Okay, so let's be honest here: this book is bad. And by bad I don't mean there's no story. In fact, one of the things that so irritated me about this book is that I could feel the story trying to work and failing. It was battering itself against the cage of the prose, desperately longing to be free and entertain but stuck fast in the morass of the author's prejudices.
Let's start with the fact that, without the censorship of television or writing for a "kid's show" the author felt free to take on the concept of what would happen if a young, brash feminist was dropped into a society that was at once more sexually liberal and at the same time utterly male-dominated. The problem is that Ace, instead of speaking for the audience, goes up against the Doctor urging her to fit in. This puts the reader in a terribly uncomfortable bind: are we to sympathize with Ace, who is unwilling to be felt up and sexually assaulted? Or are we to consider her simply inexperienced at time travel, culturally intolerant, and sympathize with the Doctor while he keeps putting her in positions to be alone with a man who considers sex to be merely his due on account of his political position? It is obvious that the writer has no appreciation for the role of temple priestess as sexual initiatrix or valued member of that society. He keeps making jokes through the characters about the priestess earning her living on her back, and makes her a weak character so that her protests that this is her role in life and she accepts it and, before the coming of the Big Bad, actually really liked it, off as ignorant and misguided. The first outing of Doctor Who into the realm of the novel and larger concepts fails miserably in the sexual politics arena.
And yet, the story is not a total loss. While the Big Bad is utterly unbelievable, and while the Doctor does absolutely stupid and out of character actions to defeat her, there are incredibly positive moments. I loved the portrayal of Enkidu so very much. I felt for Dumuzi and wished we had seen his character before his possession to greater contrast his fall. The sections of the novel written in the style of "The Epic of Gilgamesh" were absolutely wonderful.
So much potential, and all of it wasted by an author who just couldn't grasp the opportunity he had. If it weren't for the books to follow, I have a feeling that the Virgin line of novels would have ended here. I haven't read the others yet, but something tells me they have to be better or there simply wouldn't have been all of the books we have on our shelves here at home. This book is by no means strong enough or high enough quality to have ensured the continuation of the line.