|ISBN#||0 563 55566 1|
|Continuity||Between The Massacre and
|Synopsis: New York, 1965, and the gods have returned to save the world. The Doctor is suspicious of the strangers' motives, but Steven wants to believe in miracles.|
A Review by Finn Clark 3/5/99
I rather liked this book. In fact, I was more impressed with it than I was with The Witch Hunters, even though the latter is generally considered to be one of the best PDAs yet written. The Witch Hunters is a more powerful book, but I couldn't escape a feeling that Steve Lyons there was just retelling a story we'd seen before. It's a noble tradition (stand up, Bill Shakespeare) and Steve gave the historical events his own Whoish spin, but I still didn't feel that he was quite standing on his own two feet.
Salvation is solid, gripping and depends on nothing that went before.
For me, Steve Lyons's books have always seemed a hotch-potch. Conundrum is one of my all-time favourite NAs, brilliantly funny and inventive, but I hated Time of Your Life and Head Games. His next two (Killing Ground and The Murder Game) were passable but uninspiring, but with these two Hartnell novels Steve really seems to have hit his stride.
The companions are wonderfully executed. With The Witch Hunters, Steve had the advantage of the superb Ian-Barbara-Susan team, but still managed to screw it up by making Susan an annoying idiot. With Salvation, Steve has set himself the far harder task of bringing Dodo and Steven to life, but it's a task he pulls off superbly. He gives them history, motivation and meaty roles in the book.
The back cover claims that this is Dodo's introductory story -- and it really is. She sustains great whopping chunks of narrative without strain. The only shame is that I couldn't help remembering the horrible fates Virgin eventually gave her; it's not Steve's fault and there's nothing he could have done about it, but it sometimes threatened to cloud my enjoyment of her part in the story.
Steven is executed no less convincingly, though there is one tiny detail that niggled with me. Didn't he claim in The Massacre to be Protestant? In this book he claims never to have belonged to a church, which to me seemed a bit of a wasted opportunity. It might have added something both to Steven and the story to give him genuine religious feelings; there is a Christian character present, but he isn't given much room to breathe. Given the book's themes and plot, this is something of which more could have been made.
On reflection, this is my biggest criticism of the book. Steve Lyons plots well -- at times superbly - but he doesn't always make the most of his scenes. One particular passage falls very flat, especially when you consider what nearly happened, and the ending is a bit of an anti-climax. I think the book could perhaps have used more words (though to a lesser extent than The Witch Hunters).
However there is a lot I like in this book. The subject matter is terrific. It's refreshing to see a plot that actually makes use of public opinion, instead of sweeping everything under the carpet of official secrets or unexplained amnesia. Salvation has mobs, riots, newspapers, public hysteria and exploitative cash-in paperbacks written ten years after the event. The aliens (?) are fascinating and well realised. The story paints its canvas with big themes, taking on Jim Mortimore at his own game (but written clearly and simply). We have God; we have Superman.
Salvation is a very intelligent book. You may not get many bangs for your buck, but I'd certainly sooner read more like this than a dozen formulaic runarounds of evil aliens, gritty future war and doomsday weapons.
A Review by Graeme Burk 26/8/99
Salvation -- An oddity for a Doctor Who novel-- one which gets better as it goes along instead of getting worse. The first 75 pages are agony-- Steve Lyons being grim and nasty is vaguely approriate for Colin, works in an Ian Marter novelisation sort of way for Troughton, but it doesn't work at all for Hartnell. But then after that it gets better and better and by the end it's more representative of Lyons' better works. The overall story seems to work well within the Wiles/Tosh era, and the Doctor is well used. Dodo isn't handled badly, but the fact is Lyons doesn't give any particularly new insights into her-- many of the ones he does give he stole from Daniel O'Mahony. The real surprise is Steven, who is sublimely characterised here. The way Lyons ties it in with the ending of The Massacre is clever, but I must say that his treatment of Dodo at the beginning is a bit rich for someone who made all those bitchy comments in The Completely Useless Encyclopaedia about what had been done to her in print. 8/10
Faith, Hope, and Trick by Jason A. Miller 7/9/99
FAITH: For a time it seemed as if every book Steve Lyons wrote came from the pen of a completely different author. A David Agnew for the 1990s? At last, though, the question of whether a Steve Lyons really exists, has been answered (and not just by the author's posting to rec.arts.drwho). We now know for sure -- there are two Steve Lyons. The guy who writes awful books featuring the Sixth Doctor, and the guy who writes witty, funny, and quasi-thoughtful novels not featuring the Sixth Doctor.
Salvation is the author's second straight First Doctor book, and although this is a more ambitious tale than Witch Hunters, it lacks the prior novel's oomph. In short, unidentified Star Trek-style alien-gods set up shop in the previously-unseen "Manhattan" section of London. Companions Steven and Dodo are each seduced by the alien-gods -- predictably so for Dodo's part, because she's an attractive sixteen year-old girl and the author is a self-proclaimed heterosexual.
HOPE: Salvation has truly wonderful moments and it's difficult to ever dislike the book for more than a page at a time. It has a winning ending -- perhaps the best constructive use of the military in a climax in recent years. There's very little gore, and some genuine humanist sentiment.
Although the book's action (gratuitously set in 1965 -- three to ten years too early to focus on some real New York angst) takes place within a few blocks; radius of the author's New York City tourist guidebook, the plot moves and takes interesting twists and turns, including a nightmarish jaunt to the interlopers' home.
