It’s not a big secret that the TV original of this is by far my least favourite Classic Who story. I am none the less utterly amazed by how much worse the novelisation is. Saward attempts to channel Douglas Adams by giving us lots of extra humorous background detail, but it doesn’t work for two reasons: less importantly, because he does significant violence to continuity (especially in the back-story for Azmael) without putting anything more interesting in its place; but more crucially because he simply isn’t very funny. The strangulated sentence structure and poor proof-reading (“gawdy” for “gaudy”, “balk” for “bulk” and at one point “Meersham” for “Meerschaum”) further detract from the presentation of what is an unattractive story to begin with. By the law of averages, there must be some turkeys among the various spin-off novels but I would be astonished if any were quite as bad as this. Doctor Who and the Visitation is so much better than this that I had difficulty believing that they were by the same author.
I braced myself for more horrors with the next book in sequence, especially given that the TV version was pretty dire; but actually it is nothing like as bad as I feared. Indeed, in some respects it scores over the original – no awful music, no wobbly sets, and a significant rearrangement of the narrative to put (quite sensibly) all the scenes on Telos together in the second half; and even a decent attempt at creating sympathetic viewpoint characters. It still has some awful flaws – again, a lack of proof-reading (“wrung” for “rung” is a particularly good one); too much pointless, inconsistent background rambling; plus, even with structural improvements, the basic story remains rather dire. So I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone but a completist. (Unlike Doctor Who – The Twin Dilemma, which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone at all.)
So basically my reading of the Sixth Doctor novelisations has not got off to a promising start.