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Doctor Who Reviews: The Slow Empire

It’s been a while since I’ve posted much on this blog. I should do something about that. To get things going, here’s a review of a Doctor Who novel which originally appeared in the second issue of Shooty Dog Thing, a fanzine edited by Paul Castle.

Of course, if you’re not a fan this won’t be of any interest. Feel free to skip it.

If you are a fan, let me recommend The Slow Empire by Dave Stone.

You may have come across The Slow Empire. If so, its profound ugliness probably discouraged you from picking it up. When I say The Slow Empire is ugly I don’t mean it’s unpleasant or somehow immoral. I’m saying it’s physically ugly, as an object. BBC Books’ chronically maladroit designers managed to top themselves with this one. On the cover, a dull arrangement of planets and electrical arcs in the colors of unpleasant bodily fluids haloes the head of a half-blurry, bile-filtered stock photo of Paul McGann. Inside, whole sections of text are laid out in Comic Sans MS, the font that turns everything it touches into an amateur garage-sale flyer. This thing looks like it was vanity-published by a high school dropout.

In short, The Slow Empire needs a little love… the more so because Dave Stone is an acquired taste. Honestly, he’s kind of weird. But it’s a grounded weirdness. Stone has a deep grasp of human nature; characters react to freakish and strange plot twists in ways that seem just somehow right. There’s an aura of conviction here that many Who writers can’t manage. He’s also digressive, tossing ideas around like cheap salad, following wherever they lead. His books are as much about his digressions as about plot, and The Slow Empire has less plot than most. It’s there, but it’s not the point so much as an excuse to have a novel.

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