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Doctor Who: Colony of Lies [Paperback]

Colin Brake
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 July 2003 Doctor Who
The year is 2539. Arriving on Axista Four the Doctor, Zoe and Jamie find the colony in a state of chaos. A breakaway group of colonists - the 'Realists' - has abandoned Ransome's Back to Basics ideals and is creating a new high-tech settlement. The 'Loyalists' who remain are dwindling in number and face total extinction. Meanwhile, a spaceship from Earth has arrived with news that 80,000 refugees are about to descend upon the planet; the Realists are staging raids on the wreck of the colony ship, and in a secret underground bunker mysterious aliens who claim to be the planet's first colonists are beginning to awake. Who are the dog-like aliens who call themselves Tyrenians? What is the secret agenda of the sinister Federation Administrator Greene? And what really happened when the colony ship crash-landed on Axista Four 100 years ago?


Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books (7 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563486066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563486060
  • Product Dimensions: 18.4 x 10.6 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 560,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not great literature and thank goodness for that 15 Aug 2006
By Paul Tapner TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Published in the middle of the eighth doctor books being tied up in a seemingly never ending and convoluted story arc, it was nice to get a simple stand alone story that didn't require any knowledge of the events in the past half a dozen books in order for you to read it.

A slight improvement plotting and writing wise to his earlier novel escape velocity, this is a relatively conventional story of a world with secrets. I say relatively because it throws in another incarnation of the doctor, for plotting reasons which just about work.

The characterisation of the supporting cast could be better, but that's a minor complaint. Not a great book, but a long way from being the worst
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the Old West we all know and love 20 Aug 2004
Format:Paperback
The cover and the blurb of Colony of Lies are both semi-misleading, which is a shame. The cover makes it look like it's a Wild West novel, though the blurb on the back makes that a falsehood. However, the blurb on the back says that it also stars the 7th Doctor and Ace. That's true in a sense, but only in the broadest of terms. They star in the prologue and epilogue, and the 7th Doctor also does his patented "behind-the-scenes" routine to help the 2nd Doctor out once. This "help," though, pretty much solves the problem once the 2nd Doctor is able to use it, so I guess that means he's pretty important. It does lead to a nice red herring (well, it fooled me, at least), which is also good.
All in all, Colony of Lies is a pretty good book, though it tries a bit too hard to make the 2nd Doctor sound like he does on television. Usually, this is a good thing, but it does come down a little too hard on the cliché side of things to be good. Of course, as Patrick Troughton did on more than one occasion, Brake has the Doctor saying "Oh my giddy aunt!" when something goes wrong. It's not too bad, though.
Colony of Lies is a lot better than Brake's first Dr. Who book, Escape Velocity. Sure, the Old West motif doesn't work and falls apart rather quickly, seeming superfluous and wrong-headed. Yes, the idea of "sleepers" coming to life and threatening a world is as old as the hills. Brake manages to put a nice spin on the idea, though, and the revelation of what really happened when the colony was founded is actually quite interesting. I think others have given this part short shrift, concentrating on the sleepers themselves, but I rather liked it.
The Old West routine, however, is dull, dull, dull. Not only that, it's useless. First, there's no reason for it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A mediocre plodder� 5 July 2003
By Jane Aland VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
The good news is that Colin Brake's second Who novel is better than his first (the woeful Escape Velocity), but the bad news is its still pretty poor. A mishmash of pulp science-fiction influences with little in the way of original ideas gives this a rather Frankenstien-ien flavour. There's also a complete lack of any literary style, as it plods along in a very basic and unimaginative fashion. While it's not actively awful, there's really nothing here that any seasoned Who reader won't have read two dozen times before, which renders the whole thing rather pointless...
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Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Big Fat Lie 13 April 2004
By Dr Despicable - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
COLONY OF LIES is a woefully disappointing novel, not least because there are comparatively so few adventures available with the 2nd Doctor at the helm. Author Brake manages to capture some of the flavor of the Troughton era, and comes as near as he's able to portraying the characters as we knew them; the trouble lies in the feeling of an enormous amount of padding to bring this work in at novel length. The attempts to infuse the tale with a sense of the Old West fail miserably, this tack being used strictly in an effort to come up with a "'Doctor Who' western". Bleh -- "The Gunfighters" was more entertaining and (blessedly) much shorter. I wonder whether David A. McIntee and/or Mark Gatiss could be influence to take further strolls through the 2nd Doctor's era?...
5.0 out of 5 stars A trans-temporal Doctor team-up like you've never seen before 27 Dec 2012
By Michael Battaglia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Featuring the Seventh Doctor and Ace" the book promises, giving all those who read the back covers first visions of another "Cold Fusion", a book perhaps contrasting not only the different approaches of two Doctors, but also perhaps the very tone of their eras, with the Second Doctor's "monster of the week" base under siege motif clashing with the more thematically adult narratives of the Seventh Doctor, with their deeper complexities and more extreme moral choices. Even better, it might give the Second Doctor the chance to one-up the always thinking, every base covered Seventh Doctor, since the Second was the one who invented the "wolf in sheep's clothing" approach first, bumbling around comically while taking notes and paying attention and having far more of a handle on the situation than it would at first seem. That could have been a fun story, seeing the Seventh Doctor hoisted on his own temporal petard.

