About the Author:
Steve Lyons lives in Salford, UK.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3.6 out of 5
Doctor Who: Salvation
A Past Doctor Adventure featuring the First Doctor (William Hartnell) and his companions Steven and Dodo, the latter of whom is introduced here. UFO sightings in London and New York in 1965 presage the arrival on Earth of powerful entities who claim to be the gods of myth, returned to save humanity. The Doctor is sceptical but as the Gods of the Latter-Day Pantheon gather followers, their power only increases.
Reading this so soon after 'The Witch Hunters' made me realise that there's a common thread running through Lyons' Doctor Who novels and that is that people are gullible and easily led astray. It's a fairly misanthropic view, but not necessarily an innacurate one. I have to say, however, that the way it is portrayed here is not nearly as bleak and depressing as it is in 'The Witch Hunters'.
In fact, here we get to see the Doctor really standing up for himself, for his beliefs and for Earth, going to far as to risk his own safety by facing down the wrathful Patriarch, leader of the so-called gods. Steven too, who is a character I'm not overly familiar with, also has some interesting things to do and we get to see his inner turmoil of having been a soldier and witnessed brutal injustices firsthand.
The let-down is Dodo AKA Dorothea. As I understand it, her appearance on the TV series was fairly sudden and largely unexplained, but here we get to see her first meeting and adventure with the Doctor. The problem is that she's not much more than a ditzy teenager; a knock-off of Susan but without the interest of Susan's Gallifreyan heritage. Dodo is also frustratingly irresolute and I was particularly dismayed by the way that she rapidly forgives the 'god' Joseph after he tries to rape her. The message seems to be that rape's okay if you don't realise it's not what the victim wants. I get what Lyons was trying to explore here, with Joseph discovering morality over the course of the book, but for Dodo to totally forgive him is just not how rape should be dealt with.
On top of not being a fan of Dodo, the whole core concept of aliens who just mirror back human desires but can become all-powerful in doing so, just seemed a bit too weird to fit credibly into the Whoniverse. Not a bad concept, certainly, but just one that somehow didn't feel right in a Doctor Who novel.
3 out of 5
Doctor Who: The Missing Adventures - Killing Ground
An original adventure starring the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and his companion Grant Markham. Arriving on Grant's homeworld, the Doctor discovers that it is a world held in thrall by the Cybermen. The vicious human Overseers maintain the colony as a breeding pen for subjects to be converted into new Cybermen. However, a resistance movement is about to begin an uprising to which the Doctor and Grant will prove pivotal.
This book wasn't too promising to begin with. As far as I know, Grant has only appeared in novels which I've never read, so as a companion he's neither a known quantity or, for much of the book, a particularly interesting one. On top of that, the Doctor spends the first third of the story locked in a cell, doing little except offer scathing comments to his captors.
However, things do pick up once the Cybermen themselves put in an appearance. The pace of the story jumps up a notch, the feeling of danger is increased as the implacable cyborgs replace the human collaborators as the threat and the Doctor gets free to do his thing. Whilst few people (if any) would claim Baker's Doctor is their favourite, it has to be said that none of the other incarnations do righteous indignation quite so well and here we get to see the Doctor's furious reaction not only to his old foes but also to the new Bronze Knights.
These Bronze Knights are perhaps this book's best element, exploring the morality and ethics of creating inhuman cyborgs to fight inhuman cyborgs. A close runner-up, however, is the part of the story where the Doctor sneaks onto the Cybermen's mothership in order to cause a bit of chaos. Say what you will about the Sixth, but he is the Doctor, whether you like it or not.
4 out of 5
Doctor Who: The Murder Game
A Past Doctor Adventure featuring the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and his companions Ben and Polly. Homing in on a mysterious distress call, the TARDIS crew find themselves on a mostly-abandoned orbital hotel where a murder mystery game is just about to begin. It soon becomes apparent, however, that some or all of the players are willing to commit murder for real in order to take possession of a terrible weapon.
