Doctor Who: The Stealers of Dreams by Steve Lyons
My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes
Series: Doctor Who: New Series Adventures
Date Published: September 8th, 2005
Publisher: BBC Books
Pages: 254 pages
Synopsis: In the far future, the Doctor, Rose, and Captain Jack find a world on which fiction has been outlawed. A world where it’s a crime to tell stories, a crime to lie, a crime to hope, and a crime to dream. But now somebody is challenging the status quo. A pirate TV station urges people to fight back, and the Doctor wants to help – until he sees how easily dreams can turn into nightmares. With one of his companions stalked by shadows and the other committed to an asylum, the Doctor is forced to admit that fiction can be dangerous after all. Though perhaps it is not as deadly as the truth…
This is a spoiler-free review.
This is a particularly interesting review for me to do because my experience with this novel shifted back and forth between reading a physical edition and listening to an audiobook. I will say upfront that I am not a huge fan of audiobooks, feeling like they detract quite a bit from my personal reading experience. The quality of the audio, the style of the narrator, whether those aspects are good or not, audiobooks and I have never gotten along especially well. That being said, when I found this one, I decided, why not give it a go—and to be honest, I ended up relatively pleased with my choice.
In this novel, the Doctor, Rose, and Jack find themselves entering a world where fiction and fantasy has been made illegal. There are no writers or novels, and those who are caught engaging in the creation of stories—or something as simple as dreaming—are imprisoned in “The Big White House”, where they are meant to be “rehabilitated”. In this society, being found to be “fiction crazy” is as bad if not worse than the act of murder. However, an underground society of dreamers is rising up, taking to the airwaves on a pirated radio station and attempting to bring fiction back to the people. When the trio accidently get split up, they become deeply involved in the dangerous workings of this truth-obsessed city.
Out of all the Doctor Who novels I’ve read so far, this ended up being one of my favorites. The plot is not an incredibly new or unique topic in fiction, but it’s nevertheless always an interesting one. And of course, Lyons puts his own unique flair on this familiar concept. As a writer and reader, I find it both fascinating and terrifying to imagine what the world would be like if we were not allowed to create and fantasize. This theme is inherently captivating, and Lyons has formed it into a fast-paced novel. With plenty of suspense and mystery, as well as a twist ending I personally did not see coming, this is quite an enjoyable read.
I thought that Lyons did a rather solid job of portraying the ninth Doctor, Rose, and Jack. The three go their separate ways early on, so the majority of the narration switches between each person’s exploits every chapter or so. Jack was a particularly strong character in this story, and I really enjoyed his parts. Occasionally, the narrative felt a bit jumpy and jumbled because it switched around so frequently between each storyline, but this did not affect my experience too drastically.
The additional characters were also well crafted and fit nicely into the world they belonged to. We get to see people on either side of this society—those who enforce the eradication of fantasy and those who secretly defy the law. Their interactions with the main trio and their individual views added some great dimension to the plot. I liked that whether obsessed with truth or fiction, their interpretations of life were so limited and so dependent on clichés. It shows how desperately we need a proper balance of each in our lives.
The audiobook I listened to for part of my reading experience was the unabridged audio, narrated by Camille Coduri. This is not one of the slightly abridged ones, acted out by one of the cast members, though I would like to give one of those a try some day as they seem like they would be fun. When it came to this particular book, I actually did not mind the narration for once. I admit, I’m still not sold on audiobooks in general, but my experience with this novel was overall a positive one.
Coduri has a fairly pleasant voice to listen to, and her delivery—though quite unique and slightly unusual, in my opinion—was something I found to be very enjoyable. I feel as though her style might not be something that is everyone’s cup of tea, but it worked well enough for me. She gave each character a distinctive voice and did a respectable job of portraying the appropriate emotion in each scene. One of the major pitfalls of an audiobook can be adding too much or too little voice acting into the narration. Coduri’s performance was very three-dimensional, her acting complementing the story as a whole rather than distracting from it.
I’ve said before that I tend to hold novels from this series to a different standard than most. They are not inherently poor quality novels by any means—they feature a lot of strong writing and storytelling. However, they are much more along the lines of fun reads than great literature. That being said, this was one of the better ones, both in content and quality. The plot was intriguing and that, along with the portrayal of the characters, stayed very true to the beloved television show. It was a great addition to the series and I would highly recommend this novel to all Doctor Who fans out there.