That, unfortunately, isn't quite what we get. For me, the best part of the novel is the author bio, which shows Colin Brake to be both self-effacing and having a good sense of humor, as well as being a good sport, as he backhanded addresses the criticism over his last "Who" novel, "Escape Velocity" which . . . didn't exactly fulfill audience expectations. If the novel itself had contained some of the wit that was in that bio, we might have had a more sparkling affair. Instead it's just rather drab.

It's also very Western. He also comments that this novel came out not long after the Seventh Doctor Past Doctor Adventure "Heritage" which also had a "Wild West on an alien world" theme to it. For what it's worth, "Heritage" did push the theme a bit further and had some more local color. However, what both novels share is that they aren't very interesting. Sometimes it feels like "Doctor Who" is trying to do a Western that tops Bill Hartnell's rather fun "The Gunfighters" (hey, I liked it) and failing miserably each time.

This time out, the Second Doctor and Stalwart Companions Jamie and Zoe wind up landing on a world where the colonists have adopted a "Back to Nature" theme, refusing to use technology beyond what people used in the days of the Old West. Why this? Because the plot requires it. However, you never really get a strong sense of it and before too long it becomes a Generic Colony. In the vain hope of keeping things interesting, it turns out that a splinter branch of the colony called "The Realists" (who embrace technology and are tired of scooping up their own waste, no doubt) keep conducting raids, which strangely enough they don't keep winning even though they have a) common sense on their side and b) presumably aren't relying on horses and plows.

Meanwhile, just to add more drama, a Federation ship has arrived with word that a ton more refugees are coming, meaning that everyone has to be crammed into the tiny island on the planet which is the one place everyone can live safely. Oh wait, just kidding, the entire planet seems to be inhabitable. But everyone freaks out anyway (at least the Doctor late in the game intelligently points out that there should be enough room for everyone). AND a race of dog-people have risen from suspended animation since it appears it was their planet first, adding more wrinkles to things that don't really need wrinkles. Oh hey, another small population on a huge planet. Wherever shall we put them? How about anywhere we want?

I'm sure the author is a good soul and a grand person, probably a lot of fun at a party. But you would be able to tell from this story, which remains as by-the-numbers as they come to the point where its almost plodding and dreary. There's no radical ideas, no interesting points of view, no shocking plot twists of any note, it's just another colony facing a struggle that isn't really that gripping, the story marking time until the Doctor can finally sort out the mess. It just good naturedly shuffles along from point A to point B, never offending but never really getting the blood pumping either. Like methadone in novel form, it satisfies the need without giving any of the high, if one "needs" another Second Doctor novel.

The novel tries a constant peeling back of what we know, to give us a sense of "everything we know is wrong" but it winds up being one of those situations where if a certain character just spoke up earlier, half the novel wouldn't be necessary (and he doesn't for no other reason than the plot requires it . . . "Heritage" suffered from the same problem). For ways to see that done right in SF, I recommend Frank Robinson's "The Dark Beyond the Stars", or that old standby Brian Aldiss' "Nonstop". Here it just seems rote.

And what about our friends Jamie and Zoe? They're in the novel and that's about the best I can say about it. Jamie is Scottish and people make constant comments that he's wearing a skirt, Zoe is peppy and far smarter than you and nobody does anything too remarkably out of character. The Doctor fares well, at least the Second. The Seventh doesn't do much to justify his inclusion, acting in events out of nowhere and for seemingly vague reasons (just because he doesn't explain doesn't mean we shouldn't have some idea as to why), and then not making much sense as to what he does and how it affects the plot, or how the outcome would have been different if he didn't say anything. I would, however, make whatever sacrifice is required to see Patrick Troughton and Sylvester McCoy on screen together.

