|ISBN||0 563 55570 X|
|Synopsis: It's the age of peace and love and drugs, man. The Revolution Man has what you need and anarchy is going to change the world forever.|
A Review by Finn Clark 6/4/99
A real oddity. I'll elaborate shortly.
No one could call Paul Leonard flashy. His books have always been solid, if not stolid. He likes moral ambiguities and thorny dilemmas, rarely going for the evil guy in the black hat. At its best, this can provide powerful drama, though at its worst, it's a cure for insomnia. I'd quite like to see Paul forced to write for the Master, though I rather suspect that he'd still produce a morally shaded tale of sympathetic aliens and lots of angst.
Paul's best books, IMO, have been the ones where the moral contrasts are strongest. Venusian Lullaby had that in spades, also Toy Soldiers and Genocide. On the other hand, Dancing the Code, Speed of Flight and Dreamstone Moon evoke no memories other than bland, unmemorable space-filler whose biggest twists are SF ones. Into which category does Revolution Man fall?
Er, neither. The back cover blurb is exciting (and the front cover is gorgeous), but nothing in the book ever unfolds quite as you expect it to. Most authors would have gone straight for the obvious conflicts and bad guys, but not Paul. This is an atmospheric, oblique treatment of what could have been a very wham-bang high-concept story, that's full of its own pleasures but not necessarily containing the ones you might have hoped for.
The first thing one notices is the wonderful evocation of the era. For the first time in Who, flower power and sixties psychedelia are being treated as more than an excuse for some cheap jokes and silly costumes. (It has been pointed out to me that The Left-Handed Hummingbird also featured a decent depiction of the sixties, with psychic powers and drugs. Hummer was the 21st NA, while Revolution Man is the 21st 8DA. Hmm... Coincidence -- or conspiracy?) 1967 has been resurrected in all its absurd earnestness -- sitars, beads, free love and revolutionary politics discussed with empty-headed fervour. Sam makes an interesting contrast with these wannabe revolutionaries; Paul Leonard knows this, and so does Sam. We'll talk more about the regulars in a moment, but certainly Sam and Fitz's contrasting views of the period are an integral part of the scene-setting.
The Doctor is rather Virginesque, disappearing in the TARDIS a lot and leaving much of the work to his companions. (There's an even more Virginesque bit at the end, but I won't discuss that here.)
Sam's political correctness is inevitably played up in contrast to the sixties' racism and sexism, but that's only a bit annoying. What did sit more uneasily for this reader was Sam's new-found tendency for pre-arranged plans and escape maneuvers. This contrasts strikingly with Fitz, the new kid on the block, but it still doesn't feel right to have Sam muse on whether she and the Doctor should plan a number 47 or a number 5. This is another bit that feels Virginesque, though to the best of my recollection not even New Ace or Roz went quite this far. I can see why Paul introduced this, but it is a bit startling.
Fitz develops. We see his insecurities again, and we also glimpse that harder edge that we were promised. He's capable of surprising us and his friends, which has got to be a good thing. He gets plenty to do in this book, perhaps even a bit too much! Looking at Revolution Man's outline could lead you to expect this to be Fitz's Seeing I, which it certainly isn't. Not by a long way. There's a lot bubbling in Paul Leonard's stew, and I expect we'll see this story's ramifications for Fitz explored more in later books than we do in this one.
But what's this book actually like to read? Answer: it's damn good.
The first two thirds are masterful. For once we have a Doctor Who book where the "quiet bits" aren't also the dull bits. There is no dead air. Everything matters; nothing is without significance. Characters and situations pull us through effortlessly, dazzling us with new cultural perspectives and unexpected slants on the situation. This rich atmosphere isn't quite sustained when the narrative leaves Europe, but that only means a drop from "excellent" to "fairly good".
Unfortunately the end is a bit of a letdown. Apocalypse is hanging in the air, but as usual Paul Leonard refuses to present us quite with what we expected and things take yet another new slant. It's effective and significant in its own way, but one might be left bemusedly asking: "is that all?" Still, I suppose it's better to have surprises like this than yet another Race Against Destruction.
In many ways it doesn't feel like a Doctor Who story. Much as Virgin's output often resembled a line of SF that happened to contain a character called the Doctor, this latest 8DA has blithely turned its back on those well-worn adventure serial formulae so often used by Who. The good Doctor appears only sporadically. Major questions are left unanswered at the end. There are no evil people, just thoughtless, destructive and stupendously misguided ones.
Perhaps Revolution Man's greatest achievement, however, is to feel right for its length. One of my least favourite things about the BBC Books had been their tendency to turn out slim and simple stories with barely half the ideas of an NA. A few authors had managed to turn low word counts to their advantage, but I'd always hitherto been left feeling that the result was in need of expansion in one or more departments.
Not here. With the possible exception of its ending, Revolution Man says what it has to say in just the right number of words. Further subplots would have slowed it down and made it boring; we can all name Virgin books to which that happened. I've been proved wrong, always a pleasant experience.
