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Review — System Shock

First Published:
Sonic Screwdriver #91

Publish Date:
August 1995

I wonder how much quainter this piece is half-a-dozen years and more later, now that the Internet is so well established?

To the casual observer, it would seem the only thing worth discussing about System Shock is its cover. The computer-generated cover by Martin Rawl has been the subject of much derision, though if you just ignore the Doctor and Sarah, it actually looks very cool. As for the actual text of the book: well, it’s solid and readable, if not exactly inspired.

First, I’ll get a few things off my chest: if I see another mention of the Fourth Doctor’s "bulging eyes", I’ll scream. Sarah Jane exceeds her own level of self-imposed stupidity. The tech-speak of the Voracians becomes very tiresome by the end of the book, even if it does fit in, as does the repeated disgust the Voracians feel with eating. And Harry Sullivan is portrayed intelligently, thus depriving us of out traditional bashing-block.

Now I’ll actually go on to explain all I just mentioned – yes, Harry Sullivan returns, a few decades older than before. He’s gone up in the world now, and hold an influential position in MI5. Harry gets a really good go in this story, which is a refreshing change.

The villains of the piece, who (surprise, surprise!) are aiming to take over Earth, are the Voracians. They take human form for much of the story, concealing their lizard/electronic components. Their early cunning and infiltration of key posts is skilful – their "staging" of a terrorist seizure of a building is brilliant. When you have the ability to control anything electronic, there’s also much potential for neat ways to knock off enemies – much fun erupts here. The little presentation they put on for their hostages when they take over Hubway is quite hilarious – putting up a slide that says:

Demonstration of

° Strength
° Resolve
° Control
coupled with

° Elimination of

° Greatest immediate threat
° Possible risk element in plan (armed and trained)

is not exactly standard procedure!

Unfortunately, they end up apparently as impotent as the terrorists they manipulated early on, little more than a bunch of hoods that the Doctor gets to make fun of. The revelation of their "evolution" is a shock, however, and their computer "virus" Voractyll is quite cool.

The whole thing smacks of a international thriller. Unfortunately, the book just doesn’t quite grab you enough – despite some really neat ideas and some really nasty traps sprung on our various heroes, I just found it missing, well, something. For a casual read, it’s fine. Just don’t expect anything too literarate.

End of Review

Here’s the list of the Doctor Who reviews available here:
Benny Adventure: Beyond the Sun
Benny Adventure: Deadfall
Benny Adventure: Ghost Devices/Mean Streets/Tempest
Benny Adventure: The Sword of Forever
Fanzines: Mag Bag #1
Fanzines: Mag Bag #2
Fanzines: Mag Bag #3
Fanzines: Mag Bag #4
Fanzines: Mag Bag #5
Fanzines: Mag Bag #6
Fanzines: Mag Bag #7
Fanzines: Mag Bag #8
Fanzines: Mag Bag #9
Fanzines: Mag Bag #10
Fanzines: Mag Bag #11
Fanzines: Mag Bag #12
Missing Adventure: Dancing the Code
Missing Adventure: Downtime
Missing Adventure: Invasion of the Cat-People
Missing Adventure: Lords of the Storm
Missing Adventure: Scales of Injustice
Missing Adventure: Shadow of Weng-Chiang
Missing Adventure: System Shock
New Adventure: Bloodheat
New Adventure: Death of Art
New Adventure: Dimension Riders
New Adventure: Eternity Weeps
New Adventure: Falls the Shadow
New Adventure: Legacy
New Adventure: No Future
New Adventure: Sleepy
TV: The Curse of Fenric
TV: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
TV: The Happiness Patrol
TV: Season 25 Review
TV: Season 27 Review (the 2005 return)
TV: The Twin Dilemma
→ Or just head back to the Doctor Who Index

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This page last updated by David J Richardson on Wed, 20 Apr 2005.