The Book of the War
|ISBN||1 57032 905 2|
|Publisher||Mad Norwegian Press|
|Synopsis: An A-Z of Faction Paradox, the War, the Enemy and other stuff that may not exist.|
A Review by Terrence Keenan 21/10/02
Um, wow. And Wow.
If you've ever walked away from one of Lawrence Miles's universe creating novels with your brain leaking out of your ears due to all the brilliance and damage he's caused by his writing, then you might want to avoid this book.
Loz is now unfettered by novel conventions in The Book of the War. He and his merry band of contributors, including Mags Halliday, Daniel O'Mahoney, Kelly Hale, Mark Clapham and others, have their way with the Whoniverse and create a guide to the Spiral Politic and the War in heaven between the Great Houses and the Enemy.
The Time Lords, Faction Paradox, The Celestis, The Remote, the Enemy... all present and accounted for, along with Dronid, Compassion, Cwej, Grandfather Paradox and every little interesting tidbit from Alien Bodies, Dead Romance & Interference is all present and accounted for, along with concepts created for the BBV Faction Paradox chronicles and some new and original ideas.
The book is presented as an A to Z cyclopedia of topics, cross-referenced by how they fit in with the numerous strands of history and concepts presented. There's even a mini-narrative told by a returning character, which was a pleasant surprise and had Loz's fingerprints all over it.
The one thing that came to mind as I read The Book of the War was that The Adventuress of Henrietta Street was a dry run for this tome, an exploration of the "non-fiction" narrative that made The Book of the War possible. The best way to read this tome is not from A to Z, but to start with one entry and follow around through all the sections relevant to it. The connections become clearer, and the various separate entries tie together.
Even if I wasn't a raving Lawrence Miles fan, I'd recommend The Book of the War highly. It?s an amazing piece of work that answers many questions and poses a few more.
A Review by Sean Gaffney 29/11/02
I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book. There was mention of it being an encyclopedia of the War, but it didn't really hit me until reading it that this is what it is. No linear 'plot' as such, just a guide to everything about Lawrence's War universe, from the eyes of the Lesser Species writing it.
So what made the book so interesting is the stories that do end up being told are absolutely enticing. They're incomplete fragments that leave one desperately desiring to hear more. I read the book from A to Z linearly, but I suspect that reading an entry then checking the cross-references would actually be more cohesive. The entries are factual but very readable, with a nice dry sense of humor typical of something you'd expect with 'Faction Paradox' in the title.
The book divides its entries among 6 major groups: Great Houses (aka Gallifrey), House Military, Celestis, Faction Paradox, Lesser Species (aka humanity and others), and the Remote. The Enemy is in there too, but get very few entries to themselves, so to speak, preferring to pervade all the others.
Speaking of the Enemy, let's just be blunt: they aren't revealed here. Those buying the book to see the answers at the back of the War are going to be very upset, as this book only goes 50 years into the War, and is positively gleeful about not revealing the Enemy. To which I say thank God. I hate the idea of the Enemy being revealed, mostly as my now it would be anticlimactic whoever it is. The Enemy is such a name, such a force unto itself, that it's almost a conceptual entity (see entry in book).
This is Lawrence's version of events, so Shadows of Avalon and The Ancestor Cell simply aren't happening here, although Compassion's transformation is still a key point. I'm a huge Compassion fan, so I was delighted to see her story, which is fairly triumphant considering. I was also amused at her desire to have human companions and travel around time and space - though she remains Compassion, so we invariably see her pissing them off. She and the 7th Doctor would either get along great or try to kill each other. The adventures of Compassion and Carmen Yeh would be wonderful to see, maybe in a future book or the new comic.
Other potential stories I really liked: the whole idea of the City of the Saved, the background for the Remote that had passed me by when reading Interference (the parodies of Ally McBeal and Survivor are particularly wonderful), the Shift's running commentary and story, the entire Faction Hollywood story which desperately needs to be made into a real novella, Cwej's Miles Universe fate, and the wonderfully ludicrous and tragic Father-Twice-removed Dyavol.
