I seriously had no idea that the Virgin line was so hard-up for writers that they commissioned fifth graders. Reading this one, it's very easy to get the impression that they were in fact doing just that. Unfortunately, I'm sure Nigel Penwick was already an adult when he sold The Pit. I have no idea what the editor was thinking when this came across his desk, but if the words "Holy hell, there's no way to get another book in here in time to save the publishing schedule" weren't high on the list, I am really really worried.
When I say that a fifth grader could have written this, I mean it. It is chock full of sentence fragments. Penwick has clearly never heard the adage "show, don't tell" when it comes to writing. The monster names come straight out of a really bad tabletop Call of Cthulhu game where the GM decided to throw out the rulebooks. We have religious killer androids (whose only reason for being androids is to give them batteries which will wear down, and even that gets thrown out). We have a completely unrecognizable Doctor and a Benny who doesn't wish for a beer. We have Christianity on alien worlds under the thinnest of veneers, and we have the Arkham House mythos under the same kind of thin veneer. There's more, but this is starting to feel like piling on.
The sad part is that there is the traces, just the faintest traces of what could have been a good book crying under the weight of the horrible authorship here. Religious androids? OK, why do they believe what they do? Because they are programmed to do so? Because it seems logical? How does this impact their being killers? The Time Lords had failed experiments before the Eye of Harmony? Great! There was a war because of it? Sure! They then wrote it out of history? ...buh? To the point the Doctor "shouts" that he doesn't believe it? O...K, if you say so.
The Prime Mover and Form Manipulator bits are clearly Zoroastrianism/Christianity glossed over. The only reason I bring it up is that anything that changes in this book is going to be evil. Even if they hadn't identified the shapechangers as servants of evil already, they'd have been obviously evil by their nature. Why keep reiterating it? Oh, right, because Penwick thinks if we don't get constantly reminded of who is good and who is evil, who is missing his wife and who is enigmatic and knows too much, we might miss it! And religion does have a big role to play in this book, but it's enough to make a pagan like myself pull her hair out. It doesn't help that he throws in William Blake to make it worse. This is historical real person abuse of the highest order. Having Blake possibly mistaken for Jack the Ripper at one point made my skin crawl.
If you are looking for a good New Adventures book to read, please, I beg you, skip this one. Don't even be tempted to pick it up to see how bad it is. And if you ignore this advice, remember I warned you... because on this one, I am not afraid to say "I told you so."