BOOK REVIEW: Plague of the Cybermen

by Justin Richards

Out Now

Review by Douglas Barrie

Before you read this review of Plague of the Cybermen [too late, they've already started - Ed.], Justin Richards' novel set in the fictional 19th century village of Klimntenberg, cast your mind back to the middle of Series 7. In the Doctor's timeline, this adventure sits somewhere between The Snowmen and The Bells of St John, and long before Neil Gaiman's recent rejuvenation of the Cybermen in Nightmare In Silver.

Whether or not Richards deliberately put the Cybermen on their last legs is unknown, but the story itself bares some resemblance to the penultimate episode of Series 6 - 'Closing Time'. Like in that episode, a Cybership is buried underneath a building with the army stuck in hibernation inside low on power until such a time when they are at full strength. 

The effect of this underground wreck brings the titular plague to Klimtenberg which is killing the locals - but the bodies are disappearing from the graves. You can join the dots if you so wish but all the signs are there, much like most of the recent Cybermen stories. This is no exception, the set-up is there, then the twist where the Doctor finds out the plan, followed by the final battle to save the village. 

In the run-up and even including the final part of the book there is very little interaction with the Cybermen themselves with the 11th Doctor, whose knack for making up a plan as he goes comes across as a hinderance rather than having the usual sense of anticipation. There's much toing-and-froing between the castle and the village where most of the people live, with some stereotypical Doctor Who tunnels along the way. 

Throughout his adventure the Doctor is accompanied by local school teacher Olga, who doesn't really engage the reader even though you know she's a one-off companion. The narrative is a bit swishy at times too, with the Doctor's handy sonic screwdriver jumping from being his sonic screwdriver in some chapters to being his magic wand in others when it just seems right to call a stick a stick. It's something which might confuse casual fans or even new fans casually picking up the book.

I may sound like I'm grumbling on but I did think it was enjoyable. Especially the the third quarter. Plague is the sort of book one could take on holiday knowing it's not exactly an easy read but it's not going to have you scratching your head and spending days trying to resolve your own conclusion.

It's wrapped up neatly if a little abruptly and there is one or two characters who feel underused despite their importance to the story. So I go back to my original point - remember that the Cybermen in this book are not the new breed and you'll be a satisfied customer. Otherwise an upgrade is in order.

Thanks to Broadway Paperbacks

Review by Douglas Barrie 

Read the review of the audio book HERE

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