Is the Doctor in here? Sort of. He's never mentioned by name, obviously, but his presence infests certain events, and there are several people throughout who COULD be the Doctor, but could also be someone totally different.
For anyone who has had the slightest objection to Lawrence's playground, this is probably not the book for you. But it's a dream to anyone else, those who want deeper insight into the Faction, Remote, and the War in general. It's also a great book for fans of the Gallifrey of Robert Holmes and beyond, as it takes the ball of 'paranoid stability at all costs nutters' and runs with it, showing their evolution into something almost exactly like what they feared becoming.
This book is dense, packed with entries, and can be dipped into again and again to reread after a better understanding. It's a great 'guide to the war', but works even better as a stepping stone, a way to introduce a new spinoff universe to house all of the plots and stories that desperately want to be told here.
A Review by Finn Clark 18/4/03
Gorblimey! The Book of the War may be perfect for occasionally dipping into, but it's a daunting prospect for anyone planning to read it cover to cover. Its page count is no more than an ordinary novel's, but thanks to its oversized two-column pages it must be as long as Interference. What's more, it's dense. It's a slow read until you get used to flipping forward and looking up the odd reference here and there.
To begin with the obvious, Lawrence Miles is experimenting with form again. Fortunately this works better than Adventuress of Henrietta Street, perhaps if only because fandom is more accustomed to reading episode guides. However when one bears in mind that at least half of The Book of the War isn't fiction at all but a mind-expanding dissertation on temporal physics, war technology and House politics, I think one can conclude that its encyclopedia format is interesting in itself. Had this been a novel, it would have been awful. There's no plot, but merely a scattering of incidental plot threads. It's about its universe rather than any one story that's set there.
And that's one wild universe! It has one foot in Doctor Who, but it's evolved beyond that into something unrecognisably Milesian. It's fascinating stuff - and then there's all the paradox, impossibility and acausality. If most of Doctor Who's temporal physics was strictly GCSE-level, this is university course material. Personally I'm a fiend for this species of content-heavy technobabble, so I lapped it all up. (Even better, it shares my disdain for parallel universes and nanites!)
Of course with so many words on display, there's also plenty of incident and local colour. Here you'll find Byron, Rasputin, Sir Richard Burton, Hollywood, Dracula (despite the footnote on p120), Red Indians and, most startlingly of all, Heaven. It's called the City of the Saved and I can't say I was entirely comfortable with its inclusion. There's discussion of where it came from (theological versus SF explanations) under Secret Architects, but though it's undeniably thought-provoking I didn't like it on at least two levels. Quite apart from the theological implications, I can see it getting really boring as a story setting. It's like the People from the NAs, but even more so.
As with Adventuress, Lawrence has borrowed the form of episode guides without adhering too closely to niggling details. Strangely, The Book of the War isn't actually a very good guide to itself. Oh, everything's there... somewhere. But if you want to look up the names of the six main Houses on Gallifrey (sorry, the Homeworld), then you're sunk unless you flip to R and "Ruling Houses". It took me a few minutes just now to hunt down that Secret Architects reference. This book could really have used an index.
Occasionally it's funny. The Shift breaks the fourth wall to great effect, while I practically pissed myself at the entry for Chris Cwej. One can also have fun playing "spot the Who reference", e.g. Morbius becomes the Imperator President, or the Shaydes become Casts. (We're even told that Mrs Foyle's first name might be Miranda; she's probably not the lass we met in Father Time, but I sniggered anyway.)
Overall, this is a fascinating book. If nothing else, it's great to see a Gallifrey in which the usual tired parade of Prydonian, Patrex, etc. goes unmentioned. Instead we have Arpexia, Xianthellipse, Lineacrus, Tracolix, Dvora, Mirraflex and more. I fear for the sanity of anyone who reads it from cover to cover... um, as I did, though admittedly it took me two weeks. However its encyclopedia format makes it perfect as something to keep by your bedside and dip into whenever the urge strikes. You can work your way through or flit around, following the references from entry to entry. It even has pictures!