I'll say first off that I love the Second Doctor and here Lyons really does the incarnation proud, capturing both his puckish charm and his resolute opposition to injustice. We also get a nice scene where the Doctor hurriedly cobbles together a sonic device for opening doors and decides that, at some point, he'll make himself a proper version of it. Ben and Polly aren't the most interesting of companions, but I did like the fact that this is still in the early days when Ben is still suspicious of the Doctor's regeneration like he was in 'Power of the Daleks' (novelised by John Peel).
This is very much a book of two halves. The first half, focusing on the real murder mystery within the murder mystery game, was really enjoyable. It had a wonderful feeling of Agatha ("I bet she's brilliant!") Christie about it and that suits the base-under-siege nature of the Second Doctor's era really well. If this had simply been a murder mystery set on a delapidated space station it would've been a great read all round. Unfortunately, as with all too many Who stories, the author suddenly feels the need to introduce big scary alien monsters to chase the protagonists around the corridors. Much as happened on the TV show, this also leads to a repetetive cycle of the characters being captured, escaping, being captured again, escaping again, and so on. Ultimately, the introduction of the Selachians takes what was an interesting and engaging story and turns it into something far more mundane and derivative.
3 out of 5
Doctor Who: The Stealers Of Dreams
An original adventure featuring the Ninth Doctor (as played by Christopher Ecclestone) and his companions Rose and Captain Jack. The TARDIS travellers arrive on future colony world where they discover that creating fiction and lying are severe criminal offences. A world stagnating from lack of imagination and controlled by a ruthlessly efficient police state combined with forced lobotomies. However, the Doctor soon witnesses those who rebel against the status quo going dangerously insane. With Captain Jack in the hands of the authorities and Rose beginning to go fantasy crazy, the Time Lord must get to the bottom of the planet's problems.
This is a book carried largely on its concepts. I can't say Lyons' actual writing was anything groundbreaking, but the ideas he brings to the table are intriguing and challenging. The idea of a futuristic world where make-believe is a crime was the sort of thing that I could easily see appearing in a Judge Dredd storyline and Inspector Waller actually makes quite a good stand-in; being the no-hold-barred authority figure for whom the law is God. But rather than simply being a story in which a repressed people have to be taught to imagine again, Lyons introduces the double threat of having imagination actually being a genuine danger to the populace. This means that the Doctor, Rose and Jack have to walk a tighrope between the two ideologies.
I was pleased that this book didn't resort to the all-too-common 'monster of the week' formula and I found the Doctor's solution to be a satisfying conclusion to the tale.
4 out of 5
Doctor Who: The Witch Hunters
One of the Past Doctor Adventures, this book stars the First Doctor (William Hartnell) and his original companions Susan, Ian and Barbara. Whilst the Doctor repairs the TARDIS, Susan, Ian and Barbara spend time integrating into the society of Seventeenth Century Massachusetts. Soon, however, they become embroiled in the hysteria of the Salem witch trials and are trapped by their desires to help the innocent souls doomed by history.
For a book to be great it has to achieve two main things; to effectively communicate the intention of the author and to satisfy the reader's reason for reading. This book certainly achieves the first of these, with Lyons setting out to use the modern eyes of the Doctor and his companions to highlight the human tragedy and deep injustice of the Salem witch trials in which twenty five people died (nineteen hanged, five dying in prison and one crushed to death without trial for refusing to testify). The author writes passionately and, it must be said, fairly; doing his best to explain the reasons of those involved when it would be easy to condemn them simply as monsters.
However, I read Doctor Who novels for entertainment and escapism, as I'm sure many do. It's not that I can't handle it when they tackle serious or weighty issues, but I do want that sense of the Doctor and his companions being a source of hope and benevolence. The problem is that Lyons does too good a job of capturing the truth of the Salem tragedy and reveals us (human beings) for the malicious, petty, gullible and hysterical creatures we are. Reading this fictionalised version of the events of 1692 is upsetting and, frankly, depressing. The hardest part, again because of its depressing plausibility, is seeing Susan, who knows better, becoming caught up in the same hysteria as the other Salem girls.
The author has written a great book with important lessons to be learned, but it is not one which I enjoyed as I like to enjoy a Who story.
4 out of 5