One final comment. Revolution Man is further proof of the validity of the Red Book Rule -- viz. that someone in search of good 8DAs to read could do far worse than buying ones with red spines. This highly unscientific method would yield this book and Vampire Science, Genocide, Alien Bodies, Option Lock, Legacy of the Daleks and Scarlet Empress -- though perhaps also perhaps Longest Day, if brown counts. The Red Book Rule also gives us some pretty good PDAs...
A Review by Dr. Terry Evil 24/4/99
Reports of the death of the BBC Books through sheer blandness may have been thankfully premature...
Last month, I said I wouldn't mind having to plow through rubbish like Demontage if there was something good next month to cheer me up. So congratulations to Mr. Paul Leonard of Bristol, who heard my cry, disappeared into a darkened room and came out with a near masterpiece. Janice, tell him what he's won.
Bang! Chapter one. It doesn't feature the TARDIS crew, is set in a small space of time (shades of Nicholson Baker), is actually written with something approaching intelligence and is quite, quite beautiful. Contented gurgles were emanating from at least one reader and he was already delighting in a book that actually dared to be enjoyable. Wait 'til I get to review this, he thought.
I've sort-of enjoyed Mr. Leonard's previous books; being as they were professional, if not exactly involving, slabs of sci-fi from a distinctly published-by-Starlog point of view. But Doctor Who, as has been painstakingly chewed over, isn't quite like that; and it had to be said that one of the reasons why a lot of people, including me, like Doctor Who is when it treats 'hard' science with a sort of smirking giggle from the back of the class and actively dares to be silly. It may annoy the Chemistry teacher, but then he's a social inadequate with the dress sense of his mother so he deserves it. Paul Leonard's books resemble the 'nicer' end of this bracket, but they're still pretty uninvolving for those who want more than 'big ideas' and their function as, rather than as background to, the plot.
No longer. Revolution Man is the book we all secretly knew he was capable of and wished he'd get on to, sharpish. His prose is involving without being obtuse, his ideas may still be big (50 miles high at one point), but they are nicely circumvented by some very human foibles, and the whole has a plot and characters that are actually enjoyable to read. Whereas before he may have presented a scene as drily as possible, so as not to interrupt the flow of 'big ideas', here he dares to play around with scenes, playfully presenting different viewpoints. Surprises no longer come just from juxtapositions in science, but in the actual prose. Ahh, I love it when a juxtaposing metaphor comes together.
Inevitably, there are some glitches. The ending, although exciting, could have done with a bit of a step back from the head-long rush. And Leonard still has a habit of displaying that classic sign you're reading a real sci-fi author: the interchangeable female character(s). But the book is so wonderful in almost every other respect that you could forgive flaws a hell of a lot worse than this.
Thank you Janice, I hope you're happy with that combined curler set and toaster, Paul. You deserved it. Revolution Man is Doctor Who to a tee; daring, poetic and showing off its warmly wacky imagination with a self-confidence you'd have to be a chemistry teacher not to like.
Five sixths brilliant by Robert Smith? 26/8/99
WARNING: I discuss the ending in some detail at the end of this review.
I think my overriding feeling about the EDAs is "disappointment". I've constantly been disappointed, at first by the low quality and then lately by books that attempt to be something reasonable or even very good indeed, but don't quite manage to get there. There's a wealth of examples, but most notable are The Scarlet Empress, The Face-Eater and Demontage, all setting their sights high and all failing to achieve what they promised.
Revolution Man is doubly frustrating because it's so good for so much of it.
There's some great stuff here and no mistake. The sixties are evoked really well, in my child-of-the-seventies opinion. We get a lot of the nineties view of the sixties, with a combination of fond regard and laughing at the naivete. One positive thing that recent books seem to have done well is their setting. A lot of pre-thought has been going into the settings for the novels and this comes across beautifully.
Fortunately there's more than just this to Revolution Man. It fairly breezes along, with so much pace that you don't really notice that the Doctor has very little to do other than to flit about in the TARDIS a bit. The three settings give us beautiful snapshots of the unfolding story that would have dragged if we'd followed it along evenly. The newspaper articles are fantastic (although it makes the BBC look like they've skimped on the printing costs, because the only thing that differentiates them from the rest of the text is that the headings are in italics. C'mon, BBC, is a newspaper-looking font too much to ask for? Or even the articles themseves in italics? It's not like the page count exactly broke the bank on this one, is it?)
Fitz gets a lot of development here, ala Seeing I. Most of it takes place offstage, which is probably a good thing, because, unlike Sam, he didn't really need it. It also won't be such a problem if the events here aren't followed up, because he really isn't that different at the end.
Sam, however, is rather good in this novel. I'm surprised, but I'm grateful. Sadly, it looks as though we've finally gotten to see the more mature Sam from Seeing I. I can't believe it's taken ten months for this Sam to appear. I mean, it's not as though the developments in Seeing I weren't planned by the editor, so I'm frankly at a loss to understand why we haven't seen this sooner.
