THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVELS "LEGACY" AND
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'NEW
RELEASED IN MAY 1994.
the front line of an
DRAWS ever closer
TO MENAXUS, WHERE
IS INVESTIGATING THE
ruins of an ancient
Desperate for help,
BenNY summonS her
companions. But when
the TARDIS lands on
the planet, the Doctor
finds himself TRAPPED
inSIDE a frighteningly
real performance of
Theatre of War
The New Adventures seem to be getting longer. Whereas the occasional novel
like Legacy benefits from the extra fifty pages or so, others like this one feel protracted in
the extreme. Sadly, whilst Justin Richards’ debut novel is certainly inspired at times, for the most part I found it dreary and predictable.
The main difficulty that I had when reading Theatre of War is that it feels so uneven. Benny enjoys a rich and wonderful storyline on Menaxus and later on Braxiatel, whilst the Doctor and Ace torridly wade through virtual reality performances of hackneyed plays, all the while being attacked by their own statues and such like (hence the front cover).
The plot revolves around a
‘Dream Machine’, which is
used to project holographic
performances of old stage
plays, that has been turned
into a weapon to be used against the Heletians. It’s
an alluring premise, but the
Doctor’s ultimate remedy
to the problem is simple,
and thus the drama that has been built up slowly over the course of the novel is slaughtered in an instant.
Nevertheless, I was impressed with Richards’ style and imagination. The Heletians, for example, are portrayed as being a unique and intriguing race; a warlike and aggressive people who are completely obsessed by theatre. I also really enjoyed reading about Irving Braxiatel and his collection. “Brax” has converted an entire planetoid into a giant collection of, well, everything. The Braxiatel Collection is the ultimate art gallery; the ultimate archive.
And Braxiatel himself is a fascinating, rather aloof individual - filthy rich, powerful and with
an interest in art. He’s also an old friend of the Doctor’s, tellingly…
The hype surrounding a fictional play - The Good Soldiers by Osterling – is also rather amusing. The play was lost a short time after it was written and is generally regarded as
a ‘lost classic.’ Of course, in Braxiatel’s collection lives the only surviving manuscript of, as the Doctor puts it, the “rotten play”. It reminded me very much of all the fuss when the ‘lost masterpiece’ The Tomb of the Cybermen was discovered. It was built up and built up to such an extent that when it finally did turn up amongst a load of old BBC film reels in Hong Kong, I felt let down by its mediocrity.
All things considered, there are some things to be enjoyed within the 316 pages of Theatre of War, but unfortunately there is also an awful lot of tedium. Accordingly Richards’ debut is not a New Adventure that I can recommend, particularly when there are so many better ones out there.
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.
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