The book tries very hard to create some tension, some excitement, anything, but for the most part its not all that much different from one of those landscape paintings hanging in the dentist's office. Sure the wall is probably better off for having it there, but it's not like it needed it in the first place. There's no blatant missteps but no real risks either. To its credit it may be the first time that the episode format makes sense, but otherwise its purely functional, chugging along nicely until we hit the mandated page limit and it has to be over. If it was half as dramatic as the title suggests it might be there could have been some promise but if we wanted to be truthful it could have been named "Colony Where Stuff Happens" and we all could have gone in forewarned.
2.0 out of 5 stars Another colony, another rebellion 27 Jun 2005
By Andrew McCaffrey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Please believe me when I say I wanted to like COLONY OF LIES. I'm one of the people who thinks that Colin Brake's previous Doctor Who book, ESCAPE VELOCITY, got a lot of unfair criticism because of expectations that the book never really was going to match. Unfortunately, while I thought ESCAPE VELOCITY was a moderately entertaining adventure, I found COLONY to be a couple of notches below that in quality. I slightly enjoyed it while reading, but on reflection it's not easy to see why. There isn't much that stands out; the things that do distinguish themselves are missteps. The book's central premise is absurd and there's really no sense that this adventure is in any way important. You could probably enjoy this book (and I've certainly read reviews of those who have), but you probably couldn't do so while thinking about it too much.

Colin Brake does a decent job of bringing the regular characters (the second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe) to life. Unfortunately, he does tend to fall into a common trap for Doctor Who novelists. The regulars are quite good when interacting with each other: Zoe plays well with Jamie, and the Doctor trying to keep Zoe and Jamie in line is very evocative of their TV personas. But then Blake splits up his characters for long stretches of the novel, and when he does so they become much more generic and much less like the original characters.

There are also a plethora of silly little oddities that have varying degrees of annoyance. For example, near the beginning, an important character is hit somewhere on their person by a ricocheting bullet. But even after long scenes of the character recovering, the audience is never told where on her body this injury occurred. This makes it quite difficult for the reader to assess how injured the person is. We must rely on the narrative telling us, "No, she isn't recovered yet... No, still not recovered... No, maybe next scene, she'll be better... No, still in bed." For lack of any evidence at all, my brain automatically made the juvenile assumption that someone had had a butt cheek blown away, possibly making the subsequent recovery scenes less thrilling for me than possibly the author intended.

But to be serious for a moment, it's this sort of telling-but-not-showing that makes the book somewhat frustrating, because I want to work things out for myself. This is even more apparent when dealing with the book's central conflict. Thankfully, this is revealed on the back cover blurb, so I can complain about it without revealing spoilers. This planet, Axista Four, is home to a single colony (actually one colony and one tiny, breakaway faction, which is only a stone's throw away). They started with a population of a few thousand but have been slowly decreasing over time due to the unexpected hardships. The sword that now hangs over their heads is word of 80,000 new colonists who will arrive and disrupt their back-to-basics lifestyle.

These are not huge numbers of people. Is there really no room on the entire planet for two small towns? To pick an Earth example, Pennsylvania manages to easily encompass Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and an entire Amish community -- and Pennsylvania is substantially smaller than the size of a planet. If the back-to-basics people are worried about catching a glimpse of these new people and their technology, couldn't the arrivals simply build their colony -- oh, I don't know -- on the opposite side of the planet? Nothing is shown to the reader to explain why this is a problem. The only reason this exists as a story conflict is that the characters and the narrative keep insisting that it is without elaborating as to why. It wouldn't have taken much to fix this problem (and the others like it), but it simply isn't done. And it feels more like laziness or rushed work than anything else.

Also, if we're going to criticize stuff from the back cover, I'd like to wager that the aliens are "doglike" purely to give Jamie the lamest pop culture joke in the history of Doctor Who. This also manages to date the book far quicker than any hairstyle or costume choice on the TV series. Oh, and the blurb mentions the appearances of the seventh Doctor and Ace. The seventh Doctor's involvement really weakens the final conflict, and I'm not convinced that this portion of the story makes any sense at all.

I don't wish to be overly negative, and I'd like to reiterate that I did in fact find much to enjoy while doing the actual page turning. The pacing is good. The secondary characters are not thrilling, but nice. Still, even on that level, I kept bumping into little screw-ups that ripped me out of the story. Like the energy weapon that fires bullets (okay, I suppose one could technically call a gunpowder explosion a form of "energy" -- but this is a science fiction novel and the vocabulary of science fiction novels suggests that an energy weapon is a futuristic ray-gun type thing). Couldn't this sort of thing have been fixed at the editing stage?

