Sam is Missing
Sam is Missing Part Three
|ISBN||0 563 40585 6|
Synopsis: Dreamstone can preserve your dreams - or give you
nightmares. Separated from the Doctor, Sam gets caught up in a struggle
between the miners and ecological protesters. Until the killings start.
The Doctor tracks her down, but before he can reach her he discovers his
A Review by Michael Hickerson 21/8/98
As I've said before, I'm not a huge fan of Paul Leonard's Who novels. For the most part they are fairly good, but not on the same level of extraordinary as Kate Orman, Ben Aaronovich, or Paul Cornell. But, when I read his first eighth Doctor novel, Genocide, a few months ago, I wondered if I'd sold Mr. Leonard a bit short. In Genocide, I saw flashes of brilliance and intelligent storytelling that really made me look forward to his next novel, Dreamstone Moon.
Which may be why in the final analysis I'm a bit disappointed by the novel. Not that it was horrifically bad to the point I wanted to throw the book across the room, but it just wasn't terribly engaging. I kept reading not out of any sense of dramatic tension but more out of the need to finish the novel so I could move onto Seeing I.
And that's a shame really, because this novel had so much potential. The second installment in "Sam is gone" trilogy focuses a great deal on Sam, attempting to give her a few moments of character development. The problem is that she's changed very little in Leonard's view since Genocide, and we get the same portrait for her here. Instead of growing up and apart from the Doctor, Sam spends much of the novel wracked by guilt at leaving the Doctor for dead in Longest Day. At first, it's interesting to read, but after the first hundred or so pages, it gets a bit dull because Sam never rises above the guilt and pain to something better. Sam's opening scenes are fascinating to read, but her character becomes a blip on the radar later in the book when events on the Dreamstone Moon start to spiral out of control. She becomes less interesting than the secondary characters and in a novel that's meant to be a showcase for her, that's a major flaw.
One of my praises of Genocide was it took a cliched plotline and lifted it above that. Not the same thing can be said here. I quickly guesed the major plot twist early in the novel. The fact that once again the Doctor and Sam must fight against an evil company that is intent on destroying the natrual resources of a planet is an old one and one that was better realized in The Green Death. Leonard does have a couple of suprises along the way, most of which are rather transparent if you read closely enough.
Dreamstone Moon isn't a bad book on the scale of The Pit or War of the Daleks. But it's not a good one either. It sits firmly in the middle of the pack--as a book that had potential to be great but failed to live up to it.
Short and Snappy by Robert Smith? 1/10/98
Dreamstone Moon really is quite a snappy little book. It's very readable, has great pacing and flows quite well. This alone pushes it above the tedium of many of the books in the EDA line, so I'm inclined to think quite fondly of it.
However, there is a sense that not a whole lot happens, or that the things that do happen aren't as important as they should be. I'm not quite sure what it is about the book that causes this. It certainly isn't the writing style or the characters, most of whom are decent.
Sam is mostly okay here. Much of the book concerns her, but Leonard keeps the irritation factor minimal. She does join up with a bunch of political protesters, most of whom are as boring as she is, but fortunately Aloisse is a wonderful character. I'd dearly love to see her as a companion, despite the obvious limitations. Actually, thinking about it now, all my memories are of the Doctor and Aloisse and I can't recall Sam doing very much. It certainly seemed like she was more important to the proceedings, but I don't think she did very much that was memorable.
The Doctor suffers a little bit from a feeling of irrelevancy, but is otherwise okay. He seems to spend most of his time just a step behind Sam's movements, which seems a little odd, given how quickly he managed to catch up with the Kusk ship. There's no explanation given for just how he manages this, by the way. It looks as though it were relatively easy to find... although that would invalidate most of the premise behind Legacy of the Daleks. If it wasn't so easy to find and he'd spent a great deal of time searching, I think we really should have been told. It's frustrating when a line or two could clear these things up so easily.
Cleomides seems to wander all over the place, in terms of her motivation. Alternately she's caring and just doing her duty and then she's being cruel and malicious. There are quite a number of authorial comments on the nature or not of her 'evil'. I think Leonard really had a theme he wanted to get across with her character, only it doesn't seem to have translated too well.
The Doctor and Sam constantly being in the vicinity of each other and yet never quite meeting is almost comical in its absurdity (it reminds me of The Romans, except here it isn't played for laughs). This is combined with Sam constantly thinking the Doctor is dead, then alive, then dead again. I can't help but feel that some more distance should have existed between the two characters. If it were the Doctor on the trail of Sam, I could understand, but they keep switching roles, for no apparent reason.
The nature of the Dreamstone itself... well, it really had a feeling that we've seen it all before. This isn't actually so bad, as Leonard (perhaps wisely) doesn't present it as a shock revelation, but uses it more as background material. I also really like the idea of the military destroying things in their own imagination. It's a pity we didn't get to see more of this, actually. It gets introduced fairly late in the book via a character who appears once, but it turns out to explain earlier events. I had to reread parts of this quite a few times to put it all together.
