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Customer Review

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the Old West we all know and love, 20 Aug. 2004
This review is from: Doctor Who: Colony of Lies (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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Location: Vancouver, BC

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