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The Space Age

By Steve Lyons

Book review by Brad Schmidt

After The Final Sanction and The Witch Hunters, anything by Steve Lyons was bound to be greatly anticipated. Yet his latest novel, the Eighth Doctor adventure The Space Age, is a shame, and forgettable.

It's like one of those adventures that is only mentioned in passing at the beginning of the next adventure, like the talking stones the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki encountered before Doctor Who and the Crusaders, according to Target. A story taking place in a clichéd sci-fi city is something Christopher Bulis has done recently, so is only fleetingly novel. Add the cast, and one has a realm where fictional characters go after they leave EastEnders; bickering, gang-fighting and discovering illicit love-children.

On a physical level, The Space Age takes place in a very compact setting, like a BBC soundstage. There's even a tribe of atavistic locals whom the Doctor befriends. It seems to be the characters that Lyons is playing with and writing about, far ahead of the location. The story is simply a story of conflict that is rather more generic than either the blurb or Lyons would have the reader believe. It's not about the Mods and the Rockers gangs battling over the plastic fantastic city, but about human ideals and emotion. This is not new territory for him, after the hysterics and heartstrings of his past work, but it's a tad more tedious here without an exciting location or monster to hook the reader.

There is, however, a mad computer with big reels of magnetic tape. One would think this to be some sort of nod to tradition, and one would be right. What one has to wonder exactly is whether this part of the plot is simply window-dressing to amuse the fans and the setting an opportunity for Lyons to explore human behaviour. The novel could probably be claustrophobic in a J. B. Priestley manner, if it were actually involving.

Compassion is blatantly removed from the events at the beginning of the novel by simply ignoring everything, while Fitz and the Doctor yo-yo between factions with their usual panache, respectively fitting in subtly and not so. The memorable characters are Sandra, Alec and Rick, a not-so-happy family, who would be at home with fab' gear and Northern accents. Not a lot actually happens, apart from conflicts and plans to conflict, before the fairly obvious conclusion of the story. It seems wrong to call The Space Age bad, but there are few words left to accurately describe it. [2/5]

This item appeared in TSV 61 (December 2000).

Index nodes: The Space Age