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Doctor Who: The Space Age Mass Market Paperback – 1 May 2000
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Steve Lyons is an author who usually delivers a chuckle or two, but there is little to smile about in his new Doctor Who novel The Space Age.
The Doctor, Compassion and Fitz arrive on Earth in the future and, as Compassion is being strangely uncommunicative and unreactive, the Doctor and Fitz head off to explore a fantastic space-city they can see in the distance. There they become involved in the ongoing battles of two rival groups: mods and rockers, snatched from a 1950s Brighton and relocated to this futuristic city for reasons unknown.
This then is the sum of the novel: two opposing gangs, grim and meaningless rivalry, relationships and family conflict, all played out against the backdrop of a space-age city in Earth's future. Compassion hardly appears and does nothing to advance the plot, Fitz tries hard but becomes lost in the plot, and the Doctor is left to try and figure out what the plot really is.
It's an undemanding read and introduces another powerful time-aware alien race, but ultimately it's perhaps a little simplistic. It ends with some thought-provoking decisions for the protagonists, but it's all too late. The book marks time rather than revelling in it. --David J Howe
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However, the story itself is well written. I kept reading it to the end. Lyon created the excellent charcterizatsion of each non-regular characters of mods and rockers. The real West Side Story the movie has a real sad ending based on a Shakespean Tradgety. On the other hand, Lyon has created the story of two young lovers, Alec and Sandra as the West Side Story Lovers.. if they may have survived in the future and transported into the futuristic city which the Time-Alien, Maker had offered to them as a gift..
I do not want to disclose any storyline no more though... I believe that Lyon has represented his own psycho-social interplay of each mods and rockers.. The story is waven with their psycho-social interactions of two groups. Their 19-year war between them showed the major tradgic human drama when they kept maintaining their human aggressive patterns. I feel so sad that they have had some chances to evolve into the better. They brew them so big, and so humanly.
At the backgrond of the futuristic City, their so-human aggressive emotions and so-humane stupidity have caused ironically thier own distruction of the City which had taken a care of them very duitefully.
Three regular characters, Doctor, Fitz and Compassion, were wonderful ones. The Silent Presence of Compassion was really the impressive one through the novel.
If any reader wants to read this Lyon's West Side Story in the Doctor Who Style, I recommend this book as a great study of character social-cultural interplay and interplot of those who have failed for their better social evolution and choices.
What we get is a weird, futurist remix of Quadrophenia, with mods and rockers fighting it out in a ruined city of the future.
It's a book about ideas, and is an interesting, experimental notion. But it's just dull, dull, dull.
The characters are all ciphers, unexciting versions of unexciting real people. We don't care about them, we don't even care much about the series' regulars. None of them really get to do anything much, and the amazing promise of the back cover never comes about. It's just yet another embarrassing example of how badly the series tackles social angst.
Setting an escalating war between Mods and Rockers in a pseudo-futuristic city certainly takes some diverse thinking, and Lyons pulls it off well. One of the few criticisms of this book is that the regulars don't actually DO much, with the exception of Fitz. I found myself thinking how perfect this kind of scenario would have perfectly fitted the original vision of the Fourth Doctor and Harry Sullivan. The Doctor has relatively little to do, and Compassion is redundant for at least two-thirds, but it has to be said that when these two characters are used, they are used a great deal better than many preceding authors have used them. Infact I think this is the best Compassion has been since The Taking of Planet 5, used sparingly.
As with all of Steve's previous books, his characterisation is spot-on. Even some of those characters which you see very little of are beatifully crafted and moulded. If there is a real criticism to be levelled at this book, the plot does seem a little plodding in places, but the conclusion is a real humdinger.
If this is the shape of things to come, well then I'm all for it. Roll on the next!
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The Doctor does indeed show up, with Fitz and a near comatose Compassion (conveniently, since her being heavily involved in this story would make it entirely unfair to everyone) on some random planet with a city straight out of the future, at least the future as everyone envisioned it in 1950. Gleaming towers, sleek skylines, you've got all that fun stuff. Even better, the city robots seem to take excellent care of the people who live in it, thus raising all kinds of exciting questions. Who built it? How did the city get here? Who could live in such a place, and why.
