Ford: The things are also people.
Arthur: The people? The also people?
The Doctor declares that it's time for a holiday and takes Benny, Roz and Chris to visit the Worldsphere, home of the People, a post-scarcity civilisation so powerful they have a non-aggression pact with the Time Lords. A melting-pot of races, both biological and mechanical, from many planets of origin, the People have evolved far beyond such petty concepts as "money" and "crime".
So, naturally, just as our heroes are settling in for a nice relaxing stay, somebody gets murdered. Without the event being spotted by the supposedly-omniscient machine intelligence that runs the Worldsphere's systems and monitors everything that happens on it. Roz Forrester, professional suspicious bastard, decides this is a job for a real policewoman, even if she's going to need to learn what's normal here before she can have a chance of figuring out what's missing.
Meanwhile, Benny begins to suspect that a holiday wasn't the Doctor's only motive for coming to the Worldsphere.
Apart from its place in the New Adventures series, laying the foundations for several significant later developments, this novel is notable as being the first published murder mystery by Ben Aaronovitch, who went on to create the Rivers of London series.
This novel contains examples of:
- Beach Bury: There's an epilogue in which the Doctor and his companions manage to grab an uninterrupted day at the beach. The Doctor dozes off, and wakes to find himself buried up to the neck. He remains trapped for four pages; the first passerby is an alien who doesn't recognise his predicament, the next pair claim to believe that he got himself buried deliberately as part of some Cunning Plan, and finally Benny makes it clear that she knows he wants to be dug out and that she's not going to until he gives her a proper explanation of the kind that he always claims there's no time for.
- Captain Ersatz: The People are, by the author's own admission, heavily inspired by The Culture. An author's note at the beginning of the novel says:I'd like to remind everyone that while talent borrows and genius steals, New Adventure writers get it off the back of a lorry, no questions asked.
- Constantly Curious: Discussed by saRa!qava and Benny.
- Deus Est Machina: The Worldsphere is maintained and run by a machine intelligence so far advanced that everybody straight-up calls it "God".
- Dyson Sphere:
- The Worldsphere.
- Benny mentions having visited the fragmented remains of another, less well engineered, dyson sphere during her archaeological career.
- Fantastic Slurs: Describing one of the machine intelligences as a "computer" or a "robot" is considered an insult equivalent to Son of an Ape for humans.
- Fun T-Shirt: It's mentioned that on a previous adventure the Doctor's then-companions bought a matched set of shirts from a custom screen-printing stall saying "Hello, I'm Ace and this is my friend the Doctor", "Hello, I'm Benny and this is my friend the Doctor" and "Hello, I'm the Doctor and this is my friend [delete where applicable]".
- Future Music: The Epigraphs at the start of the chapters are all lines from fictional songs, including Silurian rock, Hith rap, 25th century human folk music, and Cyberman blues.
- Good Cop/Bad Cop: Roz and Chris discuss what approach to take to a suspect, considering several variants that are standard in their time before settling on "standard Aristocracy drill: Good Cop, Downright Sycophantic Cop".
- Homage: The People are one huge homage to The Culture.
- Just One Second Out of Sync: Used to hide the TARDIS for the duration of the crew's stay, so that none of the People are tempted to try and reverse-engineer it.
- Literary Allusion Title: The Also People comes from the "the 'things' are also people" scene in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
- Non-Standard Kiss: The People rub noses rather than kiss, leading to some confusion the first time Chris tries to make out with his Girl of the Week.
- Pick a Card: The Doctor does this to amuse the People when he wants to take a break from the heavy plot. The People may be Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, but they're always intrigued by novel forms of entertainment."Now for my first trick I need a volunteer from the audience. Yes you, sir, float right up. Have I ever worked with you before? Of course I haven't. What's your name? Ki'Xikati? All right, ki'Xikati, in a moment I want you to pick a card, any card and show it to the audience but not to me. But first I want you to scan this deck of cards. Are they marked, tagged, smell-identified, or in any way anything other than a series of sequential designs printed on rectangular pasteboard? Would you tell the audience that? Thank you so much.
"Now," said the Doctor, "pick a card."
- Punctuation Shaker: The People have names like "aM!xitsa" and "saRa!qava", but not as a result of random punctuation scattering to make them look more alien — their language is inspired by one of the African languages that incorporates clicking sounds, transcribed as "!x", "!c", and "!q". There's a pronunciation guide in the front of the book, for those readers who can be bothered.
- Rascally Rabbit: The novel opens and closes with two stories about the Shona (Zimbabwe and south Zambia) folk hero Tsuro the hare. Tsuro is used as an allegory of the Doctor.
- Robots Think Faster: The machine intelligences think much faster than their biological compatriots. Demonstrated in the scene where Roz meets aM!xitsa; in the moment between aM!xitsa saying "You must be Roz" and her saying "That's right", aM!xitsa has time to hold three "longish" electronic conversations with other machines and also to write a thesis on human comparative anatomy, file it, re-read it, change the title, re-file it, re-read it again, and delete it after deciding the whole thing's nonsense.
- Shout-Out: In addition to The Culture novels, the novel features a number of Discworld references, such as a merchant named C!Mot, a suspicious yellow dip at parties, a drink called a Double Entendre, the Doctor seeing into the time vortex because he has octagons in his eyes as well as rods and cones and the phrase "a better class of recurring dream".
- Small Universe After All: The Worldsphere is in another galaxy that is not the Milky Way; it's mentioned that they're not allowed near the Milky Way as part of their treaty with the Time Lords.
- Smart House: Ubiquitous on the Worldsphere. Most of them are run by AIs with a sophisticated and detailed list of programmed responses rather than having real intelligence, an important distinction; as a picnic table points out to Benny, if it had an actual mind it would spend most of its time bored out of it.
- Spoon Bending: The Doctor claims that he once attempted the universe record for continuous spoon-playing, but was sabotaged by a telekinetic who kept bending his instruments.
- Surprise Checkmate: At the end, the Doctor is playing chess with Kadiatu Lethbridge-Stewart, with the rules being that the first person who can announce the number of moves to checkmate wins. In the second game Kadiatu thinks she's doing well, until the Doctor announces "Mate in twelve" ... meaning she can win in twelve moves. Always know exactly what game you're playing before you start.
This gets taken up a level when the Doctor predicts the fifth game as soon as Kadiatu reaches for a piece ... and then the sixth game before she's even done that. And then they're just staring at each other as the Doctor rattles off predictions. Eventually Kadiatu gets a surprise checkmate when she just says "Twenty-one", and the Doctor is so surprised he glances down at the board to check.Doctor: You beat me! I don't believe it.
Kadiatu: Cheer up, it was bound to happen sooner or later.
Doctor: Not to me, it doesn't. You just said the first number that came into your head.
Kadiatu: Ah, but it was the right number.
- What the Hell, Hero?: When Benny finds out why the Doctor came to the Worldsphere, she reads him the riot act and tells him he can't just go around making life-changing decisions for people — so he gives her all the information available about his moral dilemma and challenges her to find a better solution.