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System Shock

By Justin Richards

Book review by Nicholas Withers

If you're expecting hard-edged cyberpunk techno-horror then you will probably be disappointed. System Shock is set during that period of time after the present but before the cyberpunk dystopia of Warhead and others. This is the time when the superinformation highway is finally becoming a reality.

System Shock follows the proud tradition of taking a current fad, in this case the internet, and using it as a Doctor Who story basis. The story is written by someone who is familiar with the technology and the techno-babble is kept to a minimum.

The only real problem with System Shock is that the technology seems decidedly out of place with the Fourth Doctor and Sarah. This is has to do with writing for the Seventies show from a Nineties perspective. This is not a reflection on the writing itself.

Sarah is well characterised in her struggle to adapt to the idea of desktop computers and other such technology. This helps illustrate that even a jump of a several years can result in techno-culture shock. The Doctor is also well written, expressing the lofty ambivalence as well as the worry of the Fourth Doctor. The humour is also in character.

System Shock is a complex novel with a relatively simple plot. As with the best Fourth Doctor adventures a lot happens but little is achieved. Unfortunately there are some portions of the book decidedly feel like this is a four episode story being padded into six episodes.

Overall System Shock does not reach the authenticity level of the season in which it is set when compared to the brilliant Romance of Crime. It does however provide an interesting read addressing some of the concerns arising from the current technological climate in the western world.

This item appeared in TSV 45 (September 1995).

Index nodes: System Shock