This Book Will Turn You Cross-Eyed by Isaac Wilcott 27/5/03
Alien Bodies is my favorite Who book -- indeed, one of the best SF books ever written -- and Miles is one of my favorite authors, inside or outside of Who. Faction Paradox, the War, the ever-nebulous Enemy... the best new mythology to come into the series since the Baker era. His epic, Interference, was consistently brilliant even if over-long, and the Remote was a fascinating creation as well as being a great social insight. I therefore leapt with joy when I learned that, after all these great elements were dumped from the Doctor Who universe, Miles was going off on his own and edited a fictional encyclopedia expanding on these wonderful events and players.
Considering it was printed by a small publisher, Mad Norwegian Press [http://www.madnorwegian.com/], it is an impressively high-quality volume, especially with the modest $18 price tag. Measuring six by nine inches, it fits nicely on the same shelf as mass-market paperbacks. The binding is nice and tight, though the gutter margin is very narrow, making it difficult to read the inside columns. The cover (by Steve Johnson) is genuinely disturbing, while the interior illustrations (Jim Calafiore) are something of an uneven mixture of crappy and ingenious; outstandingly good ones include the ones for Michael Brookhaven (be sure to look at his shadow -- I didn't notice it at first, and then it startled me!), Investigator 96, Remote armor (way cool), and the Timebeast Assault. Some of the others are just junk, that look like the leftovers from one of the cheaper Fasa RPG manuals -- Mrs. Foyle, Faction armor (way stupid), and Lord Foaming Sky (creepy, but looks like it was cut out of an old DC comic book, "Batman in Hell" or some such).
As mentioned in one of the reviews above, it's interesting to "decode" some of the terms and find the underlying Who references. My favorite is the War King -- almost definitely the War Chief; it's mentioned that he still keeps on his desk a cube, obviously the one which the Second Doctor used to summon the Time Lords at the end of The War Games. Also, the "House renegade" mentioned in the Rivera Manuscript is undoubtedly the Doctor (how many other renegades would "befriend" anybody?), and it's nice to see the Yssgaroth, Chris Cwej, Compassion, and Dronid retaining their names in this unlicensed realm.
And, yes, we do learn a bit more about the Enemy, yet not enough to wipe away the alluring mystery surrounding them. The few hints that are here, however, are offered with footnotes claiming they may not entirely reliable -- this keeps them at a tantalizing distance, which is a very wise move on Miles' part. They may be called "One," have something to do with Praxis (a melange-like drug that grants precognitive visions, whose substance shouldn't exist in our universe), and may be the form of life that would have arisen had the Great Houses not restructured all of history to their own ends.
This book is not only profoundly strange and wonderful (and sometimes ridiculous) but also very funny -- sometimes an entry succeeds at being all of these at once. The sections about Michael Brookhaven and Faction Hollywood in particular had me taking turns to roll my eyes, laugh out loud, and mutter "What what what?" to myself like King George III upon seeing a William Blake lithograph.
I love the far-out concepts here, but Miles made a huge mistake by pushing things just that tiny bit farther than he should have, by creating the City of the Saved. Apart from it being totally unnecessary, I was appalled at how blatantly he rips off Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld, even right down to there being only humans resurrected and no aliens. He's even got Farmer's pre-human cavemen, forming cliques no less! The other locales like Mictlan are extremely abstract (literally!) and barely believable, but Miles ruins things by having to display to his readers just how insanely ambitious he is, to the point that it it no longer comes across as ambition but just sheer "I've-got-to-make-everything-bigger-than-the-biggest-big-and-then-some" stupidity. Sorry, Lawrence, but this City of the Saved is just plain ridiculous and totally unnecessary. You've got more than enough very intriguing main players in action (the Great Houses, House Military, Celestis, Faction Paradox, the Enemy, Lesser Species, the Remote) and adding one more crazily-outlandish and hideously-overblown group makes the whole pagoda teeter and wobble rather alarmingly. Miles just doesn't know when to stop, as if he's afraid he's still not quite impressed us enough. Okay, Larry, calm down. We're all deeply impressed. You can stop raving now.