Unfortunately, the book proceeds to ignore all of them for a big SF version of "Krazy Kat" where two opposing teams of people try to hit each other repeatedly to no real effect, eventually just going around in circles. You see, the city is populated by grown up versions of people who were "rockers" and "mods" (imagine a less romantic "Grease" or "West Side Story" if everyone listened to better music) who never got out of the habit of beating the heck out of each other all the time. And "by never got out of the habit", I mean the entire book is about this. Seriously. Once the initial premise is established, we are treated to pages and pages of the two sides fighting and when they aren't fighting they are coming up with new ways to kill each other, most of which fail.
There are plenty of interesting themes to play with in this novel, especially the idea of maturing and the consequences of not doing so. Unfortunately, Lyons does very little with that, as we are subjected to yet another scene of a rocker and/or mod going, "With THIS plan, this time we'll really come out on top!" and fling themselves into another futile effort. It would help if this were over the top or played for satire, but alas it's all being done perfectly straight. They want to fight, and fight they do. Just like that cartoon on "The Simpsons". It would help if the characters were more fascinating than they were, but all the interesting bits tend to get pushed aside so they can plot how to kill the other side, but with jetpacks this time. Partway through you start to wish that the Doctor would just give up and leave, or both sides would just wipe each other out and the rest of the pages would be blank.
I have a feeling that the way the novel as conceived didn't exactly turn out the way it was written, as the theme just ran away with him and he wasn't sure how to reel it back. I don't know whose fault that is, but two groups of people I feel nothing for are fighting for reasons I don't care about (and are really silly, after all these years nobody said, "You know, hey, this isn't getting us anywhere.") and that's not really a recipe for wall to wall entertainment.
Are there good parts to the book? Sure. While Lyons doesn't do a whole lot with the setting (one flying car would have been nice) the whole idea of how it came about is interesting, and it would have been nicer to see a contrast between an optimistic view of the future and how it actually turns out through their eyes (in that sense, the book ends too soon). The Doctor is well done, even if I can't figure out how he doesn't strangle all these people out of sheer frustration. Fritz is back to being cowardly but quick on his feet, making up lies like he was born to it and basically being a faster-talker who gets his butt kicked a lot. Compassion, of course, really has no place in this story, but Lyons does use her few scenes effectively and somewhat justify her role in the story. I have a feeling that, having been changed, the writers aren't entirely sure what to do with her as a combination team member and vehicle.
All told, a little disappointing, though. Especially being that music plays a very small role, considering that these are rockers and mods (for non-Brits, if you've ever seen a picture of British punk band, the Jam, that's basically how mods dressed . . . or if you've seen "Quadrophenia") and the essential repetitive nature of the plot doesn't seem to delve into anything as much as kill time. It does read quickly so you won't spend that much time with it, but they probably could have figured out a better way to spend two hundred and forty pages.
From reading the back cover, one can tell that the setting of this book will be captivating. It promises the flying cars and jetpacks that the future as seen from the 50s predicted. It's the Year 2000 AD and mankind has an advanced civilization with hot and cold running robots and computers so that every single human need is taken care of. The life of the each person can be spent in the pursuit of pleasure with none of the dirty work that everyday life in the present affords us. Unfortunately after delivering this wonderful setup to the story, Steve Lyons does nothing with it. After reading the book in its entirety, I can say that the story doesn't touch a fraction of the potential that it had going in to it. With only a few alterations, the book could have been set almost anywhere.
The inhabitants of this Future City are all natives of an English town in 1965. Somehow they were taken from their proper location and placed in this luxurious city. Virtually everyone that was taken was a member of one of two 60s gangs, the mods and the rockers. This sets up the middle of section of the book in which various people do very little else than beat the living daylights out of each other (and during the slow moments, they make elaborate plans about how they will next beat the living daylights out of each other). It's extremely tedious, and unfortunately, this sort of boring runaround makes up almost the entire book. Although I suspect this was done on purpose, it was difficult to read about the two groups, as they were virtually indistinguishable, so it was very hard to keep track of which side was which.
There are a few nice sections. Compassion is barely featured in the book, but the little pieces that we do get are extremely well written. Also, there is some fairly interesting stuff about growing up and moving on. The problem is that this theme is spread so thin that it almost isn't worth the effort - a shame this wasn't really followed up on.
In short, the beginning of book is super, the ending of the book is quite good, but the middle hundred and fifty odd pages or so are mind numbingly boring. It's extremely frustrating to read as one can almost taste the excellent story that's down here begging to get out. The sections that follow the end of hostilities reach excellence and it's really a shame that they didn't occur about fifty pages earlier.