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on 31 July 2014
The Time Lord previously known as The Doctor (boy that's a mouthful) has been fighting the Time War for hundreds of years, so what happens that will make him willing to destroy his own people to end it? The journey starts on the Dalek-ravaged world of Moldox...

The story opens pretty much as you would expect, with an epic battle between the Daleks and the Time-Lords. Amidst this, the Doctor accidentally discovers a remarkably effective way to kill a Special Weapons type Dalek: throw a TARDIS at it, preferably from orbit. Having made his unorthodox landing, the Doctor's attempts to avoid picking up a new companion prove laughably inneffective, for despite being battle-hardened and weary beyond his years, and however much he denies it, this is still recognisablly the Doctor. He tries to be the good warrior, a clever and strategic front-line soldier, but he can't quite escape his nature, which is why, when he finds out what the Daleks are up to, he foolishly tries to do the right thing...

The Doctor arguing with the Time-Lords may sound familiar, primarily because it is. We spend a good chunk of the narrative on a Gallifrey familiar from both the classic and new series, glimpsing panoramas from The End of Time before visiting Council Chambers from The Five Doctors. Characters old and new appear, their introductions carefully balanced so those readers new to them get a solid background, without so much info-dump that a regular viewer would get bored.
George Mann has tried to encompass both the old and the new throughout, without overloading on either. It is a shiny new tale, full of adventure and adversity, but with just a tincture of the familiar. We are reassured by these blasts from the past (and future) that what we have is a PROPER Doctor Who book, despite it featuring a little-seen incarnation and a completely new companion.
And Cinder is another element that draws from both series but relies on neither: she is damaged goods, like the War Doctor and Ace, yet she is also feisty and independant, like Sarah Jane and Rose, but most importantly, she still manages to be her own character. For while she is drawn with familiar traits, she is a new and well-rounded foil to this particular Doctor and you find yourself drawn into her world, caring about how she will turn out.

Perhaps the greatest achievement is the portrayal of the War Doctor himself. From the outset, it is clear that this is very much the John Hurt character we see in The Day of the Doctor. He has been fighting the war for centuries and the fire that lit the warrior within him has started to fade, allowing the old Doctor to begin to resurface. This is a character tired of fighting and tired of apparently making no real difference. Quite how he got to where we see him on screen is explored within these pages, where the long journey begins. Whether it ends here is another matter.

This book has been written to act as the perfect bridge, a traditional yet modern story, close to the new series in timeframe and style, but with more than enough of the classic series to appeal to long-term fans. Entertaining, powerful and moving, this could only be made better if they got John Hurt to do the audiobook version!

When's the next one coming out?

Full disclosure: Akin to Amazon Vine, the publisher provided a free eARC (Advance Review Copy) in exhange for this independent and unbiased review.
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Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary last year knocked everyone for six. All the various means of celebration were wonderful, but it was the events of `The Day of the Doctor' - and `The Name of the Doctor' & `The Night of the Doctor' - that shattered everything we thought we knew about the infamous Time War, the Doctor's previously unknown regeneration and his role in those events.

John Hurt's outstanding performance as the mysterious `War Doctor' truly added to the prestige and lineage of the Doctor's history. So when Engines of War was announced - shedding more light on the darkest period in the Time Lord's life - I knew I just had to purchase.

Ever since his Eighth Incarnation regenerated, the Doctor has been leading his people into arduous, devastating conflict with the Daleks, fighting on the front-line. Realities have been torn asunder by the two almighty species, with humans and other races caught right-in-the middle. Centuries of god-awful war have taken their heavy toll on the man who has long renounced the name of the Doctor. And after his TARDIS crash-lands on the planet Moldox, the events that follow will be the final straw for the renegade Time Lord.

"No more."

George Mann had a BIG assignment given to him. Could he write a story that is worthy of the nightmarish events constantly alluded to and/or (occasionally) actually revealed on Doctor Who ever since its 2005 revival? The answer is simply `yes'. Mann writes a tale that is most worthy of the creative visions of both Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat. The happenings of the Time War are not only detailed in dark and horrific fashion, but the consequences of the Time Lord/Dalek conflict are also clearly stressed for the unfortunate humans. Their fear and hatred for Time Lord and Dalek alike is not only understandable, it's justified.