This is a big problem with the EDAs. Whenever they get something right, it seems to take forever for it to be followed up on (such as Alien Bodies, or not at all in the character of the Doctor from Vampire Science). What's most frustrating of all is that when a good book like Revolution Man finally picks up on the developments almost a year later, it feels old.
Still, I kind of liked Sam in this one. She gets to be mildly amusing for once and self-deprecating without seeming contrived for the first time ever. She recognises that the shallow idealists of the sixties are exactly what she used to be (she must have been reading some of the EDA reviews!) and seems a lot more mature than ever. There might just be hope for her yet. Okay, she still does a couple of irritating things,. but I'm so impressed by the good stuff here that I'm prepared to overlook them. Bravo!
Unfortunately, it all falls apart at the end. Somebody grab Paul Leonard, sit him down and explain to him that books need endings as well. Really. He might have modelled his novel structuring on Jim Mortimore, but he's used Parasite as a template and that's just not on. You just can't write a magnificent book without ending it, Paul, you big tease.
But there are even bigger problems here. Move along now if you don't want the details.
Okay, so Maddie holds a gun to the Doctor's head inside the TARDIS. Yes, the machine with temporal grace. Fine, thinks I, it's all a ruse by the Doctor and he actually wants to do what she wants him to do so he's going along with it. But that doesn't seem to be the case, so we have to assume temporal grace is switched off. Okay, I can buy that, I've suffered worse coincidences in these books (although a mention would have been nice).
Fitz picks up a gun and shoots Ed in the forehead. I don't like this at all, but we've had companions commit murder before and it doesn't work anyway. Okay, no problem. But then, on page 243, the Doctor picks up the gun, places it to the back of Ed's neck and fires, killing him.
I'm sorry, but no. The Doctor does not, under any circumstances, pick up a gun and murder a human being in cold blood. No. That misses the entire point of Doctor Who, to my mind. The Doctor finds another way, he does not compromise his principles on this point. I don't care if that limits the character or if it restricts your moral dilemma of the week (which gets tacked on to the end of a novel you couldn't be bothered to finish, so don't try claiming the moral-dilemma high-ground here, Mr Leonard!)
And what happens next? There's a two page discussion where the only person who seems upset by this is Sam.... and she decides to blame Fitz and even goes so far as telling him not to bother the Doctor because "he'll be feeling sick with guilt". Huh? In one fell stroke the competent, mature Sam is completely undone by the end of the book. She has the potential to use her self-righteous anger for a good reason, yet she chooses to keep quiet so as not to rock the boat. Sam?!?
I remember hearing advance word about Love and War and the terrible, terrible thing that the Doctor does. My little fanboy heart clenched in fear, because I was worried that Paul Cornell was going to have the Doctor murder someone in cold blood. Fortunately, when I read the book, I was pleasantly surprised that no such thing happened. The line was approached, yes, but never crossed. The so-called dark Doctor of the NAs never bothered me because he was still operating under fundamentally Doctorish principles (Lucifer Rising excepted). The eighth Doctor appears to have abandoned those principles on more than one occasion now. A likable or interesting character this does not make.
Well, there you have it. I'm really, really upset by the ending. It goes against so many fundamental tenets of what Doctor Who is all about. It ruins an otherwise excellent book. It reads to me as though the author had very little point other than to push some fan buttons (well, he certainly pushed mine!) because he couldn't think of a way of wrapping up his story. There's a bit in the guidelines about this Doctor sometimes making mistakes, ala his accidental mass murder of the Zygons in The Bodysnatchers (something else I still can't believe got through, but we were given the standard Buffini propaganda at the time). As a formula for a successful Doctor, I think the BBC don't really understand their own character. It's distressing that what should have been the best book in the EDA line for simply ages had to turn out so fundamentally wrong.
A Review by Kris Hough 18/11/99
Ok, this is a strange little book. I have noticed an odd tendency in the EDA's to have the story take place over years sometimes. This is definitely something that the series never did, and I am finding myself enjoying it. This has most notably taken place in Seeing I, and this novel, Revolution Man. Both are a little similar in the way the make a concerted effort to develop a companion. I didn't like Revolution Man as much as Seeing I, but I still enjoyed it for a few reasons. The story was interesting and different for Doctor Who. As mentioned in another review, there was no overall "evil, maniacal, bad guy". We do realize that the people who do bad in the novel are just misguided, and that does make you feel some compassion for them. I also very much enjoyed how much Fitz had to do in the story. I actually didn't mind that the Doctor wasn't in the book so much. This was really Fitz's story. And I found myself liking his character more by the end of the novel, and I am eager to see how they develop on what has happened to him.
The Doctor was portrayed nicely, and Sam was also well done, although I don't seem to hate her as much as the general population. I was a little sad that I wasn't gripped by a lot of the novel. It took me quite a while to finish it. I didn't find myself really dying to keep reading or pick it up...but I was rarely bored either. But still a very interesting read. As for the ending and it not being very Doctorish...I was shocked by it, yes, but I don't have a problem with it. I might if nothing more is ever said about it. I think it needs to be brought up again, and I think it should have been brought up at the end of this story. I don't think this novel should have ended quite so abruptly..it just leaves other authors having to clean up some of the mess. And, that can be dangerous. But, we shall see on that front. So, overall, I do recommed this novel in the Eighth Doctor series. Not your standard runaround.
