THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Telos Publishing
Citadel of Dreams

Author Dave Stone
Published 2002
ISBN 1-903889-04-9 (standard hardback, 10)
1-903889-05-7 (deluxe hardback, 25)
FeaturingThe Seventh Doctor and Ace

Published by Telos Publishing Ltd.
c/o 5a Church Road, Shortlands, Bromley, Kent, BR2 0HP, England.
Synopsis: In the city-state of Hokesh, time plays tricks; the present is unreliable, the future impossible to intimate. A derelict street child, Joey Quine, finds himself subject to horrifying visions and fugues. His only friend in this, the only one to whom he can turn for help, is a mysterious stranger who calls herself Ace. And in an unknowable future the Doctor is busily inciting a state of bloody unrest, on the basis that one must be cruel to be kind - simultaneously, for preference.


Reviews

A Review by Finn Clark 14/3/02

I wanted to love this. I'm a Dave Stone fan and I think the novellas are great, a perfect length for Doctor Who. Unfortunately this is my least favourite Stone book. It's his version of Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible, and you know how much I disliked that one.

No spoilers.

Firstly: the foreword. Initially I hated it (and normally I love commentary, even the pompous spoiler-laden diarrhoea you'll find in the front of academic editions of 19th-century classics). On second reading I discovered that I actually enjoyed much of it, but I'm not sure that a foreword is the best place for a book review. I got far more from reading Cartmel's foreword after I'd consumed the book, and I'd recommend others do the same.

As for the novella itself... well, it's confusing. It's another book in which you don't know what's real. Unless it's obvious that the impossible events are never going to be explained and the whole point of the story is to delight in them for their own sake (Alice in Wonderland, The Scarlet Empress) then this reader spends all his time tapping his fingers and waiting to find out the explanation. One isn't interested in characters who take the world at face value and merely run around ineffectually in it. Which is, basically, everyone except the TARDIS crew. Oh dear oh dear.

The original characters feel passive. They do stuff, yes, but it's nothing that looks likely to advance the plot. Halfway through I felt myself nodding off. It's not helped by the fact that except when Ace is onstage, the book is surprisingly humourless. Hokesh is a grim place. Dave Stone is being ironic rather than witty.

But the regulars... they're lively! They're funny! They're almost entirely absent! Ace is a breath of fresh air and the source of some good jokes once she arrives, but the story spends far too much time drifting in a dream-like state until then. Again like Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible, the best stuff is in the second half with the arrival of active protagonists. We also get some rules for the weirdness, which makes it more interesting.

However I loved the fact that the Big Twist we all saw coming twenty pages off was never stated. It's clearly implied, but the text never actually serves it up with a "ta-daaa!". This flatters the reader's intelligence rather than patronising it, and adds depth.

Overall, I found this a disappointment. Like the early NAs, it feels like it's trying too hard to be different. However I'd like yet again to sing the praises of the novella length... even a story that doesn't seem to be going anywhere is still fast-paced enough to pull you along. Ace's scenes are fun and lively, and as always with Stone there's plenty of originality and skewed perspectives. I might reread this sometime. It's not perfect, but it's certainly not worthless either.

P.S. SPOILER (for anyone who's wondering what I meant by the Big Twist)

Thanks to acausality, Joey Quine will grow up to become Magnus Solaris.


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 9/7/02

The Doctor's Companion off on a mission, not quite knowing why, but knowing she must find a certain Golden Child. The Doctor in the background, manipulating the elements at his disposal from the shadows. This will be the 7th Doctor then.

In the introduction by Andrew Cartmel (the fellow who invented this shadowy Doctor) he says, "I've often advocated the tactic of using the 7th Doctor sparingly or concealing his presence, thereby to add to his mystique and enhance the potency of his presence when he finally does appear". It sums up nicely what many of the New Adventures Writers were trying to do. It also is the perfect introduction to Citadel of Dreams - because that is exactly what Dave Stone is up to in this Novella.

I have to admit though that for the first three-quarters of the book I was confused by the lack of Doctor and Companion. He was in there fleetingly, as was Ace, but this was a story about Joey Quine (the Golden Child) and Hokesh (the City where he lives). There were many instances where I lost the plot, wondering how this fitted in with the DW universe I knew. Where I glanced over the last few pages in an attempt to understand where we were and what this was all about.