And this is one of many things that has clearly scarred the War Doctor. Too many innocents and civilizations have been caught in the crossfire, and it's not just the Daleks, but himself and the Time Lords that are to blame. George captures the essence of the Doctor's War Incarnation SO well, that you can perfectly envision John Hurt back in the swing of things. The Doctor here is clearly bitter, tired and ashamed, and feebly trying to hang onto the quirks and ideals that made him who he was. You can't help but feel sympathetic towards him.

But it's not just the Doctor's personality and the horrors of the Time War that George Mann writes with panache. The author's writing style is so imaginative, with a clear (and exciting) understanding of how a Time War WOULD be fought. How the Daleks evolved and advanced to a point where they could use time & space to exterminate all life is most ruthless and extreme, and in a manner that completely befits them. Likewise, the Time Lords' fear of the Daleks has grown to the point where their change from a peace-loving, orderly and wise society, into a selfish, sinister and morally corrupt is also understandable. Nothing is black-and-white here; only a deep, deep grey. It's so intelligent that the writer deserves the highest commendation.

As Whovians will remember, there were TWO camps of Time Lords created in the Time War; the corrupt High-Council (as lead by Rassilon) who favoured their own survival above all else, and Gallifrey High Command (lead by the Time Lord General) who retained their honour and moral-codes, while fighting tooth & nail to ensure the safety of innocent people. For Engines of War, Mann wisely chooses the corrupt High-Council and Rassilon for the antagonistic side of the Time Lords. Rassilon is just as we remember him from The End of Time; almighty, full-of-self-importance/preservation and all ethics thrown right out the window. His portrayal here is so good that you can actually visualise John Hurt and Timothy Dalton going at it!

Then of course, there's Cinder. As a one-shot companion written exclusively for this story, the author writes her as impeccably as everything else. Like the Doctor, Cinder has lost everything, with only hatred against the Daleks and Time Lords to show for it. Like all other companions before and after her, she NEEDS saving. Throughout the story, Cinder grows to realise the enormity of the Time War beyond her own world, and is able to change for the better, and help the Doctor bear his own burdens as well. Cinder's role here is not only a reminder of how much the Doctor needs a companion, but also showcases what a three-dimensional character she is.

As other reviewers have said, the plot of Engines of War is that of a typical adventure book, and there's plenty of good twists-and-turns, with the best shockers coming from revelations behind characters themselves, and the machinations of the Daleks. The prose is beautiful and accessible, with some brilliant utilisation of events like `The Night of the Doctor', `Genesis of the Daleks' and `The Five Doctors' to help drive the story. The events here also steamroll nicely towards the cataclysmic events of `The End of Time' and `The Day of the Doctor', coming across naturally instead of force-feeding us.

In closing, George Mann has done an impeccable job with Doctor Who: Engines of War. It's a beautiful book to hold and read. An utterly exceptional piece of work; one that makes me look forward to the audiobook release.
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on 10 August 2014
John Hurt’s brief role as the Doctor has undoubtedly left fans with the desire to see more of this previously unknown incarnation. This is probably unlikely to ever happen on screen again and it is entirely possible (but let’s hope not) that this novel might be the only revisit to this version of the Doctor. ‘Engines of War’ is also of importance in that it gives the War Doctor an adventure all of his own.

Obviously a novel of this nature is heavily influenced by ‘The Day of the Doctor’. However, it can’t entirely be considered a prequel as such. ‘The Day of the Doctor’ is concerned with the last days of the Time War whereas ‘Engines of War’ is a story in its own right set sometime during said war.