But overall this is a very worthwhile book; he and the impressive line-up of contributors -- Simon Bucher-Jones, Daniel O'Mahony, Ian McIntire, Mags L. Halliday, Helen Fayle, Phil Purser-Hallard, Kelly Hale, Jonathan Dennis, and Mark Clapham -- have created a monumental work that, though clearly based on Doctor Who, stands as one of the truly great SF concepts of all time. Although it's a shame this stuff was expunged from the Who books, it's great to see it given a venue of its very own where it can be expanded and flourish as much as possible. Were it not for the City of the Saved, as well as Mrs. Foyle and the related entries, this would be 100 percent masterpiece. As it is, it's only about 95 percent masterpiece -- still, an enviable achievement.
During the year since I first read The Book of the War, certain parts of it have stuck in my mind better than others, and I was very surprised to find the City of the Saved concept to be one of them. I know myself well enough to realize that only fascinating and rich ideas stick in my mind that way. So I've re-read that entry and the related ones to reform my opinion.
So it is with humble enthusiasm that I retract my criticisms of the City of the Saved. I was uncharacteristically vicious in dissecting its faults while ignoring the fact that it is truly an incredible concept that has been treated here with imagination and surprising skill.
I also know now that Phil Purser-Hallard, not Lawrence Miles, is to be credited for the City's creation. I'd like to express my sincerest apologies to him for my almost vitriolic condemnation of the City. Re-reading my above comments on the subject I am truly embarrassed by them, and deeply regret jumping to such a hasty conclusion.
When I first read The Book of the War, by the time I reached the City entry (I didn't read it from cover to cover, but followed the links from one entry to another) I was already overwhelmed by the massive amount of mind-bending material throughout the book -- so mental fatigue was one reason for my reaction. (So for you people who haven't yet read it I would warn: DON'T READ TOO MUCH AT ONCE, EVEN THOUGH YOU'LL WANT TO! READ IT AT A VERY LEISURELY PACE!)
My first reaction was also emotional and instinctive -- having previously read all of Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld books, I was simply annoyed (and not a little disgusted) by finding this unique concept repeated here in almost every detail. So another reason for my criticism was a disappointment in this lack of originality.
However, I had always found Farmer's treatment of the premise rather shallow and not living up to its potential -- he was too content to let this idea with tremendous possibilities deteriorate into a series of long-winded and repetitive adventures. The City of the Saved, though, represents what Farmer should have done with this concept, and shows the true potential of the idea -- Purser-Hallard's contribution, therefore, while not very original, is definitely an improvement on Farmer's idea.
And aside from that, I now appreciate how well this concept fits in with the other material in the book. At first it seemed to clash terribly, something tacked on hastily at the last minute. But after re-reading the entries on Father Timon and the Rump Parliament, I can now see the vast spectrum of story-telling possibilities it allows. The City, and the mysteries and paradoxes surrounding it, adds some welcome spice to the Faction universe.
I therefore keenly anticipate reading Phil Purser-Hallard's Faction Paradox novel Of the City of the Saved to see how he follows up on the excellent groundwork he established in The Book of the War.
A Review by Rob Matthews 25/11/03
In a chilly London junkyard on a foggy winter's night stands an incongruous Police Public Call Box.
Two schoolteachers, investigating the behaviour of a very strange female pupil, force their way into this cubicle. Upon entering, they discover that the interior is even more incongruous: a huge control room. The box is revealed as a space-and-time-travelling vessel, and the girl and her mysterious grandfather as exiles from another world, another time. The schoolteachers are kidnapped.
Lawrence Miles cited this setup, in Lars Pearson's I, Who 2, as perhaps the basic attraction of Doctor Who to its fans. A simple idea with limitless potential, one whose mystery hooks the viewer's interest. Interesting with that in mind to compare Faction Paradox: The Book of the War with An Unearthly Child. Both are after all the opening gambits for their respective mythologies; curtain-raisers, pilots, primers, whatever you want to call them. The former hoped to hook the imagination of little kids and, with a bit of luck, their parents too, with its odd, edgy atmosphere of genuine, unworldy threat and the possibility of adventure in farway places. The latter aims itself far more deliberately at a specialised 'cult' audience - reader interest is assumed from the outset, so implicitly that linear narrative is not considered necessary, and the attraction here is not in its emotional hook, the lure into a universe of danger and adventure, but rather in diegetic complexity and a foregrounding of the knowing wit of the narrator/s. We're not led to expecting an unfolding mystery, an ongoing journey from this property, but rather endless fractal-like crenellations within a paradigm that is massive but already established. That is, it arrives in a sense pre-packaged, building up probably about half as much of its own mythology in one volume as its source text Doctor Who has accumulated over forty years of books and novels, and is very much tailored to the short attention span generation (from which I can't really exclude my fickle self).