The prose is workmanlike. Extremely workmanlike. I doubt that there's an original turn of phrase in the entire two hundred, seventy-two pages. This does make for an exceedingly quick read, but not an especially memorable one. The characters say exactly what the plot needs them to say. The words outside the dialog describe the surroundings adequately. There's little introspection and nothing particularly special. While the number of existing Doctor Who books seems to grow exponentially, there is not one thing that manages to distinguish this adventure from its peers.
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the Old West that we know and love... 15 Aug 2004
By David Roy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The cover and the blurb of Colony of Lies are both semi-misleading, which is a shame. The cover makes it look like it's a Wild West novel, though the blurb on the back makes that a falsehood. However, the blurb on the back says that it also stars the 7th Doctor and Ace. That's true in a sense, but only in the broadest of terms. They star in the prologue and epilogue, and the 7th Doctor also does his patented "behind-the-scenes" routine to help the 2nd Doctor out once. This "help," though, pretty much solves the problem once the 2nd Doctor is able to use it, so I guess that means he's pretty important. It does lead to a nice red herring (well, it fooled me, at least), which is also good.

All in all, Colony of Lies is a pretty good book, though it tries a bit too hard to make the 2nd Doctor sound like he does on television. Usually, this is a good thing, but it does come down a little too hard on the cliché side of things to be good. Of course, as Patrick Troughton did on more than one occasion, Brake has the Doctor saying "Oh my giddy aunt!" when something goes wrong. It's not too bad, though.

Colony of Lies is a lot better than Brake's first Dr. Who book, Escape Velocity. Sure, the Old West motif doesn't work and falls apart rather quickly, seeming superfluous and wrong-headed. Yes, the idea of "sleepers" coming to life and threatening a world is as old as the hills. Brake manages to put a nice spin on the idea, though, and the revelation of what really happened when the colony was founded is actually quite interesting. I think others have given this part short shrift, concentrating on the sleepers themselves, but I rather liked it.

The Old West routine, however, is dull, dull, dull. Not only that, it's useless. First, there's no reason for it. Ostensibly, Ransom chose this time period as the time of purity, where technology doesn't run humans' lives. There are mentions of streetlights and other more modern trappings, though. Even without that little continuity hitch, it all just seems rather pointless, more of an excuse to make some of the characters ride on horses. The cover just adds to the problem, emphasizing this bit over everything else. Couldn't they just have shied away from technology in general, rather than picking a specific time period to emulate? None of the scenes would have changed, other than in the background. And don't get me started on calling the main family on this colony "Kartryte." I almost wanted to scream.

The characterizations are pretty good in Colony of Lies, with a couple of exceptions. The Doctor, Zoe, and Jamie come to life, though there are some elements taken from the series in there. I think Brake really captured Troughton's sense of "playing it by ear," where he sometimes acted before he thought. One sequence in particular comes to mind, where he waves a white flag without even thinking if the aliens will understand what it means. Each of the regulars has a meaty role, though at times they are sidelined for no apparent reason. Zoe gets short shrift in this area, being incapacitated twice and disappearing for large sections of the middle. She does have some great scenes at the end, though her last minute rescue turns out not to be needed so I question why it needed to be in there.

As for the other characters, the colonists have some good roles, though they are a bit two-dimensional. This is only bad because some of them are a bit more important to the story than others. Billy Joe really suffers in this area, as he is a large part of the plot but yet I didn't really feel like I knew him at all. He's a disillusioned boy who wants to join the Realists, and then changes his mind after seeing how the Realists live. It didn't make any sense. The other problems in the characterization department are the Tyrenians. We have three individuals, but I didn't get much sense of them. There's a commander, a regular soldier, and a psycho (he didn't wake up correctly). There isn't much to them, however. Finally, there's Federation Administrator Greene. The back cover blurb really talks him up. The first time we see him, he makes somebody's blood run cold, creating an ominous feeling. He seems to be the most ruthless one of the bunch. However, other than badly affecting one character, he doesn't really amount to much. When I got to the end of the book, I found myself saying "So?"

Finally, a note about the structure of the book. The book is divided into six "episodes," each ending with a cliffhanger. This is a conceit straight out of the television show. This works in Colony of Lies because the other chapters do not end in cliffhangers at all, unlike a lot of books. It really makes this book feel like a television story, and it brought a warm, cozy feeling to this fan.

Colony of Lies is not a great book, but it is a very good one. It's certainly accessible to anybody who doesn't really know about Dr. Who, and it's pretty good for the fan as well. Give it a try.

David Roy
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