The anti-alien feeling of the humans was also fairly effective. Aloisse's torture was very painful, up there with Just War and Warlock for effective torture scenes. It's a credit to Leonard's powers of characterisation (which, when he's "on", are great) that we feel so deeply for Aloisse's plight. I haven't cared this much about a supporting character for a long time.
All in all Dreamstone Moon is an odd little book. The first half seems very inconsequential and the second still feels underdone. However, the style and pace are fabulous, making this very readable. It feels like a Target novelisation, to be devoured in a matter of hours, instead of days. Not awful and not brilliant, but somehow 'middle of the road' doesn't quite fit either.
A Review by Finn Clark 25/2/99
In Paul Leonard's books, it generally seems to be the side-issues that make them enjoyable. I love his first, Venusian Lullaby, so much because the Venusians are such wonderful creatures about whom I cared deeply and wanted to know what happened to them. Dave Owen loves Speed of Flight for its careful depiction of a low-gravity planet. Whatever turns you on...
What made this book enjoyable for me (and probably for no other reader in existence) was the rounded and fully realised portrayal of the future, in which we finally get a proper look at the era after the Dalek invasion. We have a host of new and credible alien races, some of them silly but all of them interesting and convincingly portrayed. We have the Space Marines in their black-and-gold armour, evoking resonances of the later Adjudicators in their blue-and-gold armour. We even have little touches like the fact that light anti-Dalek guns are still standard issue to the military on non-Dalek missions, implying a period after Dalek Invasion of Earth when mankind systematically hunted down and exterminated every last Dalek they could lay their hands on. They succeeded, too... Daleks are not a galactic threat again until the 26th century (perhaps Daleks were at the conference in Earthshock?) Apparently there were also Dalek Killers in the 22nd century as well as the 26th, although the circumstances were presumably different. It doesn't seem that only convicted murderers were sent on Exile DK. Mankind is bigoted and heavy-handed, with Earth frantically brandishing power that Legacy of the Daleks suggests it doesn't necessarily have.
It's nominally in authority, but stories like The Happiness Patrol, The Macra Terror and Vengeance on Varos show that the colonies of this era could in fact do pretty well what they liked... and many did.
Suddenly the era has a shape that it didn't have before. The 23rd century isn't the same as the 24th. With my historian's hat on, I like that. On the other hand, Toy Soldiers and Genocide were both morality plays, deriving most of their force from tricky moral choices... and that's what this book is really about too. Stupidity isn't endearing or funny -- it gets your friends killed. "But I thought I was doing the right thing" isn't much of an argument when you're saying it to a corpse. Nothing is easy. There's no obvious moral line. In the Krakenites and Aloisse, Paul Leonard might seem to have created another Good Alien, much like the Tractites and the Venusians, but in fact we can't be sure. In this book, nothing is certain. There is an evil mining company and a heroic group of environmental activists... or is it the other way around? We saw something similar in Kursaal, didn't we? The laws of supply and demand put food on the table, even if they damage others in the process. Even for the Doctor, the eventual solution to the problem isn't easy or obvious.
This lack of clear good guys could be one reason why some people have found this book grim and cheerless -- I can only say that I didn't find it so. In fact, there were a couple of witty touches which almost made me laugh out loud. Paul Leonard can tell a joke as well as anyone, although admittedly he doesn't often give himself the chance.
Talking of good guys... We have the Doctor and Sam. Really, this is Sam's book (though less so than Legacy of the Daleks was the Doctor's...) Apparently stranded in the 23rd century after Longest Day, Sam has a great deal to face up to. Much of the book is from her point of view and, thankfully, she's becoming more and more tolerable as time goes on. She was one of the (few) redeeming features of Michael Collier's book and she's just as sympathetic here. Her political opinions do not make her silly or stupid. She's not infallible, but we can see why she does what she does and we keep reading on her behalf.
One complaint: that bloody cat which the Doctor acquired in some previous book or other. What is that? Do they think we're getting nostalgic for Wolsey or something? Having a cat in the TARDIS was always faintly annoying, but it becomes downright stupid with a pair of bats flapping around (as was re-emphasised in Vampire Science, in which they were even named!) Bats may not strictly speaking be flying rodents (as the Batman comics keep calling them) but I doubt the cat cares. And please, don't anyone start protesting that the bats can just fly up out of reach. Birds try that. Doesn't always work...
Anyway, I liked the book. It's not bad, although I can see why some people have found it a bit grinding. It's no more upbeat than Genocide was (I don't think Paul Leonard really does "upbeat") and its story is on a more modest scale, but it's convincing and tells its story well.
It's hard SF, for what it's worth, and executed smoothly. Seven out of ten.
The curse of Paul Leonard's infamous non-endings strikes again! by Andrew McCaffrey 11/6/01
Putting this book inside the Sam Is Missing arc was probably a very bad idea. While most of this story is rather enjoyable, the ending really suffers because of the lack of a resolution at the end. Not only do the Doctor and Sam fail to meet up again, but the story itself just sputters out without a satisfactory conclusion. Both of these elements seem to highlight the other, making the ending of the book a huge disappointment. Obviously I realize that since this is the middle part of a multi-book series, there isn't going to be a ultimate conclusion to all of the threads, but to leave so many of them hanging (including pieces from the story itself) really leaves the reader feeling unsatisfied.
