This is another old _Doctor Who_ tie-in review. If it seems oddly snarky, consider that I wrote it years ago, not long after the book came out, while I was still actively following a series that was determinedly running itself into the ground.
Sometime Never… is the culmination of over three years of eighth Doctor books. This is the ultimate fruition of the ongoing storylines introduced during Justin Richards’s tenure as editor. This is the climax that every EDA since The Burning has built towards.
And it stinks.
It’s too damn long, for one thing. Sometime Never… only exists to tie up a number of dangling plot threads. That’s it. There is nothing else to it: no theme, no plot, no character development. The little that Sometime Never… accomplishes could be done in the space of a novella. But Richards has 280 pages to fill, and he fills them with padding. Lots of padding. The most superfluous padding since Robert Jordan published volume three hundred of The Wheel of Time. Over seventy per cent of the American sales of Sometime Never… have been traced to a single bulk purchase by the Wisconsin Federation of Mall Santas. They’re going to scotch tape copies to their beer guts this December.
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.
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.