That aside I found Hokesh a fascinating place. Full of dark alleys and intrigue, it came alive off the page. Dave Stone's prose moves around a hell of a lot. There isn't the normal logical progression of events (looking back on it when I had finished though, there was more than I thought on 1st read). Stone sensibly restricts his characters to 2. There's Joey Quine, the street urchin whose book this is more than anyones. There's Magnus Solaris, the man in power of this backwater place. The Doctor is hardly in it, he is not in main focus till the last 15 pages, but this is because the author is keen on Cartmel's treatise as stated in the Introduction. This is the elusive 7th incarnation, after all. He's the Chess player, moving the pawns (of which Ace is the main one) around the board. Ace is sent to find Joey, but she doesn't appear till three quarters of the way in. When she does she's the angry Ace, who feels she has been used by the Doctor. But she must know by now that the Doctor is using her in this way. How many more times do we have to have angry Ace having a go at the Doctor for sending her on a mission that she is ultimately (when she knows all the facts) against. Ace is either a very stupid girl, or actually likes being used in this way.

The strength of the book is in the life and experiences of Joey and the descriptions of the place he lives. We are left with a very vivid and real picture of an unusual person and a very strange place. The ending also leaves the book wide open for a return, and I would be happy to return there someday. Joey Quine is a very good character - he is deserving of all the attention he gets from the writer.

I have read a few Dave Stone books, and this is the first one that I have liked. Maybe the famous Dave Stone meanderings away from the main plot, and then back to it, suit the Novella format. I left the book feeling that Dave Stone was a good writer, and I have never felt that before. Citadel of Dreams is a good book. It is the sort of book that you finish, and glance back through. This second look actually brings out more enjoyment, and you can see where all the pieces fit together. There's also a lot in there for a Novella - another success for Telos Publishing. 7/10


Two out of Five by Jamas Enright 12/11/02

Another rule to add to 'don't read the blurbs': Don't read forewords. What is it about people that they feel they must reveal important plot points right before the reader finds them out? But, after I got past that, it was onto the book.

Being a shorter book, it should have taken less time to read it, but not for me. Although the main factor there was that I didn't like this book. I brought it largely because Dave Stone was the writer, but in Citadel of Dreams we are treated to the style of Dave Stone in excess without the content. Plot is forgone for the chance to bring out another aspect of story writing for examination. The word I'm looking for here is: pretentious.

As a novella, there wasn't the page count there to really develop a lot of concepts, so instead we need a different hook to get involved. Dave Stone chose the path of playing with language to evoke a sense of distortion, that the events playing out have a deeper meaning that is slowly revealed. The problem is that this comes across as rather irritating, almost high-handed in thinking that the audience will hang on while the author takes time. I actually felt a sense of relief when I realised there was only twenty pages to go, and it was only when the prospect of reading this story further was nearing an end that I really made an effort to get through the rest of it.

The story itself isn't deep in the underlying concept, but what we have here is more creating an atmosphere. Whilst the exact nature was played out in a new way, I did feel that we had seen this before (a certain big production movie of a few years ago came to mind more than once). It isn't until the end that there's an upswing in events, but by that point it's too late. I did like the introduction of seemingly mundane tasks of their world, such as eating, as something alien.

Due to the length, the characters of the Doctor and Ace weren't the most fleshed out creations, indeed little more that cardboard cut-outs of themselves. There is a nice twist earlier on where Dave Stone plays on the audience's knowledge, but other than that the characters are running in first gear.

The only character really worth mentioning is Joey Quine, but even then I kept having the nagging feeling we'd seen him before, although he was more of a conglomeration of previous characters more than a direct copy. Another character include Magnus Solaris, who comes across to me as a future version of Joey, not a predecessor, although even then it's not exactly clear how the events in each 'stream' (as it were) relate to each other. The Dracori are different aliens, but once again the shortness of the book tells against developing them too deeply.

I got Citadel of Dreams because of Dave Stone, but I won't be looking to repeat the Doctor Who novella experience any time soon.


A Review by John Seavey 4/2/03

I'm probably not the best person to present an unbiased review here, since I'm an unabashed Dave Stone fan. I've enjoyed everything he's written (I think I must be one of six actual Oblivion fans on the face of the planet), and as far as I'm concerned, he could write up a summary of a 1984 episode of "Washington Week in Review", and I'd think it was great. So when I say I loved Citadel of Dreams, please do keep in mind that I'm horrendously biased.