Continuity is delicious -- the four-minute Donald Tosh-written segment of "The Massacre" is expanded to include an introduction for Dodo, and the issues raised and not quite resolved by Steven Taylor's exit from the TARDIS are finally resolved, logically, after 274 pages of large-print text.
TRICK: None of Salvation's faults are fatal, but they're there. There's a good-faith effort to portray New York as more than just another dumb American locale, but all the characters speak in Brit-speak, and, oddly for New York, they all have Anglo surnames! While I'm sure that Manhattan is genuinely populated by its share of Marchants, Emersons, Fords, Grants, and Lullington-Smythes (!), where are all the other New Yorkers? There are 3 ludicrous paragraphs written in a bizarre combination of Bensonhurst accent and British lingo, each written by a different, unnamed, ethnic New Yorker. The only named black character in the book is, of course, unemployed. We meet no hot dog or falafel vendors, cab drivers, or those kamikaze natives who cross intersections on foot against traffic, and the surly drivers who honk at them. And if this is Times Square, where are the hookers? Or Mickey Mouse? A great historical in-joke is missed by not having someone (in March, 1965) wish for the demise of the long-mighty New York Yankees franchise.
This is also one dark puppy. Each of the three regulars gets an on-screen "death" moment. Steven, deprived of Peter Purves' upbeat energy, was never this morose before -- kindly skip any mention of "Roylus Prime". As in Managra, a well-adjusted TV character of uncertain origin is given dark angsty backstory in an unfortunate attempt at "depth". In spite of this, Steven works -- he's shown to be intelligent, headstrong yet flexible, and worthy of the Doctor's friendship. There's very little that is happy about this book, until the (very strong) ending.
MORE TRICK: And of course, the reader again benefits from the usual Lyons wickedness. The pro-forma Lyons continuity gags are muted this time; the brief allusion to Steven's prior visit to the Empire State Building calls to mind Morton Dill, before Lyons spares us that particular fate again. Also fun are the book, newspaper, and comic-clipping interludes -- the comic book advertisement text will have a large segment of fandom rolling on the floor.
And best of all, without Colin Baker to make things really dark, Salvation is allowed to hang together quite well, and even the instantly forgettable secondary characters have realistic motivations (sometimes). Read this book while waiting in vain for that L.I.R.R. connection out of Penn Station.
A Review by Michael Hickerson 17/9/99
Steve Lyon's first entry into the BBC Books line, The Witch Hunters, is generally considered to be a high-water mark not only of the range but also of the printed adventures to feature the first Doctor. The book earned major kudos, good reviews and overall postive reader response, thus necessitating that Steve once more venture into the Hartnell era to provide us with a new story.
This time, Steve turns his attention to the mid-Hartnell years with Salvation. The story follows right after The Massacre and seeks to give Dodo a more rounded introduction than she was given on-screen. And, for the most part, that portion of the novel works. Dodo's motivation to move into the TARDIS is well founded and interesting on Steve's part. Also, given that he spends a majority of the novel with her, we do get some unique insight into what I feel was one of the lesser companions of the Hartnell era.
But, unfortunately while The Witch Hunters was a major high-point for the books, Salvation has the feeling of "been there, done that" to it. The ideas presented here are interesting and make for what should be an interesting plot--however, it fails to materialize. It feels like it's one part Conundrum-lite with another part The Witch Hunters thrown in for good measure. In all, it fails to work and the last third of the novel collapses under the weight of trying to do much in too little space.
Part of this may be my lack of familarity with the period it's set in for the series. I'm much more knowledgable about the Ian/Barbara/Susan era than I am of the Dodo and Stephen stories (namely because large portions of them are missing). What the story did make me want to do was hunt up a copy of The Massacre audio and give it a whirl since I missed some references back to this particular story.
Overall, I want to recommend Salvation, but based on the ending I can't. It's great for the first 200 hundred pages but it ultimately disappoints....
I can only hope that Steve's next book, which I hear is to be set in the Troughton era, restores my faith in him...
A Review by Keith Bennett 18/5/01
Like most people it seems, I really enjoyed Steve Lyons' New Adventure Conundrum, appreciated The Witch Hunters, but found Time Of Your Life something of a slog (I haven't read any of his others yet). This story is up there with the best of his, mostly because of its interesting central idea.
For a while I thought it was going to be little more than a retread of the "the power from people's faith makes things happen" nonsense that the latter seasons of Doctor Who's televised adventures indulged in, but it seemed to be more than that in the end, and I was quite intrigued by the thought of these "gods" being created by the people who longed for them. They are used interestingly, and the story is quite engrossing throughout.
Like with The Witch Hunters, Lyons captures the First Doctor's character perfectly, and how wonderfully clever it was for him to bring in a real introduction for Dodo. She is really fleshed out here, while Steven, although hardly as busy, isn't too bad. The other characters are... mmm... alright, but I must agree with Jason Miller about their names! After reading his review, I realised that must have been why I kept forgetting the characters should be talking in American accents.
The climax to the story was also clever and most impressive, and I was relieved for it to be one I could actually understand!
Overall, Salvation stands as one of the most interesting and memorable of original Doctor Who novels, as Conundrum does. Hmmm... that's not a bad effort from one author.