The tone, however, feels just as contradictory as that of Doctor Who's opening episode, in its own way - here the tension is in the combination of awesome, take-your-breath-away scale, the appeal of Myth, mixed with a thoroughgoing cynicism and a tendency towards smartarsed pops at current pop culture. The sort of thing I'm told they do in cult entertainment du jour Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The War, of course, originated in the world of the BBC Doctor Who books. It had a good run there, but ultimately it was for the best that the Larryverse was finally wrenched away from the Whoniverse. One of the great things about Who, after all, is its capacity to give any number of storytellers their own crack of the whip, and at its best it has a devil-may-care attitude to that pettifogging little gremlin known as 'continuity'. Lawrence Miles' vision was one that encompassed whole universes, plural, and it was bloody fantastic, but what's brilliant about Doctor Who is its ability to shrug off its previous incarnations (much like the Doctor himself, then) - so we can have a run of Who fiction that inhabits completely Miles' vision of what this universe is and how it works, and we can believe in it for as long as that run lasts... but still have the option - nay, the necessity - of giving someone else's different, contradictory vision a go afterwards.
So, the War had to leave the Doctor Who universe - rather forcibly in the event - because it couldn't be allowed to permanently engulf it. It just became too big.
Big enough to become its own mythos? Certainly, on the evidence of this volume. But in a remarkably crowded Who marketplace, I'll be interested to see how well this range (of audios and comic books) does. Your average fan has only so much disposable income, so I guess in a crude sense this is a question of whether Faction Paradox will be worth the money, whether your putative cash-strapped fan would choose a BBV Paradox audio over a Big Finish Eighth Doctor one, a comic book over an EDA. And so on...
Well, I'm a cash-strapped fan. And rather putative too, even if I do say so myself. Will I give further Faction stuff a go, on the strength of this 'primer' volume?
The answer is a firm... maybe.
I have my doubts, because of the difference in attitude between Who and Paradox. Doctor Who is an essentially optimistic fiction, and an essentially escapist one. As I've said, if the Whoniverse gets overwhelmingly bleak you can just tear it down and make another one, hop into the TARDIS and zip off to another place and time. The Spiral Politic, on the other hand, is fundamentally pessimistic, rotten at the core. It doesn't matter where you hop off to, because wherever you go in all of space and time you're still going to bump into the same thing - the War. Because the War is everywhere, in every nook and cranny of everything that ever was or will be. That's the premise of The Book of the War really, and though it's conceptually massive and far-reaching it's also claustrophobic.
Plus I'm not keen on the snidey bits. The pops at Ally McBeal and 'reality' television I couldn't help applauding. The obligatory swipes at the Star Wars prequels just sort of made me tut - especially since the basic criticicism seemed to be that those films are too needlessly complicated (!) (!!) (!!!!!!!!). Still, the sideways references to what's going on in our own rotten little world right now hint at what, perhaps, is the real worth of fictions of this sort, their ability to face up to the un-face-up-to-able (in the words of Mayor Quimby) by being far removed enough not to whack into it head on.
Overall, ingenious entertaining stuff, and great myth-building, but a little too often it's predicated on mere puns (GCI, anyone?), and without proper narrative and full access to Miles' voice it's too flighty, not absorbing enough to be anything like as impressive as Interference or Dead Romance, or for that matter Rational Planet or Alien Bodies.
And to be honest - though I admit this is an entirely personal thing -, if I want bleak I'll read more Pynchon or Houellebecq. Who and Who-related is sort of the dessert of my reading diet, and I just don't want that sour taste on a regular basis. I want to get back to that blue box in that foggy junkyard, the possibility of escape in a never-ending range of flavours.