But I did love Citadel of Dreams. The plot has a decent twist to it (although, for a variety of reasons, I did spot the twist coming), the concepts involved are clever, the dialogue's funny (even if this, his first rendition of Ace in his nine-plus Who books and Who spinoff books, doesn't quite seem on-model), and on the whole, I just loved it to bits.

I believe that the true measure of a plot twist isn't "Will they see this coming?", but "Is this well-written enough that they'll enjoy it even if they do see it coming?" Like riding a roller-coaster, sometimes the anticipation of the curve is as important as the curve itself. Hence, when I learned about the "big twist" of this novella, mostly through peeking ahead at Finn Clark's review, it wasn't a question of spoiling the novella, but more a question of building anticipation for the big moment.

The regulars... well, I've always liked the way that Stone handled the seventh Doctor, keeping him either metaphorically or literally off-screen while he did his big important work in the shadows. He continues that here, and has Ace do most of the dirty work. Ace... well, I have to say that I really liked the character Dave Stone wrote, but I must be honest and say that it wasn't quite Ace. Close... it seemed, in fact, like a bizarre amalgamation of young Ace and "Time's Vigilante" Ace... but not quite accurate to the real thing. She still had some funny lines, though.

In fact, the whole book was pretty funny, I thought... my favorite bit comes when you realize that the inhabitants of the City don't eat, they just chew their food and spit it out -- a realization caused by Joey's utter horror at Ace's ability to put food in her mouth and just keep putting it there. It's a great comedy moment.

Again, I freely admit to not being the most reliable witness here -- this might be an awful book, and I've just lost my sense of perspective. But if you're a Dave Stone fan like me, you'll definitely love Citadel of Dreams. If you're not... well, I'm sure you know your own tastes by now.


Dreamy by Robert Smith? 25/3/03

Like many, I was skeptical about Telos's use of established Doctor Who authors. After promising us the best and brightest of British SF writers, two of the first four books are by Dave Stone and Keith Topping. Ri-i-ight. This should have been a recipe for disaster for the fledgling publisher, regardless of one's opinions of those authors. It may yet be. The sales figures may prove me wrong, but hitting us with two prolific authors who haven't exactly been chart toppers seems like an extremely odd choice. But credit where it's due: Telos has pulled some good stuff out of its established writers, because Citadel of Dreams is utterly fabulous.

I've been a big fan of Dave Stone in the past, but since his return to the BBC, he's produced works that have mostly been self-plagiarism (or self-parody at best), with wacky and surreal goings-on occurring simply because his name was on the cover. There's been a tiredness and a sense that this was a writer whose best work was behind him.

Citadel proves otherwise. A large part of that is the story length. Dave Stone is one of the few writers able to make a short story entertaining, so it might not be so surprising that he adapts so well to the novella format. It's a format that lends itself remarkably well both to his style in particular and Doctor Who storytelling in general.

For a start, there's a limited playing field, which really helps. With only one additional character and a single location, this could have gone disastrously (especially as the Doctor and Ace are absent for large parts of the book), but it never gets boring. The location is interesting enough not to feel stale and Joey Quine's newfound powers give us a great way to experience the city and its inhabitants.

The two timezones work very well indeed. Return to the Fractured Planet had something similar, but here the timezones connect marvellously, ala Time's Crucible. The fact that you can see the twist coming doesn't spoil it in the slightest. The bizarreness feels organic, rather than imposed, which is a significant improvement over Dave's recent books.

The title is a bit of an oddity, though. It only has a tangential relationship to the story within. In fact, I remember Dave Stone using this very title in a rec.arts.drwho running joke about a lost Colin Baker story many years ago. It is a nice title, so it's probably no surprise that it eventually found its way into official publication one way or another.

The Doctor and Ace don't appear all that much, but this also works. I'm still confused about whether "Smith" was the Doctor or not - the fact that one of them carries a cane and the other an umbrella suggests not, but the effect of Joey looking into his mind suggests that it might be. Then there's the bigger on the inside room on page 46, which may or may not be the TARDIS. I'm still not sure about these elements and I don't think that's deliberate. I like Dave's style a lot; even when it's annoying, at least it's a voice unlike any other in the range. But sometimes a little clarity wouldn't go astray.