The Revolution Will Be Improvised by Jason A. Miller 28/11/99
Once, a really long time ago, Paul Leonard was one of my favorite BBC authors. This all began with Venusian Lullaby, a 300-plus page First Doctor novel set on Venus. The alien race was exquisitely cultured and detailed. The portrayals of Ian and Barbara were insightful and respectful. The plot was fun and the book had the air of ambition which befits the best DW novels.
But Leonard has never since written a DW book that long. His next two, Dancing the Code and Toy Soliders, were great books let down by abrupt endings on page 240, and every subsequent book suffers from the same. The action is too rushed, the consequences on its characters not thought out (or not spelled out, at least). Factor in Paul Leonard's friendship with Jim Mortimore, who does the same thing, and one worries if we'll ever see a book with a conclusion out of these two otherwise excellent authors.
The nostalgic retrospect means to soften the blow of this review. In no objective sense is Revolution Man a good book. I don't say that because it's actually bad -- the opening chapters are, again, marvelous. Leonard's a writer, not a jumped-up friend of the editor.
The plot is BBC NA standard -- a weird temporal anomaly threatens to alter the history of Cynical Post-Hippie Earth As We Know It. An alien substance becomes a 1960s drug, and horrifying things ensue. During the course of the action, Fitz Kreiner falls victim to another long-standing DW novel convention: Emotional Companion Torture. Fitz falls in lust, leaves the TARDIS crew, and spends a couple of years having his goals and ambitions forced right back at him.
The conclusion to the book is ludicrous -- Fitz and the Doctor together dispatch the book's nominal villain (once a person, and then, again in the worst of the cliches, transformed into a 250 foot tall psi-powered monster), in a controversial fashion that would have disrupted all of fandom -- had it not been so ludicrous. The angst seems token, not organic, to the charming way in which Leonard transformed the plot.
One wonders why an author would spend so long writing the eloquent set-up to a book, if he ultimately has no interest in what happen to its characters. Revolution Man ends too abruptly, relying on the next novel to patch up its characters. But the next novel is Dominion, and it's not a sequel, so one wonders just how much time Nick Walters really spent into putting Sam, Fitz, and the Doctor back together again. Perhaps Revolution Man was just a bad dream for the characters. By the time I finished the last chapter, I knew that it was one for me.
A Review by Michael Arndell 6/12/99
Definitely one of the most exciting DW books I've read for a while. This may be the best all-round characterisation of the regulars that I have read. I've always found Sam one of the most irritating companions, but < shock horror > I actually like her in this one. It is easy to picture McGann in the role of the Doctor, and he has a very interesting relationship with Fitz in this book, where the Doctor reflects that he can open up to Fitz more readily than Sam, because Fitz cares about him less. Having him go off for a few years to be brainwashed was a very strange thing to do to him though.
It was easy to imagine this story as a televised story - it had great characters and cliffhangers. The moment where the Doctor screams and we see the TARDIS console dates rolling forward to the date of the Earth's imminent collapse is fantastic. The final climax is one of the most disturbing and satisfying endings to a DW book.
A Review by Dominick Cericola 2/5/00
It's the late 1960's, a time of Peace and Love, a sense of Universal Unitedness.. But, thanks to the efforts of a mysterious enigmatic figure known only as The Revolution Man and the influence of an alien drug known simply as Om-Tsor, these images are cast aside, all in the name of.. a better world!
I had some initial misgivings and doubts in my mind prior to reading Revolution Man. I've heard negative feedback via other fans' reviews, plus figuring in my own experiences with Mr. Leonard's works (Dreamstone Moon and one of his 3rd Doctor MAs, which I literally couldn't get through at all), I was figuring this one would end up in the pile to go to the Book Trader. That all changed today when I couldn't wait to finish the book to see how it ended -- nearly missed my train stop, just so I could read the last page..!
Let me start with the story.. Grand stuff, real tense, almost angst-laden drama.. At times, I almost forgot this was a Doctor Who novel -- that, right there, makes this an exemplary work! Everything about it worked, even the two plotlines -- Fitz, by himself, and Sam with The Doctor -- manage to come together in a well-planned intersection.
What didn't work for me about the story, and this is a minor quibble, really.. BUT, the ending seemed kind of short, like he wasn't really sure of where to go with it. I also felt that the ending may have been clipped, due to the Editor at BBC Books. Either way, it just seemed like it was abrupt, like when you are falling and just suddenly stop and walk away from it all, like nothing happened.
The other minor quibble for me was we never truly learn where the flowers came from. These were far too powerful to just have appeared in a hidden valley in Tibet. I suspect alien influence, but it is never revealed. Which, in itself, is interesting, as it opens itself to speculation amongst the fans, generating great topic fodder. On the other hand, it is one of those questions which will never actually have a proper sort of answer. Ah well..
