Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Dimension Riders by: Daniel Blythe: Excuse the Muddle, Creative Disarray You Know

I’m going to start this review off by asking you to take a quick look at the cover of this novel.  Now it depicts the Doctor intently examining a chess game between two skeletons, possibly even manipulating the way the game turns out, but the thing about that is that event doesn’t really happen in the novel.  There are skeletons playing chess, but they are dead as doornails and the Doctor just gives them a passing glance.  They have absolutely no more significance than the other skeletons in the scene and they don’t have nearly as much to do with the overarching plot of the novel.  They don’t even tie into the arc that this novel is supposed to be a part of.  The novel is actually about two plots, one in the twentieth century in Cambridge and the other in the far future on a Space Station where everyone has died.  From these two plots the story basically becomes a rip off of the infamous incomplete Tom Baker story Shada.  Both stories have large portions at Cambridge, a book that is dangerous, people who reveal themselves to be Time Lords, a robot used for comic relief, a companion who doesn’t understand the time period and even an old professor with short term memory loss, who has large connections with the Doctor.  But instead of having Douglas Adams’s wit and charm imbued through every page, The Dimension Riders has any sort of humor sucked out of the novel and the changes to the basic plot that Blythe made have the awful habit of being really boring.


Blythe also decides to step away from other Virgin New Adventures and makes his story a more traditional one instead of being a bit more experimental.  That actually makes the novel a bit of a fresh change bringing the story back to basics even though he is blatantly ripping off Shada, but the traditional feel is enough to make the novel at least average for most readers.  Blythe pulls this off most when he is writing for the characters.  This time there is no real master plan that the Doctor is trying to pull off and he is here to save the day, and while I love it when the Seventh Doctor is the manipulator, it’s great to get an experience where he is just helping out people in need and trying to unravel a mystery.  Ace is also great here as she has great chemistry with everyone even with her more hardened personality.  Her banter with the Doctor and Bernice is really quite good and she acts a lot more sensible here than in some other novels.  The regular that got the best treatment however was Benny.  It’s almost comedic on how in my review of Blood Heat I complained about a lack of Benny, while here she is the best thing about this novel.  She gets some great one-liners and is just as good as she was in Birthright as she wants to learn about the twentieth century.  Every scene she is in oozes charisma and I tip my hat off to Blythe for what he did with her.  Blythe does an alright job of continuing the arc by giving us a glimpse of mysterious figures manipulating events at the beginning and ending and referencing the events of Blood Heat.


With all that said the supporting characters are extremely dull and are pale in comparison to the Shada characters for the exception of Amanda.  Amanda is a Gallifreyan android who is working for the President who is the Time Lord in charge of St. Matthew’s College at Oxford.  That said she still feels out of place.  The villains are extremely boring as well and they don’t really feel like a credible threat.


To summarize, The Dimension Riders is a novel that is a pale rewrite of Douglas Adams’s Shada which has the problems of a weak villain, a misleading cover, and an extreme lack of humor.  However it does succeed in the characterization of the Doctor, Ace and Benny and keeping the feel of the story back to a traditional story for a breath of fresh air.  Still if you take a look at the subtitle of this review you will see exactly what this story is.  45/100

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