Well, here it is, the second of the two Doctor Who 50th Anniversary novels I’ll be reviewing for this site. If you’re not familiar with the good Doctor, check out my summary on Beautiful Chaos; otherwise, here’s the one sentence review for Dreams of Empire: it was really--surprisingly--good.
Chaos, while it did capture the feel of NuWho fairly well, was a pretty
by the numbers affair. The plot was unsurprising, the prose was
utilitarian, and the science was... unique, to say the least. That’s not
to say it wasn’t enjoyable, but for someone who wasn’t a fan of the
series, I don’t think it would hold much appeal.
of Empire, on the other hand, could have functioned, with a fairly
minor rewrite and one large plot shift, as a solid science fiction story
if the Doctor wasn’t involved at all. I’m no hardcore sci-fi nerd--I
think I missed that boat by panning both Neuromancer and Snow Crash--but
I am a fan of well-told, well-written stories. On that count, Dreams
mostly on a space station on the outer reaches of the Republic of
Haddron, an interstellar kingdom in decline, the story’s events are set
into motion by a political intrigue, an interstellar civil war initiated
by one Hans Kesar, one the nation’s top generals. His rebellion is put
down within the first twenty pages by Milton Trayx, another general and
one of Keser’s closest friend, and is moved to the aforementioned
outpost to prevent his assassination, thus preventing his becoming a
martyr and weakening the empire further. The Doctor and his companions
arrive on the outpost just in time to welcome a military vessel that
seems intent on finishing the job of killing Kesar, but there are more
complex machinations afoot.
don’t want to go too deeply into the plot, because there are a number
of wonderful twists throughout the story, most of which I didn’t see
coming, but even from the summary above, it’s clear that this, unlike
Beautiful Chaos, isn’t a (sort of)man vs. alien story. In fact, more time is
spent in back-alley skullduggery that is spent in combat, until the last
20 pages or so. Maybe readers picking up a Doctor Who novel don’t want a
science fiction reimagining of Caeser/Brutus but I was glad to get it.
for the Doctor himself, this is the second Doctor, as portrayed by
Patrick Troughten, and very few of his serials still exist. As a result,
I’ve seen only one of them, and can’t entirely vouch for his
characterization here. From what I do know, however, it seemed
accurate--Number Two is a court jester with a dark, analytical side, a
hero who often seems to simply bumble into the solution to the problems
he comes into contact with, and that tone is well-captured here. The
characterization of Jamie, a young Scot from the 1800s who’s always
ready for a fight, is great here too, and lends the book a lot of its
frequently understated humor.
from circumstances like this tour, I don’t read much genre fiction
because most of it is trash. I think the highest praise I can give
Dreams of Empire is that, if more pulp was this well-done, I’d read a
lot more of it.