THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS


The Horror of Fang Rock
Planet of Fire
Shakedown
Virgin Publishing
Lords of the Storm

Author David A. McIntee Cover taken from the excellent Doctor Who books home page
ISBN# 0 426 20460 3
Published 1995
Continuity Between Resurrection of the Daleks and
Planet of Fire

Synopsis: The colony world of Raghi holds the secret to victory for the Sontarans over their ancient enemies, the Rutans.


Reviews

A Review by Shaun Lyon 15/8/99

I like the double-release events . . . you know, when they take a concept and stretch it over the New & Missing Adventures of the month. Lords of the Storm is part of one of those double-releases... it ties in nicely with Shakedown (see separate review), although other than the fact that the Sontarans are in both and there is a character name that could be a completely different character altogether if things had worked differently, it's a stand-alone.

Lords of the Storm is a decent action-adventure yarn featuring the return of the Sontarans, those evil nasties that plagued the Doctor in such stories as The Time Warrior, The Sontaran Experiment and The Invasion of Time. Never truly developed beyond anything but being a cardboard creation, the Sontarans were begging for further literary enhancement. So were the Rutans, noted in their one and only series appearance (Horror of Fang Rock) as being the eternal enemies of the Sontarans. So we have this war, ongoing for hundreds of thousands of years, between two forces that have only been speculated about in both series and books. Lords brings the Sontarans to the forefront, becoming not only thoroughly vile but extremely bureaucratic, their caste system an interesting juxtaposition to that of the planet Raghi, the center of action for the novel.

Raghi is a world settled upon by Hindu descendants; basically, a New India in space. The caste system there would almost be a parody if it wasn't real... but then again, I don't have the right to judge other belief systems. The Doctor and Turlough, fresh from the events of Resurrection of the Daleks, have come to Raghi and meet up with a young lady named Nur, her father, a strange physician and a myriad of other characters that unfortunately start to blend together toward the end. Raghi is unfortunately already under the might of the Sontarans, although nobody realizes it yet; they're looking to create new Sontaran clones using the population of Raghi, which already is infected with a retrovirus that will ease the transition. From there, it becomes a race to the finish, as the Doctor and Turlough are separated and join forces with different players, going back and forth between Raghi, one of its moons (site of a science facility) and a Sontaran War Wheel ship in order to stop the Sontaran invasion force.

Okay, I will admit that on first glance, this looks like a winning novel. Pity that you could take out the middle 150 pages or skip them altogether, and you'd still have the same plot. Action-adventure shoot-em-up let's-all-run-around-on-a-madcap-chase stories work well on television; how many Who adventures on the small screen consisted of an arrival, a tag line, the hint of a story and a lot of run-around-let's-nail-the-bad-guys? (The aforementioned Resurrection of the Daleks, for example, had no story; it was just action-adventure.) In a novel, it becomes dull and uninteresting. The author, who admitted he was writing a space opera, introduces a wonderful world and then relies on the interesting parts of that planet to carry the story. Unfortunately, for about those 150 pages I mentioned, nothing really important happens.

There is a sense of continuity, especially with the introduction of the character that will continue on to Shakedown (although there's no tie from that novel back to this one), but no real attempt to tell anything other than your standard Resurrection-like bang-bang. I'd have enjoyed more of the mystery if it had been more interesting, more mysterious. Lords of the Storm is a diverting read, but nowhere near the space opera epic the author intends it to be.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 23/10/00

A tie-in novel with Shakedown, although the two aren`t directly connected, but is it a winner?

PLOT: The colony world of Raghi is the key to a Sontaran ambush over the Rutan host. Unfortunately, illness is wiping out the lower classes and their plan threatens to destroy the cosmos. A bit clichéd really; a shame.

THE DOCTOR: Poorly written coming across as bland and generic; a shame given that David McIntee`s strengths are usually in his characterisation.

COMPANION: Much better is Turlough, his background is expanded upon, without spoiling the revelations that follow in Planet Of Fire, and his strengths are utilised well.

VILLAINS: The Sontarans are really used well here, comparisons are drawn between them and humans, giving them some sort of reader identification. The Rutan though are even better, given that they are often overshadowed by the Sontarans; here they are seen to be acting as a singular entity with similair aims.

OVERALL: Whilst the storyline is somewhat straightforward and the writing doesn`t exactly grab you, the characterisation is by and large the books selling point. Just don`t read it with high expectations though, you might be disappointed. 6/10.


A Review by Finn Clark 1/5/02

This ain't a popular book. Even David McIntee slags it off, but personally I've always liked it. It might not be the fast-paced space opera o' shootouts and spaceships that the author's introduction thinks it is, but that doesn't mean it can't have other charms. In my opinion, McIntee's literary experiments generally haven't worked. Autumn Mist goes nowhere, Mission Impractical ain't funny, Bullet Time isn't much of anything, etc. However that doesn't mean incidental pleasures can't be squeezed out along the way (and besides, experimentation is a Good Thing, if only on general principles).

My first reaction: bad prose, bad prose! Dear God. It's like drowning in quicksand. Thankfully it soon improves, but not before I've had to backtrack several times to understand what's going on.

The plot's also a bit lackadaisical. The first half involves lots of running around, while the second half sees the Doctor and his friends mostly standing on the sidelines while the Sontarans and Rutans kick hell out of each other. I can see why some found this boring, but even on a second read I enjoyed it. Here's some good things that saved the book for me:

  1. The Sontarans have never been portrayed better - no, not even by Lance in The Infinity Doctors. This was the first Sontaran novel and McIntee goes all-out creating Sontaran background - castes, uniforms, genetic engineering, etc. He even includes a helpful appendix at the back for the benefit of future authors. These are heavy, oily, stamping evil bastards with lots of stage presence. Sontarans have never been my favourite monsters, but here I thought they worked well.
  2. The regulars are fairly good, too. Davison's no worse than in most other books, while Turlough is terrific. It's his best portrayal in the books to date, though admittedly there isn't much competition for this title. Sometimes his thought processes are a little clumping, but that's a problem for everyone in Lords of the Storm so one simply learns to live with it. He's Avon from Blake's Seven, basically. We also learn a bit about Trion - and it doesn't sound like a particularly nice place.
  3. The planet. McIntee's Oriental settings (Shadow of Weng-Chiang, Bullet Time) bored the arse off me, but I was really drawn in by this Indian one. It's probably a personal thing since I've seen people complain about precisely this aspect of the book, but for me it was a big plus.
The Sontarans' plan is actually quite clever. The book sensibly starts off with the potato-heads killing lots of people, which grabbed my attention and settled me down happily. I couldn't read this in long stretches for some reason, but definitely enjoyed the short snatches I ended up grabbing here and there. It's not a particularly accomplished book and it's certainly not stylish, but on the straightforward level of monsters doing bad stuff, I had fun with it.