Book Review: Illegal Alien by Mike Tucker & Robert Perry
Being that it was just on the top of my pile of assorted Doctor Who books, I dove right into Illegal Alien without so much as reading the blurb on the back. I had no idea what I was getting into, and didn’t do any of my usual research into the reception to the novel or anything else before giving it a read. As it turns out, I found Illegal Alien to be a deeply enjoyable novel that is a cut above the average Doctor Who tie-in.
Mike Tucker and Robert Perry, the writers of the novel, are known for having written a whole slew of Doctor Who novels. Although several of them have been written as a duo, they have also have written a few by themselves. If my research is correct, Illegal Alien is based on a proposed Season 27 script that never had a chance to be made. Whether this means it will eventually be adapted as a part of the Lost Stories audio line remains to be seen, but the quality of this novel is so high that I don’t think it needs to be adapted into any other form.
Tucker and Perry capture the feeling of an old hard-boiled detective story, with every bit of echoing of any number of Humphrey Bogart movies. The setting is London in 1940 during the Blitzkrieg, and McBride is an ex-patriot American detective who sits in his office drinking whiskey while he watches the bombs fall. The narrative brilliantly establishes the mood right away, and I knew from the end of the first chapter I was going to enjoy it.
An alien ship crash lands, and everyone is convinced that it is the work of Nazi scientists. Of course, the Doctor and Ace show up to tell everyone otherwise, and in the meantime get thrust into a plot that involves Cybermen and Nazis trying to cause a bit of trouble for both the Doctor and Ace. Unfortunately, despite a few moments of typical bad-assery, Ace spends the majority of the story getting captured and getting out just in time to be retained again, but both characters are very brilliantly written.
There is some padding here and there, and a good 30 or so pages of trimming could have made this a bit better. Perhaps one of the various companion-in-peril chapters could have been trimmed, but this is a minor qualm. Tucker and Perry write the Seventh Doctor picture perfectly, and they create supporting characters that are not only believable, but mostly likable. There are a few twists here and there that do a good job of holding interest while moving the plot along. There isn’t a lot here in terms of great canon or anything so drastic as that, but it is a deeply enjoyable romp. A really solid Cyberman story that I could see myself revisiting down the line.
Edit Note: On thinking about the story some more, I’ve decided to boost the rating from a B+ to an A-. I couldn’t justify this novel not having an A in front of it, despite the very minor issues.