However, much like ‘The Day of the Doctor’ it takes inspiration from across the history of the programme, effortlessly merging references to twenty first century Doctor Who with that which came before. It takes considerable influence from three of my personal favourite stories; ‘The Deadly Assassin’, ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ and ‘The Five Doctors’. Making use of such background material helps to make this, at least for me, a very enjoyable book. Although there is a large amount of content that relies on knowledge of many Doctor Who stories this knowledge isn’t essential to understand or follow the plot. The author has created a good balance of references that enrich the novel without making it continuity obsessed or too fan indulgent.

The characterisation of the Doctor is a little varied throughout. There are times when John Hurt’s portrayal comes to the surface but often this book’s Doctor is a more generic amalgamation of Doctorish traits, usually from the twenty-first century incarnations. That is fairly understandable, however, considering the limited screen time for the War Doctor. This is also still the Doctor before the act of genocide; before he has reached the point of “no more”. There are efforts by the author to distance the character of the War Doctor from the Doctor proper. He is heavily referred to as the Predator throughout and exhibits aggressive tendencies. However, the author’s main effort is to show that the War Doctor would behave differently to the Fourth if put in the famous dilemma the Fourth Doctor faces in ‘Genesis of the Daleks’. It is not that convincing an argument though considering that the similar situation the War Doctor finds himself in in this book is not actually the same situation at all with closer consideration. The War Doctor of this novel is still very much the Doctor and it could very well be the intention of the author to steer the reader to this conclusion.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the parallels it draws between the Daleks and the Timelords. It seems that as the Time War escalates both indulge in hideous genetic experiments (even on their own kind) and devise or use terrible weapons of mass destruction. Indeed the main plot of this novel is whether or how such a weapon, the Tear, should be applied. The High Council of the Timelords and the Eternity Circle of Daleks definitely bare similarities in outlooks and objectives and Rassalon appears to be no better than the Dalek Emperor. It can be assumed that by the end of this novel it is the author’s intention to bring us to the conclusion that the Daleks and the Timelords are now much the same thing. After all, that is the conclusion the Doctor will reach.

If this is, unfortunately, the only new story the War Doctor will get this one has at least done his incarnation proud. Action packed and exciting whilst thought provoking all at once. There is much to be enjoyed in this story and the author clearly knows his material.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 10 August 2014
This is a review of the newly released novel, Engines of War by George Mann. There is an audio reading of the novelisation due out in December 2014, which I sincerely hope will be read by John Hurt; fingers crossed.

The story takes us up to the events in Day of the Doctor, where the tv audience first met the War Doctor, as played by John Hurt. A weary, cynical and less patient Doctor, this timelord strives to find an answer to the terrible toll being taken by the Time War between the Daleks and the Timelords, but without the cost being borne by the inhabitants of the rest of the universe for all time.

The first part of the action in the novel sees the Doctor crash-landing on the Dalek-inhabitated world of Moldox; there he meets a young Resistance fighter, Cinder, who has seen her family killed and her world ravaged by the Daleks; it's all she knows. Reluctantly taking her with him, the Doctor seeks out the reason for the Daleks being there. What they find will shock and horrify them, and the Doctor knows he has to take the information back to this homeworld - back to a Gallifrey ruled by a reincarnated Rassilon, a world where the Doctor knows his way of viewing the universe is not welcome. Can Cinder and the Doctor find a way to stop the Daleks, with or without the Timelords?