Next up, I'd like to cover the characters.. The Doctor was kind of a wierd portrayal. He wasn't distant, yet he seemed not quite there at times. He seemed truly at odds with himself, because of all the chaos Om-Tsor generated, chaos which he was unable to prevent (or manipulate even, as his prior Incarnation would have/could have(?) done).
One aspect of his character that was played up extremely well was his sense of compassion, especially concerning his Companions, Sam and Fitz. Both are very special to him, as much as Peri was, as much as even Barbara and Ian were. On the same foot, he cares very deeply for the Earth and her people, despite all their misgivings.
My whole theory concerning his angst-like attitude throughout this adventure is due to what is to come.. The events in both Dominion and Unnatural History, as well as the much-anticipated Two Book event, Lawrence Miles' Interference. It's all been very tense throughout those books, making one feel as if a larger picture were going on, and we were only being presented with glimpses of it. And, I think The Doctor realizes he, too, is only being presented with little glimpses instead of the whole view, and this frustrates him, for he likes to be in control, to have the Situation go the way he needs it to go.. Mind you, this is purely speculation, based upon the opin ions of one who needs to do more with his Life. *G*
Sam and Fitz were great. Sam Jones was a character who could have become forgotten about, nothing more than a throw-away knock-off of Ace -- an opinion many held up until the last few novels. Now, she has really come into her own right, developing her own persona, her own style, and all of has made her one of the coolest, most savvy of the literary Companions bestowed upon The Doctor.. And, as for Fitz.. He's a character who I wanted so much to hate, and have wound up liking him very much, reminded of Chris Cwej in his first few adventures with The Doctor -- that sense of wonder and subtle naivete. He has worked remarkably well with Sam -- there is a brother/sister relationship, yet on the other hand, there is a lot of sexual tension -- something both of them try to avoid at every occasion, rather than confront it. And, fortunately, all of the authors have managed to play up these themes.
Final Opinion... This was one hell of a book. IMHO, I'd list it as one of the top ten of the BBC's EighthDoctorAdventures. Paul Leonard deserves much praise for this one, and I, for one, intend to watch for him in the future, for this fellow has found his niche, and it works 110%! Cheers, gang..!
A Review by Luke Sims 19/6/01
Oh no not again!
First Ace left us and came back three years later. Then Sam goes missing for three years, and now Fitz - yep that's right the guy who has only been around for acouple of books - leaves for three years. Why? I didn't really like the idea of Ace coming back, but I got used to it and she grew on me. Sam goes missing for years and is still annoying! So why do we need it to happen again. It's getting a bit over used, hell I thought it was over used when I read Seeing I. Now it's getting a bit silly. Fitz was a relatively new character when this book came out, and because of this I didn't feel for as I did Sam (Seeing I being the only book I didn't despise her in).
Well enough of that and on with what I thought of the rest of the book.
Author: Paul Leonard is not one of my favourite Dr Who writers, in fact he is one of my least favourite. Out of the books of his I've read Dancing the Code was the best. It was a fun action packed book. Genocide was good, but I didn't like what had happened to Jo. Dreamstone Moon was the worst EDA I had read to that point (The Eight Doctors goes without saying). It was just plan boring and I pretty much guessed the ending. Revolution Man is ok. not the best, but not as bad as Dreamstone Moon.
Prose: This book is boring. It's not a slow book, it just wouldn't grab my attention. I found it hard to get through, because I really didn't care about what was happening.
Plot: I liked the plot, it moved the story very quick, but seeing it was such a fast paced story and a short one there wasn't really much room for the characters to grow.
Sam: Still the same old same no matter how much older she gets she will always be annoying. I can't wait for her to go.
Fitz: I like Fitz he brings a much needed change to the EDA's, but they didn't need to change him! Well no so soon anyway. Fitz went through a lot in this book, but didn't seem to develop much seeing his mind was being controlled. Ok it was during the last part of the book, but the first two parts still seemed to have the same Fitz from his first two stories.
The Doctor: Seemed pretty good to me, but why was he always too late? If this were a 7th Doctor adventure he would have nipped this whole thing in the bud before it began. The problem with this Doctor IMO is that he cares way to much and it gets in the way of his judgement.
Others: Mostly forgettable characters, I liked Rex though and I loved the scene in the cafe. That made me laugh seeing it from Fitz's perspective. Maddie was also good but seemed like a totally different person in the end of the book which annoyed me. Ed was boring! and to find out that he... Spoiler... was very much a let down.
Overall: I can really see why people liked this book, but this action adventure just wasn't my cup of tea. The book was lame, it had no character.
A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 12/8/01
The cover of Revolution Man is gorgeous, simply marvelous. It's almost worth picking up the book just for the cover-art; digital reproduction just doesn't do justice to the colours. Fortunately, the book itself is also worth owning for the stuff printed on the inside, despite a number of near-fatal flaws that detract from the main feature.