Objectively, though: very good, not excellent.
Oddly Readable by Jamas Enright 11/3/06
Take a lot of ideas about the Faction Paradox universe. I mean, a lot of ideas. No, way more than that. A whole truckload of ideas, involving the creative efforts of ten different authors. Then, encapsulate them in the form of an encyclopaedia, and you get The Book of the War, which covers everything from the beginning of history (as opposed to the beginning of the universe), to the history of the Great Houses, to the first fifty years of the War (which is always given a capital).
(Note that it is the Great Houses and not the Time Lords. There is no mention of Time Lords, Gallifrey or even the Doctor, but there are implicit references to those ideas, and indeed it's very hard not to have any references, especially in the Compassion entry.)
As an encyclopaedia, one can't really talk of a narrative structure, and encyclopaedias aren't really designed to be read in a linear fashion from entry ACADEMICIANS FOR GAME LOGIC to ZO LA DOMINI, but there are narrative strands that unravel as one reads from beginning to end. In particular, the story of the Shift (which is quite interesting) and of the events surrounding Michael Brookhaven and Faction Hollywood. This is typically done by having one entry reveal details, then mention an entry later in the book that gives even more details, which made me wonder how long the respective authors spent trying to think of entry names that fitted an alphabetical order.
There are a lot of extremely nifty ideas in here, including the two narrative strands mentioned above. I particularly liked the information on the Great Houses, and some of the more amusing entries are the HEAD OF THE PRESIDENCY, the GRANDFATHER'S ARM and most of the Compassion related entries.
Which isn't to say that it's all good. Most of the entries surrounding events in Earth's history sounded more like revisionist history and mythology that Lawrence Miles liked the sound of rather than Faction Paradox lore. And I quickly lost interest in the activities of the Star Chamber.
But a lot of this book is there to set up future stories. Notably, the entries surrounding the City of the Saved, which set up a lot of the mystery before one reads the actual book Of the City of the Saved... (see the review of that later). Given that there are ten authors involved, some of whom had written for the Future War arc previously, more than one of them must have decided to take the opportunity to set up elements for a book they were thinking of submitting later. I know I would have.
One of the biggest problems with this book is that it can't be read in a single setting, as it is so fragmented that trying to keep all the stories straight in your mind is a bit too much. One of the other problems is trying to find something you remember reading but can't recall in which entry, as many of the ideas here were just mentioned in passing rather than given a full entry of their own. Some kind of index would have been very useful.
So, great ideas here in The Book of the War, but not all great, and this book isn't a hundred percent accessible, but if you are interested in the Faction Paradox universe, this is an essential buy.
A Review by Matthew Clarke 17/4/12
Between the age of 11 and 14, I was massively into Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 game. This is a tabletop war game in a setting far into the future. Warhammer 40k is probably one of the most vivid and fascinating fictional universes ever created. I gave up Warhammer 40k when I was 14, but in my twenties I would actually buy the Games Workshop magazine, White Dwarf, not because I had taken it up again, but just to enjoy reading the background material. I think Warhammer 40k has gone downhill massively in recent years because of the efforts of Games Workshop editors to impose too much uniformity on their universe. They got rid of something that really made it work: the quirky sense of humour that characterised the background material in the early nineties. Reading The Book of the War reminds me of reading Warhammer 40,000 rulebooks and source books back in the early days of Warhammer 40k. It definitely has the feel of a role-playing source book, with all the elaboration on key characters and factions. It portrays a bleak and rather disturbing cosmos, yet embues that cosmos with a tongue-in-cheek humour. If the idea of buying a gaming book just to enjoy the source material makes any sense to you, then you are probably going to enjoy The Book of the War.
Lawrence Miles has always been much better at building worlds than coming up with effective plots. His books are always full of brilliant ideas, but tend to ramble and plod a little. This book therefore capitalises on his strengths by dispensing with any plot and just gives an A-Z guide to the various elements of the universe he effectively created out of Doctor Who. He is assisted in this by an imaginative group of writers notably including Simon Bucher-Jones and Mark Clapham, co-authors of the impressive Taking of Planet 5 within the BBC novels' original War in Heaven arc.