This is fantastic stuff; a great novel as well as a great Doctor Who novel. I tried to read this without expectations, hoping to find it was a great novel in its own right and not just because I wanted it to be a story about the War Doctor, one that would fill in the gaps and answer the questions that the Day of the Doctor left its audience with. I am delighted to find that this book ticks all the boxes. It is a triumph in continuity, characterisation, narrative and context; everything, in short that a Doctor Who fan could possibly want. Most importantly, it is immediately 'familiar' to the reader, in that it is easy to imagine it playing out on the small (or big) screen in front of you. I hope there are more books to come with the War Doctor, as there is a great characterisation being created of this incarnation of the Doctor who we are all so familiar with in previous incarnations. The War Doctor deserves to have all his tales told; I can't wait to hear/read more of them. In the meantime, George Mann has done a great job with this novel; I encourage every Doctor Who fan (whether a fan of the `classic' or `new' series) to read this.
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on 1 December 2015
Set sometime during the Time War, the war doctor crash lands on moldox, a planet ravaged by the daleks and meets a young dalek hunter named cinder and this is the story of how they band together to uncover and thwart what it is the doctor's most notorious adversaries are planning, taking them to the corridors of power on gallifrey and back again to moldox. A great debut novel for John Hurt's War Doctor and which gives us some insight into the man the doctor would become, eventually saying No More and his later battle of conscious when he steals the moment intending to end the time war. George Mann has written a first class doctor who novel that I couldn't put down. Why isn't Mann writing episodes for you Mr Moffatt? I really hope this isn't the last we read of the adventures of this particular incarnation of everyone's favourite time traveller.....
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on 5 November 2014
This should be made as a one off Dr Who TV movie. You can hear John Hurts "War" Doctor spitting out his lines at the Time Lords and see how they became the cruel and twisted race they were shown to be in David Tennants last shows. Great characters, and a real page turner, the story just make you want to read it as quickly as possible. I could almost see the show play out in my imagination. Great book.
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on 10 August 2014
I think the phrase is "poisoned chalice". I'm not sure where it comes from, it's probably Hamlet or something similar. Sort of ironic too actually, given how Eight regenerated.

I'm digressing though, heavily. I should backtrack a bit.

Engines of War is The Time War Novel. It's so important that you capitalise The Time War Novel. It's the event novel - probably the most important Doctor Who novel since... The Infinity Doctors. No, scratch that. I don't think there's a single Doctor Who book which could be said to cover a more important part of the show's mythos.

The Time War has been the driving force of most of the show since 2005. It's affected all of the New Who Doctors, and the Eighth Doctor as well. It's a Very Big Thing. But we've never actually seen it. We've built up a picture across nearly ten years from the odd line, a few references here or there, occasional glimpses. Mentions of things like "the Nightmare Child", or "The Could Have Been King and his armies of Meanwhiles and Never-weres". There's the "Skaro degradations", "the Cruciform", and the "Gates of Elysium".

All of that evocative imagery coming together to conjure a picture of a horrible, eternal, all consuming war fought on a thousand fronts, reaching every corner of the cosmos, corrupting and degrading and reducing the Universe. A war that "made the higher beings weep", and "made the Eternals flee the Universe, never to be seen again".

Russell T Davies described the Time War as "obscene" once, and that's always sort of stuck with me since I first read it. Obscene. This dark, endless, hellish war. Obscene.

That is very difficult to put across in a book, or on TV, or in audio. Not impossible mind you, just very difficult. But if you add to the fact that everyone is going to have their own version of the Time War in their heads, it's more or less inevitable that the book is going to disappoint.

So that's what I was getting at with poisoned chalice. As a book it's in a hell of a difficult place. Technically, it was always destined to fail. How awful is that? Very much a poisoned chalice to have been given.

Obviously going in I knew that, and I tried to keep my expectations low...

But... this book is a let down. There's no other way to put it really.

It follows a largely generic plot, opening with a Dalek base we've seen hundreds of times before, an infiltration we've already seen before, a planet we've seen before. Nothing new or unique. (Having said that, I think I'm being a bit disingenuous - I really really like the opening part, Moldox. It's very well written, and it's actually quite a nice window into how the War has affected people who aren't actually involved in it. The thing is, it's just a little bit underwhelming - especially since it's firmly set at the latter end of the Time War, when things really should be much, much worse.)

Then we move from there to Gallifrey, and it just devolves into the most ridiculous fanfiction ever. There are so many references and callbacks, and you just need it to slow down. That sort of continuity requires both tact and finesse, and neither was on display - it begins to read like a list of Gallifrey's Greatest Hits. It's back to the 80s, even, which is hardly lauded as the show's best decade. Normally I don't have much trouble with this sort of thing, but it could get very obtrusive here. It's more subtle in some places, sure - there's a reference to The End of Time with Rassilon tapping out a certain rhythm - but then on the other hand, you've got Zero Rooms, the cast of The Five Doctors, and even the bloody Mind Probe. In some places, it is far, far too much - quite often, less is more. (There was a pretty subtle reference to Sam Jones, the Eighth Doctor's companion, which I liked, but probably also says a lot about quite how many continuity references there were.)

