for their actions. The 6 nutters are, well, deranged - even more so by the end, Roley is just trying to further his career, the robot Azoth is trying to 'protect' the universe by exterminating the Beast (although he's more or less bonkers too due to a fragmented memory core or some such affliction) and the Beast barely smarter than animals, trying to survive. They're not even hurting humanity, just feeding off us for a bit before moving on.

Sam's become a let down again, and doesn't really play an intergal part in the novel. I could appreciate that if we got more Fitz instead, but what we actually got was more plot. Fair enough, the novel needed more plot, but that's only because it's so damn complicated in the first place.

Don't get me wrong, it's well written, the prose is fine, and about four fifths of the way through the novel it even becomes quite exciting. Alas, this doesn't last, and the ending is just like the beginning - 'pretty good'.

Speaking of the ending, why, in a novel with so little physical violence, did the level of violence suddenly have to shoot up for the finale? I have no problem with blood n guts, but it just seemed out of place here. The nutters all get some kind of feedback, blood bursts from the backs of their heads and their eyes burst - totally unnecessary. I'm afraid it's another case of the author trying to manufacture a shocking ending, but I think it would have been more shocking for them to simply have fits, with some brief exposition highlighting their thoughts during their deaths, especially since each nutter got a chapter explaining their origins and the origins of their illnesses. (Or was that idea just ripped off from Alien Bodies?)

Anyway, here are the scores on the doors - a not very complicated:


Review by Tom Hey


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