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Dreams of Empire

By Justin Richards

Book review by Brad Schmidt

Politics are not only an underlying theme for August's Doctor Who novels, but a theme that is becoming steadily apparent in Justin Richards' work of late. Dreams of Empire is no exception, but unlike Option Lock, there is no attractive characterisation to support the bland plot.

Dreams of Empire varies greatly in its appeal. It spends much time constructing the Empire of Haddron, all the while dousing it with tragedy and suspicion. When the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria arrive, mystery is aflame, but this Romanesque Empire with its dull political figureheads, content to wile away the time playing chess, doesn't invoke any concern in the reader as to whether it will survive.

Jamie and Victoria are nicely played, and the only emotional attachment one feels in the novel is for them, as they are led deeper into the drama by the Doctor - who is swinging between dark omnipotence and immature tomfoolery all the while. He is too Troughton, with sudden irrational bursts and erring far too often than a hero should. His eye colour is, as always, elusive: “His eyes were a piercing green. Or was it blue?”, but this thought is all the more amusing considering that on the cover, they're neither.

Dreams of Empire eventuates as so unnecessary that I'm forced to wonder whether I've missed something. Either way, it is a fairly dismal read, because most of the sub-text is non-existent, or buried too deep, and the story itself is predictable. The only theme that is obvious is that of chess, but it is as if the theme is all the novel was written for - the plot seems tacked on and unimportant. Indeed, the whole Haddron Empire will probably never resurface, which isn't that great a shame, but adds further pointlessness to Dreams of Empire.

It's true to season five, but more so to such grim tales as Enemy of the World than the more memorable epics of the Cybermen or Yeti. Again, I'm horribly disappointed, and it seems impossible that the same author of the amazing Theatre of War and The Sands of Time could have penned such a dismal novel. [2/5]

This item appeared in TSV 55 (October 1998).

Index nodes: Dreams of Empire