Home : Archive : TSV 41-50 : TSV 46 : Review

The Empire of Glass

By Andy Lane

Book review by Paul Scoones

One of the most appealing aspects of Theatre of War was the creation of the shadowy, mysterious arch-manipulator Irving Braxiatel. In The Empire of Glass, Braxiatel is once again working behind the scenes of some decidedly strange events. Unfortunately the element of mystique is lost as Braxiatel's background and his relationship to the Doctor is at last disclosed.

A First Doctor adventure with Steven and Vicki, set in seventeenth century Venice might not sound all that appealing to many readers, but the track record of author Andy Lane, whose previous novels (including All-Consuming Fire and the recently published Original Sin) I have thoroughly enjoyed, was sufficient reason to engage my interest.

As with All-Consuming Fire, it is immediately apparent from the rich wealth of detail that Lane has done his homework, an observation supported by the five-page bibliography (which makes fascinating reading) at the end of the book. After reading the vivid descriptions of the city of Venice it came as no surprise to learn that the author had visited the place as part of his background research. Also making well-researched appearances are several famous historical characters, including Galileo, Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.

Although The Empire of Glass had the potential to be an entertaining historical adventure in its own right, seventeenth century Venice is just the backdrop to an intergalactic arms limitation convention involving well-known races such as the Ice Warriors, the Rutan and the Sontarans, and others of Lane's own creation including the Jamarians and the Greld.

At the outset the Doctor returns to the TARDIS following the events of The Three Doctors with his memory recently wiped by the Time Lords. At first this seems like a gratuitous piece of 'fanboy' continuity solving, but it later transpires that this event is pivotal in determining the Doctor's part in the proceedings.

As with several other Missing Adventures authors, Lane has capitalised on the opportunity to expand on the characters of the companions. Few would argue that Vicki and Steven were well-rounded individuals on screen, but in this novel they become people in their own right; particularly Steven, whose reactions to his environment so soon after his long imprisonment on Mechanus cleverly assist the reader in developing a sense of the surroundings, whilst his close friendship with Christopher Marlowe is a subtle and skilful piece of writing. As the Doctor himself observes, this is the adventure in which Steven 'grows up'. Similarly, Vicki has moments in which she recalls her childhood and her lonely existence on Dido, but her reactions to the events which befall her in this story are a little too level-headed; the television Vicki screamed a great deal more than Lane's version!

The Empire of Glass is for the most part an average Doctor Who adventure, livened by a number of memorable sequences, such as the Doctor and Vicki joining Shakespeare in a royal performance of Macbeth and Galileo's drunken argument with a Sontaran. Although it is perhaps not Andy Lane's best work, this book is an engaging and satisfying read that I rate higher than many Missing Adventures published so far.

This item appeared in TSV 46 (January 1996).

Index nodes: The Empire of Glass