The regulars are handled adequately here, with special credit going to Paul Leonard's treatment of Sam. When I read that Sam Jones was going to be spending time hanging out with sixties radicals I experienced a sick feeling in my stomach. A lesser author might have brought the worst of Sam's qualities to the foreground, having her deliver an infinite number of speeches on how backwards and out-of-touch that decade was from her oh-so-enlightened point of view. However, Leonard manages to give us an insight into Sam's thought processes without allowing them to come across as overbearing and arrogant. He did go a little overboard in describing her reaction to the sexism inherent to the sixties, but then anything less would be out of character.
Fitz on the other hand seems much weaker than in previous stories. Granted, he hasn't been shown as the most aggressive of companions, but he manages to go from completely normal to utterly brainwashed by a totalitarian government back to being (almost) himself again within forty pages. Within the structure of the book, the brainwashing procedure lasts for about a year (none of which we witness) and appears to be totally successful, yet it takes much less than a day for it to all work out of his system. This could have been handled in a much more interesting way, yet the rushed ending (which I shall discuss in a moment) to the book and to this section are very frustrating. We don't experience any of the reaction to his entire world-view being shattered twice within a relatively short amount of time. It just seems like a quick plot device that should have been either further developed or just dropped completely.
Plot-wise this book is a real page-turner for its initial two-thirds. There's a powerful drug that is being used by different military and civilian factions, most attempting to harness its energy for their own irresponsible deeds. The Doctor must attempt to defuse the situation and restore the status quo. Unfortunately this book suffers from the lack of a proper resolution to several fundamental plot-threats. By the end we haven't been told where the mysterious drugs have come from, or what damage has been done to the time-line. It is implied that these events have only been set in motion because of some outside, unseen, time-sensitive force, but apart from the mention at the beginning, these are completely ignored. These may be addressed in future "arc" books, but as I have been avoiding spoilers, I have no way of knowing. It certainly doesn't excuse the lack of acknowledgement of these problems within the narrative of this particular story though. This is a shame, because as I noted, the opening and middle sections of this book are fabulous.
The very ending of the book has been surrounded in controversy and I'll attempt to discuss this without the need for any spoiler warnings. In short, the Doctor is quickly forced to do something that seems quite shocking. While it may be bordering on being out of character for the Doctor to do this, I think that the situation he had been placed into required his acting in the manner in which he did. I do not think this would be a big problem if only the book had not ended so abruptly just after this point. Leonard seemed to be deliberately manipulating the situation so that the Doctor is forced to act in the way that he does. In fact, several events occur purely to bring him to that point. And I have to say that the situation that the Doctor is placed into is an interesting one, worthy of more attention. It appears as though Leonard deliberately put the Doctor into the situation that he wanted to, which forced him to act in a certain way, but then forgot to put in the big payoff at the end. As it stands now, the narrative seems incomplete, as if it is relying on the following book to clean up the mess that's been left behind. We only get a few sentences from the Doctor saying he's upset and a few passages from Sam relaying the same information to Fitz. What we don't see is how this has affected the crew. While this may or may not lead to great and wonderful writing in the next part of the series, it does detract from the enjoyment that one takes out of this particular volume. An extra thirty pages at the end that dealt with the reaction would have done a lot to put these concerns to rest.
All in all, if more care had been taken to the conclusion of this story, I would probably have a higher opinion of it. It certainly is not a poor book and I quite enjoyed reading it, but the flaws that I have pointed out negatively affected my enjoyment of the novel.
A Review by Brett Walther 27/7/03
Sam is the star of this book. This is far and away the best appearance of the normally annoying wretch, and she is given some truly great moments. Her heartfelt reaction to Fitz's decision to stay behind in 1967 with a recuperating Maddie is touching, and her response to the institutionalized sexism of the late 1960's is great: she's outraged, but realizes that this is indeed the past, and that she can't expect to find equality in a culture in which rights for women and minorities are only beginning to emerge. This version of Sam is, in short, awesome.
It's perhaps surprising that this is the case, given that it probably should be Fitz's book. He's doubting that the life of a time traveller is his bag, and has eyes for a coffee bar waitress in a time not too dissimilar from when he left in the TARDIS. This promising premise unfortunately goes nowhere, as Fitz is sent on an ultimately pointless expedition to Nepal so that he can be brainwashed by the Chinese in a bizarre subplot. This sequence simply screams padding, and only succeeds in tarnishing the believability of Fitz, who's easily one of my favourite companions of all time. The implications of a year's worth of torture to break his will and become a mindless follower of Mao also makes any naive insecurity that makes the character of Fitz so endearing in any future books seem rather unlikely.
It's also disappointing to see that nothing comes of Fitz's relationship with Maddie. They seem to hit it off quite well in 1967, but even after spending a year together, there's nothing much between them.
In some ways, Revolution Man would have made a brilliant television adventure. The mysterious "R" symbol of the Revolution Man popping up on well-known sites across the globe -- from the pyramids to the Golden Gate Bridge -- would make for some striking imagery. On the other hand, the trippy sequence in which a giant-sized Fitz dukes it out with a similarly gigantic adversary, causing tsunami force waves in the Indian Ocean as they wade about slugging each other might be difficult to achieve convincingly, even with the aid of today's effects.
