Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sky Pirates! by: Dave Stone: Yo Ho and Blow the Man Down...Six Feet Under

Doctor Who has never really been able to do the idea of space pirates correctly although they have valiantly tried many times to get the idea correctly.  The first attempt was in The Space Pirates which suffers from being too long and too boring and the second was The Pirate Planet which is the only attempt to fare reasonably well as it was written by comedic master Douglas Adams.  Today’s novel, Sky Pirates!, is the first attempt from author Dave Stone who is trying to mimic Adams’ style and ideas of space pirates without actually being able to pull off the substance of his stories.  Instead Stone makes his novel overly long and written in a style clearly imitating J.R.R. Tolkein without any of Tolkein’s experience with words and storytelling.  The novel spans many settings in the same planetary system with formless villains while a pirate crew is looking for the legendary Eyes of the Schirron, jewels said to be valuable enough to make any man rich and on that premise the story should actually be interesting.  Sadly as with many novels that have interesting premises, the characters aren’t nearly interesting enough to keep me away from the clutches of boredom.  Yes Stone knows how to write, but he cannot for the life of him have the long paragraphs and prose keeping pace with the rest of the story as everything is all over the place.


The characterization of the Doctor is one of the highlights of the novel as the story goes into the idea that the Time Lords have had many different Time Wars and used genetic cleansing so they could have their perfect society.  It becomes extremely interesting to see the Doctor’s reaction to these revelations as he knows that the past is a bloody place for Gallifrey and would never allow himself to fall into the traps of his ancestors like so many have done before him.  It would be interesting if it wasn’t for the fact that the Seventh Doctor probably would be susceptible to committing these acts unlike some of his predecessors, but the actions of the Doctor in this story are keeping in line with the other novels in the range especially Human Nature and Original Sin.  The companions on the other hand don’t really fare so well with Chris Cwej having the worst of it.  Stone portrays him as a complete whiner who is almost reluctant to explore which is completely opposite to what Andy Lane portrayed him as in Original Sin.  Yes there are a few funny bits with Chris who changes his form several times in the novel, but not much actually comes of it.  Roz Forrester is treated slightly better here as she feels kind of like she did in Original Sin with the death of her mentor being a motivator and just the awe and wonder of the TARDIS which can be said as well with Benny.  Benny is the companion that gets the most attention here and I think it is because Chris and Roz weren’t intended to be companions and this story had to be rewritten to accommodate the two Adjudicators.


The supporting cast is also very bland and is full of characters I don’t really remember anything of note about which is a problem for a novel that takes its time for footnotes and three appendices.  I do remember the villains who are the Sloathes.  The Sloathes suffer from having no believable motivation as there is the idea that they are evolving to become humanoid, but they are extremely comedic.  Their characterization and many of the footnotes slipped in are the only times where the humor of Dave Stone actually shines through really well.  The only other character is Nathan Li Shao who is the pirate captain of Schirron Dream, a space pirate ship who is only of note as he embodies the whole don’t judge a book by its cover.  He isn’t interesting but he is kind of entertaining in his actions.  The other characters however are pretty bland overall and are forgettable.  That is the main problem as the book wants to make the characters caricatures of pirates, but Dave Stone just isn’t able to pull it off with the material he writes and the route he wants to take the book in.  There is a lot of tonal whiplash as some scenes are trying to be farcical while others are trying to be straight up drama bordering on melodrama which doesn’t help with the case for this novel and what it wants to be.


To summarize, Sky Pirates! or The Eye of the Schirron is as generic as the name suggests as it wants to be something more and there are hints deep down that Dave Stone could have made it that way.  Stone doesn’t know how to write tone to a story which is where the major problems with the story really show themselves as some scenes play out like a comedy while others play out like drama or even tragedy.  Stone is unable to get the two companions integrated into the plot without just giving them a subplot and missing the entire point of Chris’s character making him a whiner and making Roz extremely boring.  He does alright with Benny and the Doctor, but not with any of the other characters.  There are good ideas present, but a really poor execution makes me score it 43/100

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