THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE BIG FINISH AUDIO DRAMA
"WHISPERS OF TERROR"
AND THE NOVEL "PALACE
OF THE RED SUN."
PAPERBACK (ISBN 0-426
-20431-X) RELEASED IN
the Doctor and Peri
in ancient Rome, in the
tomb of Cleopatra.
But something is very
The tomb walls depict
and other disturbing
Roman Empire is
preparing for a
devastating war –
using weapons from
the future capable of
destroying the entire
State of Change
“State of Change” - now there really is a lot to love about this book. It has its flaws, but on the whole it delivers. The start is shaky I will grant you, but looking at it from the writer’s point of view, Christopher Bulis had to get the reader believing that they were reading about an alternate or parallel universe to be able to have the wonderful plot twist that he does about halfway through; if I had known the truth about things from the start, this story would not have been half as interesting! Luckily though, what the ‘alternate’ Earth lacks in originality it
makes up for in sheer spectacle. Electricity pylons all over Rome, Zeppelins in the sky over Egypt, and a Dominion ruling the known world! Old hat or not, for the first few chapters the old ‘alternate universe’ angle certainly does the job of engaging the reader.
Around the halfway mark “State of Change” really steps up a gear. It becomes more and more evident that this is not an alternate Earth – it is something far stranger. Something far more interesting. Strange hybrid creatures live in the Far East. The world is flat and beyond the edge there be monsters… With all these revelations I was already engrossed in the story, and then on top of that to have the Doctor ‘unregenerate’ and Peri complete her transformation into the bird-like creature that we saw her begin in “Vengeance on Varos”, well… that was it. I could not put the damn book down.
Complaints? Well like I said, “State of Change” has its flaws. First off, I have to admit I did cringe at the onslaught of 'retro-regenerations' towards the end. The first time was great; having the sixth Doctor regress into his former self was wonderful to read about, but to go all the way back to his first incarnationand then forward again… talk about milking it! Secondly,
I was not really all that interested in the politics of the Dominion and the power struggle between its ruling triumvirate. Alexander is a pretty generic tyrant-wannabe, with nothing to really make him memorable in any way. Cleopatra Selene is better, but is still no more than your typical power-hungry woman… at least, that is, until we learn the truth about her identity. Ptolemy Caesar is the most interesting of the three, particularly in his gentle romance-of-sorts with Peri, and he is definitely the best rounded supporting character in the book. Ptolemy’s world is thrown upside-down as he meets bird-women, men that can change their face, and cupboards that are bigger inside than out. As one would imagine it is quite a bit to take in for the Roman, and it is Peri that has to help him adjust to things, and vice-versa. Fundamentally changed physically, Peri’s personality also undergoes a change and with the Doctor occupied elsewhere, she has to turn to Ptolemy. She becomes more instinctive, more primal… darker, and so she needs someone to help her confront her fears about what is happening to her, what she has become, and most important of all, if she has to become human again, would she even want to?
My only true complaint (if you can call it that) about “State of Change” is in respect of the Doctor himself. As much as I enjoyed “Shadowmind,” the Doctor that I was reading about in that novel did not leap out to me and say Sylvester McCoy. Similarly, the sixth Doctor in this novel is not the sixth Doctor that we saw on television during season twenty-two; it is not even the slightly watered-down version that we saw in “The Trial of a Time Lord.” Nevertheless, in the context of the book, this less bombastic Doctor works very well – instead of a Doctor and companion bickering their way across the universe, we have two friends travelling through time and space who obviously deeply care about one another.
All told though, “State of Change” really is a cracking little novel; a fascinating premise, well-executed by the author. Best of all, unlike some of the recent Virgin novels it really feels like
a Doctor Who serial! In fact, that is one of the things I liked most about Bulis’s previous
effort, “Shadowmind.” Unlike some of his contemporaries, Bulis writes stories about the Doctor and his companions and, at the end of the day, I do not buy Doctor Who novels to read about characters I neither know nor care about in hard-hitting science-fiction adventures (with the Doctor showing up for just fifty-odd pages or so at the end to tie everything up) no matter how brilliantly written they are. I buy Doctor Who novels to read about my favourite Time Lord fighting for his life in a Roman coliseum; to read about his
lovely companion, Peri, being transformed into some sort of bird-woman; and to see old enemies, such as the Rani, crawl out of the woodwork when least expected, albeit in the most convoluted of manners…
d Button Now.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This novel’s blurb places it between the television stories Revelation of the Daleks and The Trial of a Time Lord. As the antagonism between the Doctor and Peri is less manifest here than it would be in Whispers of Terror and the sixth Doctor’s Lost Stories, we have therefore placed shortly after Whispers of Terror.
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