I used to think that continuity-porn novels were the worst kind of trash; anorak-y box-ticking tedium there for the sake of 'explaining' a throwaway reference in an old episode of Dr Who, or coming up with pointless sequels, prequels or spin-offs to link two or more entirely disparate strands of Who lore.
HOWEVER.... I am now soppy and old and nostalgic, and have long since lost my inhibition about admitting to liking 'Attack', thus making me the prime audience for this kind of book! And it doesn't get much better than 'Spiral Scratch'.
Gary Russell's forte seems to be the areas of Who we never got to see onscreen (c.f Liz's departure in 'Scales of Injustice' etc). And this novel is the big one: the last Sixth Dr adventure, leading into the beginning of 'Time' and THAT regeneration (you know, the crap one where the Dr apparently hits his head on the floor and turns into Sylvester McCoy in a blond curly wig). And being the Sixth Doctor's swansong, this is a BIG story (for a BIG personality), taking in several gazillion of the many strands of the 6th Dr (novels, TV, comics, webcasts and even one we've never seen before, a 6th Dr who's Planet Earth is dominated by the Roman Empire, causing the Dr to blend in to suit).
At first the setting-up is confusing, with tales of characters we don't know and I could have cared less about. I was about to put the book down... until the chapter when we discover what is actually going on, with the Lampreys (tentacle time-feeding creatures) messing around with multiple timelines.
This also means we get to meet multiple Mels, including a half-human half-reptile one called Melanie Baal who's rather fun, and a sulky Mel who's a Roman slave-technician.
It's a lot of fun and rather exciting, and there's even a dollop of pathos as the 6th Dr prepares to make what he expects to be his final stand. It's a brilliant moment in a brilliant book.
Just a pity we couldn't have had this on TV. What did we get? "carrot juice"!!
overall rating: 9/10