At first, I was extremely disappointed with the conclusion. It seems extremely simplistic and not terribly original: shots are fired and the villain despatched, followed by a mad dash into the TARDIS and off into the vortex. When you think about it, though, it's a nice counterpoint to the theme running through the novel of the means to achieving a peaceful end. At the end of a book which him reaffirming his hippie ideals -- wasn't it Ace who first drew that parallel? -- the Doctor, the champion of pursuing peaceful means, employs violence to ensure the aversion of a third World War. He's not happy with his actions, and it causes a rift between Sam and Fitz that is highly believable, and makes for some decent drama. Sam has seen two of her heroes fall over the course of this adventure, and her lashing out at Fitz is great stuff.
Unfortunately, a number of questions remain at the end of Revolution Man that threaten to make the whole thing incoherent. What exactly is Om-Tsor? Where did it come from if it is indeed as alien as the Doctor suggests in the beginning of the book? Most importantly, what is the goal of the Revolution Man? His motivations are very unclear -- destruction of the world to rebuild a new world in its ashes a la generic James Bond villain, or merely destruction?
Nevertheless, this is a quick, entertaining read and a refreshing change from other entries in the range.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 8/12/03
I suppose that Revolution Man is a precursor to Paul Leonard's The Turing Test. Revolution Man has Leonard ditching his detailed alien races and planets from previous novels and using a period of turmoil on Earth to spin a Who tale.
So, Leonard hands us a tale about the Sixties, the dark side of hippiedom (either Paul is a square, or a 70's punk) and the dangers of mind expansion through drugs. And there's also a return to the leaving companion gimmick and quite the controversial ending, which I'll address in a bit.
My big beef with Revolution Man is that I found it hard to engage any of the characters, even the TARDIS crew. I'm not saying they weren't well written, cuz they were, but I didn't care. There wasn't even a character you could channel your venom towards. Also, at 250 pages, the book was too short. Revolution Man's plot was obtuse, and some slight expansion might have helped smooth out the bumps. Leonard is not a stylist in terms of prose, but his lean style works enough. Pages do fly when you read Revolution Man, always a plus.
The story itself involves anarchists and Communist China trying to get their hands on an alien drug called Om-Tsor, which allows the user to warp reality. Unfortunately, man shouldn't be allowed to trip this hard, because it can cause all sorts of uncontrollable havoc by the user.
And now, we'll get to the fun bit, the ending. I'll be running under the assumption that you've read Revolution Man, so if you haven't, you've been warned.....
The Doctor performs a mercy killing at the end with a gun to stop the main baddie, who's been shot once already by Fitz, from going off his rocker and destroying the world.
This little bit of plot resolution has caused many a Who fan to foam at the mouth and scream, "IT'S WRONG. THE DOCTOR SHOULD NEVER, EVER, EVER USE A GUN!!!!!!!!"
No offence, but get over it.
I like the ending. Why? Because it makes sense. And it's nowhere near as bad as what the seventh Doctor does to Jan in Love and War. In fact, what the Doctor does in Love and War is far worse because he could have used Jan's power without ever having him be absorbed into the Hoothi. It's a coward's way to solve the problem in Love and War. However, in Revolution Man, the Doctor pulls the trigger himself, because he knows it's the only solution at that point. (Also, in Lucifer Rising, the 7th Doctor summarily executes Legion, with a gun. And yet Iâ^À^Ùve seen no big complaints on that issue either. Probably because Legion is a 7 dimensional blobby alien and not a drug-addled hippie with a hole in his head.) And I have to think that if it was the seventh Doctor in that same position in Revolution Man, well, he'd be praised for making a very tough decision under the most trying of circumstances (although more than likely, he would have ordered Ace to do it). But, because it's the eighth Doctor, it's wrong and un-Wholike and the author is a complete and utter git for writing it.
Where Leonard blows it is in the epilogue, when Sam blames it on Fitz, and Fitz accepts the blame. I understand why Leonard does it, but I would have preferred the Doctor's claim that he had to do what he did, and end with the news reports that epilogue events, instead of the lame moral debate.
Um, I think everyone should read Revolution Man, not because it's great -- it's average -- but because of the ending. Just so they can form their own opinion.
Wishful thinking becomes paranoia... by Joe Ford 11/11/05
Well I'm 21 books into my fabulous eighth Doctor marathon and finally everything seems to be coming together. Out of all the books I have read so far only four have come anywhere near being as good as this, Vampire Science, Alien Bodies, Seeing I and The Scarlet Empress. Revolution Man is everything good Doctor Who should be, bold, shocking, full of great set pieces, interesting characters and a powerhouse ending. I don't think it is possible to read this book and not have a reaction to it.