On the other hand, the parts leading up to the (lack of) ending are quite interesting. The story moves quickly enough so that we never grow bored with any of it and the revelations come quickly enough so that one doesn't have to time to think about them too much. The characters painted are quite interesting as we get to know them, though there are some annoying passages in which Sam gets teamed up with a substitute Doctor and the Doctor gets paired up with a replacement companion. Though the surrogates are interesting characters in their own rights, they share too many of the qualities of the missing half and it ends up feeling a bit contrived.
The plot centers on a substance called dreamstone, which is used by humans to record and play back dreams. This subject has been done a few times before in science fiction, yet Leonard manages to keep things fresh here. He never goes into a great amount of detail concerning the specifics of what dreamstone is, and this allows the plot to stay on track without getting bogged down with boring technobabble.
All in all this is an entertaining, if light, read. This book is quite a bit shorter than the BBC book average, so it won't take the reader very long to get through. While this may help the beginning and middle sections, it probably ends up accenting the unsatisfactory nature of the ending.
A Review by Brian May 3/7/06
I'm quite a fan of Paul Leonard's books, so it hurts me to say that I didn't like Dreamstone Moon that much. It's not terrible, but just so boring. Dull. Unengaging. Often tedious.
And more's the pity, for there are some excellent ideas. A strong feature of Leonard's work is the creation of varied and wonderful alien concepts and beings. It's all present and correct here and to his credit much of it is quite good - the dreamstones, their purpose and origin, and the true nature of the threat facing the colony, while not Speed of Flight/Ursula Le Guin amazing, are still inspired sci-fi. Similarly the Krakenites, Arachnons, Zmm-Zmms and the feline whatever-it-is that's Jono are all fine examples of inventive alien species. Most of the characters are well rounded and believable: the two Arachnons are a great comic double act! Sam presents a few problems (so tell us something we don't know, I hear you cry!) On the plus side, she has been improving; there's a more definitively outlined characterisation peeking through, as indeed the current story arc has intended. It's great to read that she's allowing the benefit of the doubt for the miners as well as the environmentalists (p.39); an earlier Sam would have joined the latter immediately in a flash of trendy liberal/left-wing teenager cliche. But there remains a lot of the patchy, underdeveloped Sam Jones that (most) authors had problems writing: Leonard has factored in the improving elements whilst retaining the dull, "fundamental" companion; another pity given the great job he did in Genocide. The other character I didn't like was Aloisse; while her species is interesting, she's nothing more than a larger, tentacled version of Sam - which is the last thing we need at this moment in time!
Leonard's distinctive writing style is also present: for example, actions carried out by characters in the style of a news headline ("Daniel nodded, stood up" - p.125; "she caught up with him, grabbed his arm" - p.157; "she nodded, accelerated to a run" - p.139). It was noticeable in his previous books, but flowed well enough to be accepted as a facet of his writing. But in this novel it's positively intrusive. It occurs in almost every other sentence, along with all the other snappy, comma-saturated prose. It feels laboured, as if the author is simply going through the motions; a trademark has simply become formula. That's not to say that it's all bad; the manic stream of consciousness monologues as characters go through all sorts of hell are effective - Sam on p.144; Anton's psychoses - but on the whole a lot of sparkle is lost.
The pace of the story is another factor in its downfall. It drags on - and on. It reminds me of Toy Soldiers, up till now Leonard's weakest book. All the major set pieces are ponderous: Sam's rescue from the Kusk ship is unbelievably mind-numbing. Sam and Aloisse in the dozer; Sam checking on the Kekkikk's; the attack on the moonbase and its aftermath; Sam and Anton inside the Dreamstone cavern - these moments all move like a crippled snail. And ironically the conclusion is rushed and the Doctor's action - persuading a man to kill himself - is glossed over with nothing more than a few melodramatic lines. The book is also quite didactic: segregation is bad, kids, as Aloisse's predicament shows us; xenophobia is bad, boys and girls, as demonstrated by Cleomides's behaviour. A little more subtlety, please, Paul!
Although it's obeying the rules of the story arc, the separation of the Doctor and Sam at the end seems awkward and more than a bit artificial. It lacks the edgy drama of the climax of Longest Day. From that story's post-script, readers know this is going to be a four-book saga (perhaps not a wise move on part of BBC Books' editorship). Keeping Sam absent from Legacy of the Daleks worked for the purpose of suspense. But because Dreamstone Moon is only the third instalment it's evident there'll be yet another means of keeping the Doctor and Sam apart. So the climax of this book is more obligatory, rather than fulfilling any need for dramatic tension.
So it pains me to declare Dreamstone Moon is not a very enjoyable book. From an author who's written some really great stuff, it feels tired. Paul Leonard has tried to maintain some of his old magic, but only partially succeeds. 3.5/10