When people are asked to what period of history they would return to if they could time travel I reckon a decent proportion of people say the late 60s and more specifically the summer of love. Imagine living at a time when all that peace and love was being shared? The pill was out there and Aids had yet to become a factor - free love! Not likely! Imagine being there and not being a hippy! You are a 50 year old man trying to work and all around you are a bunch of smelly teenagers telling you what to do. You fought in a war for them and rid the world of National Socialism and all the credit you get is to be called outdated and redundant. I imagine that the summer of love was the summer of hate for a lot of people. Sounds nice being a hippy, but were they not all mooching off the working people? What we needed was a proper revolution, perhaps in an alternative reality this happened?
In a show that often has aliens as the enemy it is good to read a book were man is the culprit - or is he? It's the late 60s and the summer of love has brought with it a plethora of new drugs. What would happen if a drug like LCD got onto the market that would make your visions real? It seems that this may be happening as The Doctor, Sam and Fitz arrive on Earth to find that someone called the Revolution Man is using telekinetic powers to cause anarchy. Can the Doctor and his companions stop the Revolution Man before he brings about WW3 and alters Earth's timeline forever?
Like so many Who books the ideas on offer in 'Revolution Man' far suppress the show, but still fail to be executed well. Here we are given an idea of a drug that is not only hallucinogenic, but also allows you to manipulate the world whilst you are under its influence. Although there are hints that the origins of the drug may be supernatural this is not explored and instead we are left with how man could misuse such a gift. The book is at its best when comparing how good people and bad people use power. The monks who found the flower that produces the drug used it to help sustain life in the mountains. The Chinese army only want the drug for destruction. Running parallel to these global powers is the Doctor and the mysterious Revolution Man. In their own way they both hold a lot of power. They are similar in strength, but differ greatly in how they use it.
As the above paragraph may suggest this book has some interesting, if weighty ideas. What comes with these ideas is also a healthy dollop of confusion. Large parts of the book are set in hedonistic drug fuelled hazes that are hard to describe as a writer. Paul Leonard fails to make the book easy to follow and for large chunks of it I was confused as to what the actual narrative was doing. This was not enough to ruin the book for me, but certainly prevented it being excellent. I imagine that the slightly poor writing will be enough to put a large proportion of people off after 50 pages or so.
One area of writing that can be praised is Leonard's use of structure and time. If there is one character that is open to unusual time effects it is Dr Who. As a story the book lasts from the late 60s through to the early 70s spanning a number of years. However, what is excellent is that not all the characters in the book live this time the same. Sam and the Doctor only live for about 2 days as they zip forward through time to the next important event. This cannot be said for poor old Fitz who is left behind for several years. This works really well in the book as at this point Fitz was a relatively new character and a little immature for the books. By the end of 'Revolution Man' he has aged more than Sam so is now contemporary to her. I liked this idea as it was a very efficient way of developing experience and depth to an otherwise shallow character.
'Revolution Man' is by no means a revolutionary book. In fact, it's out there ideas are hampered by some very conservative writing. The idea of men acting like Gods is refreshingly different to the aliens you would assume in this type of book. However, the 8th Doctor in particular has always been good at painting humans as fallible. Here man is the true enemy and it's worth noting that just because something is alien does not automatically make it evil - there are enough evil things far closer to home. I could only recommend this book to fans of the 8th Doctor series of books as the story itself develops his companions, but it has little else to offer a casual fan.
Author: Paul Leonard
Price: amazon uk - £1.35 (2nd hand)