I don't want to come across as though I hated this book, because it was certainly an enjoyable book to read. It's really well written, with an excellent style of prose. The descriptions are fantastic, from the war ravaged planet of Moldox to the Panopticon on Gallifrey itself. The main characters are excellent as well - John Hurt's Doctor is a tired, sarcastic old man, grappling with the weight of worlds. George Mann has him pitch perfect to how he was in The Day of the Doctor.
Cinder, the companion, is also pretty damn great. She's got a pretty good character arc, if, admittedly, a predictable fate, and provides a pretty good outside perspective on events. She's also one of the first canonically LGBT companions in quite a long time. And, like all the best companions, she brings out the best in her Doctor...

... but that really leads me onto the biggest fault I had with the book. All throughout, John Hurt's Doctor is called exactly that. He's referred to as the Doctor by everyone. By the Time Lords, by Cinder, even in the actual prose itself. There's no delivery on the idea that he's "the one that broke the promise" - he might as well just be any other incarnation. I know that won't bother most people, but it really, really irked me. It's... I mean, you've got the toys, you might as well play with them, you know? Use it, have it mean something. For example, there's a very nice coda at the end, where the Doctor wonders if anyone will ever call him the Doctor again... after three hundred pages of no one calling him anything else!
When the tagline of the book proclaims "WAR CHANGES EVERYONE - EVEN THE DOCTOR" you need to deliver, and show us a Doctor who's actually different. Reveal to us, through Cinder, a quiet rising malevolence. Have him not only condone, but suggest, the death of thousands, because it would save the lives of billions. Give us a Doctor who's scarily close to becoming the Valeyard. Give us a man who would make even the Seventh Doctor run away in horror. Up the ante. Change. The. Doctor. Make. It. Count.

Ultimately, it's a book of wasted potential. That's a horrible thing to say, and I don't want to say that, because I did enjoy the book. There's some fantastic concepts - George Mann's explanation of the Skaro Degradations was wonderful, and his Possibility Engine was downright horrific. But that's the sort of tone that should have been prevalent across the whole novel. I wasn't reading this for a fun adventure with the Daleks, I wanted to see a glimpse into this reality twisting, obscene war.

Whether I would reccomend this... I guess it depends on how you responded to this review. If none of my complaints bothered you, then I honestly would reccomend it emphatically - it is, for the most part, fantastic. But if you're the sort of person who's ever sat and thought about the Time War... give it a miss. This book will just sweep away your version, and won't have anything satisfactory to replace them with.

So that's... that's a mutable five out of ten and eight out of ten. It's morphing between them, just like the Probability Engine.

http://thoughts-from-alex.tumblr.com/post/94345456970/doctor-who-book-review-engines-of-war
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on 11 August 2014
Fantastic novel from George Mann! I've read around 10 Doctor who Novels so far (I will read more) and this is my favorite by far! I had to try and limit myself to read 2 chapters a day otherwise I would read it too quickly! I didn't want it to end as it was so good! More War Doctor novels please :D
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on 2 December 2014
This is a gritty, atmospheric story that communicates the bleak hopelessness of the time war.

For the most part, the writing is fit for purpose, but the characters are well-rounded and the settings accurately described. What more do you want?

A great story told in an engaging manner. Good job!
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on 17 August 2014
It's hard to sum up why this title is so damn good! Exceptional writing by Mann, with a fantastic plot spanning a war-torn planet to Gallifrey (and back again!) The author clearly knows his classic Who, as several huge plot points and major characters in this novel are taken straight from the Doctor Who 20th anniversary "The Five Doctors" (spoilers!!) It's also great to see the making of the War Doctor and why he ultimately makes the fateful decision to destroy Gallifrey in the 50th special The Day of the Doctor. Sublime sci-fi, and an absolute must for all Whovians!
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