The key elements of the War in Heaven - Faction Paradox, Celestis, humanoid TARDISes, Mictlan and the mysterious Enemy - were all introduced by Miles in the BBC Doctor Who novels. Unfortunately, this stuff was too radical for the BBC range to handle properly so it was all retro-erased in The Ancestor Cell. The Book of the War undoes the destructive work of The Ancestor Cell and expands upon this new and disturbing version of the Whoniverse that we glimpsed in Alien Bodies.
For legal reasons, this can't be proper Doctor Who. There are possible references to the Doctor if you look for them, but this is a book about the universe he might have inhabited rather than about the man himself. The elements created by Miles himself, such as Faction Paradox and Compassion are allowed in, as well as Cwej and the Yssgaroth with the permission of their creators. Other key Doctor Who elements have had a change of name. Hence, we get the Great Houses in place of the Time Lords and timeships for TARDISes. The War King is thought to be the Master and the Imperator is definitely Morbius.
The Time Lords, or Great Houses, as they are called in the book, are very much Lawrence Miles vision of the Time Lords. His genius is to combine the two models of the Time Lords that we get in Doctor Who; the predominant Robert Holmes idea of a corrupt and sinister society and the early War Games image of god-like beings. The Great Houses are as Machiavellian as they get, but they are also shown to be an almost all-powerful elemental presence in the universe. It is the Great Houses who have made history what it is. The War is not exactly a physical assault on Gallifrey, but an attempt to overthrow history as the Time Lords have directed it.
The Book of the War does not reveal the identity of the Enemy (would you really want it to?), but does give some elaboration of how they fit into the concepts of the War. Cleverly, a list of entries is offered relating to the Enemy with some intriguing titles, but these are purposely missing. It's a very clever way to play with the reader.
I was very glad to see the use of the Yssgaroth, courtesy of Neil Penswick. These help to tie this world to the mythos of Doctor Who. We get some great discussion about their history and relation to the Time Lords. Neil Penswick never made clear in The Pit whether the Yssgaroth are supposed to be the same as the Great Vampires in State of Decay. The Book of the War essentially treats them as the same. It also introduces the Mal'akh, humans who have been tainted by the Yssgaroth. These are identified with the Nephilim of Genesis 6 in the Old Testament.
One has to admire the sheer scope of this book. It does not simply describe characters and settings but outlines an entire cosmology. As well as the satire of popular culture that one can expect in a Miles book, we also get explorations of philosophy and temporal physics. The book often offers conflicting perspectives on the various concepts and characters, some psychological, some scientific, others theological. This leaves a certain doubt about the whole truth of the War.
In the About Time guides to Doctor Who, Miles and Wood distinguished between science fiction and fantasy by arguing that science fiction deals with humanity's relation to tools, while fantasy deals with humanity's relation to symbols. The Book of the War is totally in the latter category. It is a book about symbols and concepts. For instance, Faction Paradox's 'Eleven Day Empire'. The historical change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar resulted in the loss of eleven calendar days. Rather than treating them as merely words and numbers on a paper calendar, these days are treated as having an independent existence which can be used as a stronghold for Faction Paradox. The Book of the War outlines a kind of Platonic metaphysics in which concepts have a real existence as entities. Hence a creature called a 'Memovore' can actually eat concepts! The concept of 'Biodata' does not seem radically different to Plato's concept of the 'Forms.'
One of the greatest aspects of the book is the playful use of language. Some of the titles of the entries are delightful: The Broken Remote, Production Hell, The Unkindnesses. Take the City of the Saved; a lot of readers were annoyed by that, thinking the idea of a city containing the resurrected form of every human who ever lived smacked of religion (there seems to be a big atheist contingent in fandom). Reading the word 'Saved' makes one assume that theological salvation is in mind. However, this is deconstructed in the novel Of the City of the Saved..., where somebody points out that 'saved' can refer to data being saved on to a disc or computer drive.
If you are fascinated by the Time Lords, if you enjoy exploration of the background of Doctor Who or you just love reading Lawrence Miles' leftfield ideas, you really need to read this book.