Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Shadowmind by: Christopher Bulis: The Mind of a Child in the Body of a God

Shadowmind is the debut novel of Christopher Bulis who had no prior writing experience.  Now that’s fine if the story you write can grab your attention by the front cover or back blurb.  Shadowmind doesn’t as the cover is generic and the blurb is forgettable so that’s two strikes against the novel already for being a success.  Also there is the fact that not many people discuss this novel when talking about the Virgin New Adventures, so I was a little bit worried going in from the start.  Luckily the novel surprised me with how shockingly creative the plot and story ideas were.  The plot is extremely creative with a planet previously thought uninhabited is actually home to one gestalt entity which is warring amongst itself for control and each side has been using human colonists as a way to fight the war.  This war has been capturing the humans and using duplicates of them as ways to fight and gather intelligence on Earth, which one side wants to use to ask for help while the other side wants to use for evil purposes.  The icing on the cake however is that the evil faction has the mind of a child which gets extremely entertaining by the end of the novel.


Bulis does something special in this novel by actually focusing on the Doctor, Ace and Benny as they partake directly in the unfolding events.  This allows the Doctor to namedrop his exploits with UNIT and against the Master in his third incarnation as he is working closely with the government to figure out what exactly been going on.  While it isn’t bad when the Doctor isn’t directly in the events this makes a refreshing change from what the last few novels have been giving us.  Bulis also does some great things with Ace as she is rescued by the Shenn, the gestalt entity of the novel, about halfway through and we get a lot of character development with her as she explains humanity to this entity.  We also get to see into the mind of Ace and see how she views herself.  She thinks that she’s a hardened soldier who can kill but when seeing mangled bodies she cracks, which is when we get to see her vulnerabilities come out a little bit more than they have than in the past.  Benny on the other hand isn’t nearly as lucky as she is again sidelined during this novel and when she gets a moment she is a bit too whiny.  It reads like it’s trying to be the sarcastic Benny we know and love, but it comes across like a child.  There is a bit about how she views her father which is one of the few things I liked about the portrayal.


The side characters also don’t fare much better as they don’t really make an impact other than the Shenn and the villain, Umbra.  You have a lot of military personnel but they don’t do much and some are only there to die or force Ace to show some vulnerability.  Also for no real reason Bulis has a lot of the duplicates be in the nude for a large bit of the novel including Ace.  It doesn’t get in the way much, but it is often slipped in for no real reason except to try and bring to mind the image of naked women.  With that out of the way the villain of the story is amazing as the petulant child who thinks that everything is its toy.  It’s a real shame that it doesn’t show its face until the end because Bulis hit the gold with some of the comedy.  The climax also is really dragged out so it takes up more time when it could have been edited down quite a bit.  This is mainly due to some pages that are badly worded and some false hope slipped in.  With that in mind I have to give Shadowmind 70/100.  It would be higher but it really did need at least one more draft and less of the nudity for nudity’s sake.  At least it doesn’t get in the way for too much of the novel’s length and can be looked past if you’re good at ignoring things.

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