The regulars are all divine and it is astonishing to think it has taken this long to get them this right, but all three of them are vivid and used to drive the story along. Adding Fitz to the mix really has shaken things up, these books can no longer rest on the sugary soap opera relationship between Sam and the Doctor and planting the three equally opinionated companions into the sixties proves a fascinating exploration of each of their characters.
This book features the best chemistry between the Doctor and Sam since The Scarlet Empress and the best all round interpretation of Sam's character since Seeing I. She is marvellous, a far cry from the angst-ridden kid of the previous five or six books. Sam is intelligent enough to recognise the growing sense of dissatisfaction at the end of the sixties, wishful thinking turning into paranoia and hatred and she also identifies the darker side to the "Flower Children", the sexism and homophobia that were still to be conquered. She thinks of Fitz as funny and intelligent and not half as cynical as he would like to think and when he says he is leaving the TARDIS it is sweet to see how shocked and upset she is about it (especially after giving him an escape plan and first aid training!). She ingratiates herself with the TLB with ease, is contrasted wonderfully with psycho-campaigner Pippa and realises that meeting up with legends (Rex) is not always a good idea, as they never quite live up to what you expect. She is bright, resourceful, entertaining and perceptive. What took so damn long? Why can't every author get her this right? Not annoying, not preachy, Sam is pretty cool (oh my, did I just say that?).
Revolution Man features a very dramatic take on the Doctor's responsibilities to time as he dashes about trying to cancel out all of the Revolution Man's meddling. Like Paul Leonard's Genocide, he is no longer the congenital idiot but a much darker, more contemplative character. The situation gets so dangerous at the climax he throws all of his morals away and does two things that most fans seem to think are unthinkable, he fires a gun and kills somebody and takes drugs to save the world. Oh get home and hide away you babies! This is fantastic stuff; jaw-dropping in the extreme and boundary-pushing in all the best ways. But then again I didn't much care when the sixth Doctor cyanided Shockeye to death; the fourth Doctor beat shit out of Scorby or when the eighth Doctor later kills Nepath, kicks seven shades out of Ferran and smacked Basalt in the guts. I like it when the Doctor has to play dirty, it shows a violent, unpredictable side to his personality and proves how truly desperate the situation has become (because in any other circumstances he would never stoop so low). The guy does not have a halo around his head, he is not infallible, and anyone who genuinely feels the Doctor should only defeat his villains with non-violent answers is extremely deluded. How Paul Cornell can admire the climax of Remembrance of the Daleks (where the Doctor wipes out an entire planet and its population) but get into a hissy fit when the sixth Doctor picks up a gun is beyond me. The bottom line is the Doctor shoots Ed Hill to save the Earth, he hates that he has done it but it was necessary. As I said, brilliant and bold. I love it.
Fitz is MARKED, each time it looks as though he and the Doctor have split, danger follows him and they are reunited. This happens in Interference, Time Zero and The Gallifrey Chronicles and Revolution Man starts the trend very nicely. He pretty much leaves as soon as he can, feeling excluded from the Doctor and Sam's inner circle. It also sees the start of the monthly Fitz torture, where he is beaten and bruised on a regular occasion. Here he is kidnapped, brainwashed, chased around the world under the influence of alien drugs and forced into shooting a man. The poor sod leaves the book reeling at the events that have taken place and so do we... is he still under the influence of Mao, or has he become an unthinking killer? Fascinating developments from a trio who were blander than Margarita Pizza just one book ago.
Basing a book on drug-taking was always going to be risky but Leonard pulls it off with real style, mainly because his prose has always had that sort of trippy, hypnotic feel to it that makes the scenes in this book of people intoxicated so powerful. You almost get the impression that Leonard knows exactly what it is like to be under the influence of psychedelic mind-altering drugs, scenes of Fitz and Jin-Ming as giants chasing around the world, using mountains as stepping stones and oceans to break their fall, are frighteningly vivid. The consequences of people taking Om-Tsor are frequently dramatic, never letting the reader get too comfortable. The train derailed, the earthquake in Rome, the ceiling ripped from the concert in London, the gun magically flying through the air and discharging... all of these are shocking moments and are written as though they are important, part of an ominous scheme. The identity of the Revolution Man is a genuine surprise too with several red herrings tossed about before the real enemy reveals himself.
There are lots of little innovations in the book that help to sugar the pill. The TARDIS calling card is fine idea, as is the lovely moment when Sam phones someone in Kent and says "S for Sam" and the operator tells her where the Doctor is. The growing TARDIS (melting like a candle) is a terrifying, coupled with Ed's horrific flowing wound in the middle of his head makes for an extremely gory, hard-to-forget climax. The novel is once again written with simple language (Leonard's calling card) but he stuffs it full of stimulating sights, sounds and smells... planting the reader directly in the story. Evocative in all the best ways, it makes up for any five blandly written books in the EDA range so far.
A mature work, which is underrated and deserves re-evaluation. It stands as one of the better Stephen-Cole-edited EDAs (simply because Leonard is good enough a writer to survive the usual sloppy editing of this period) and a book to recommend to friends who might frown at your love of Doctor Who books and think they are the literate equivalent of Harry Potter.