The novel also appears to be set between Dragonfire and Remembrance of the Daleks (the presence of the baseball bat gives this away, as well as Ace's comment about mostly just hanging out in spaceport bars), which is actually a gap we've never explored before. That surprised me greatly, although it must be said that absolutely nothing is done with it. I'm undecided on whether that's a good thing or not. There's also some comics continuity with Gog and Magog being mentioned in the novel's only throwaway line of continuity. I'll admit that's pretty obscure, but it still felt extremely jarring.

Other than that, I really enjoyed Citadel of Dreams. It's an excellent story that doesn't deserve to live in the shadow of Time and Relative, although it almost certainly will. This book brings out the best of Dave Stone and reminds us why that was good to begin with. It's eminently readable and the shorter page length really helps. The novellas are really trying hard to win us over and thus far they're succeeding. Highly recommended.


Cartmel of Daves by Andrew McCaffrey 14/1/04

It seemed appropriate that Dave Stone's Citadel of Dreams would have a foreword by Andrew Cartmel, as a number of elements in the novella reminded me of the latter's own Doctor Who books. The Seventh Doctor is used quite sparingly, and is only really onscreen for a handful of pages. The book deals with psychic powers, something that Cartmel was fond of employing (in his fiction, I mean). Ace has a house, not totally unlike the dwelling at Allen Road that serves as her base of operations. And, of course, there's the old Cartmel standby: people soiling themselves. Oh dear; maybe some things would be better left unstolen.

But superficial comparisons to Andrew Cartmel's work aside, I really found myself enjoying this. Of the Dave Stone books I've read so far, I would rate this as probably his strongest work. It contains a lot of the sort of thing that we've seen before from Stone, but it feels fresh and not at all tired. I get the impression that the shorter size of the novella format caused Stone to rely on his strengths. And as I'm someone who appreciates those strengths but fears his self-indulgences, I was grateful for that.

The story concerns a city -- a city that we see from two separate time zones. At first, we aren't sure exactly how far apart temporally these two eras are. In one time, labeled "before", we see a run-down, decaying inner city, with random crime and brutal, unfeeling authorities. In the "after" zone, there exists a utopia of sorts. But the people there seem to possess whacking great holes in their knowledge. The reader is lead through the mystery via a character named Joey Quine, who lives in the "before" time and has strange psychic abilities.

I really enjoyed the parts of the story told from Quine's point of view. The sections concerning him coming to terms with and then taking advantage of his own unique mental abilities are told with sensitivity and style. This sort of thing could easily have been hokey and cliched, but Dave Stone did a really good job, and frankly, I'm surprised; I didn't think he was capable of pulling it off.

It's extremely well paced; I managed to read the entire thing in one sitting while looking to kill some time before (what turned out to be) the final Baltimore Ravens game of the 2003 season (sob!). The plot is not easy to follow, but rewarding when it all comes together at the end. I thought I was clever by spotting the book's Big Surprise by the midway point, but looking at reviews on the 'net, apparently everyone else figured it out too. I should mention that guessing what the twist was didn't diminish anything, as seeing how the story got there was still fun.

Of course, some of Dave Stone's more annoying authorial tendencies are also on display here. He has a habit of throwing italics around with abandon to emphasize particular words, rather than structuring the sentence in such a way that the word is highlighted by the grammar instead of the font. (You know the type of thing I'm talking about. Pg 34: "...it was hard to even think about it in terms of description..." Pg 31: "...there were certain obvious things he could do..." Pg 77: "...certain things that she liked about this world...") Although I find this annoying, repetitive and lazy, I'm not usually bothered by it when used in moderation. But here Stone seems to rely too heavily on this voice, using it sometimes three times a page. And, I swear, if Stone ever again describes an alien as being "too different to describe" or "something which the human brain cannot possibly understand", I'll jump out the window. Okay, so Stone obviously can't describe an "otherness" concept without falling back on the same stock phrases. But can't we create some new stock phrases? Please?

Overall, I enjoyed Citadel of Dreams. It tells a good story quickly. Although the beginning is slow to get started, by the end the plot is bouncing along. It's a great way to spend a few hours; I just hope it brings you better luck than it brought me.