Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Dominion by: Nick Wallace

Writing a first novel is always a challenge.  An author has to decide exactly what style they are going for and avoid falling into a pool of common pitfalls which would bring their book down into the depths of mediocrity.  It is these pitfalls which Nick Wallace exhibits in his debut Doctor Who novel, Dominion.  The largest pitfall of the novel is that the pacing of the story is incredibly slow after the inciting incident, when Wallace is telling a story which should be told through a quick pace.  Dominion deals with the TARDIS being pulled into a time anomaly while people are going missing in the forests of Sweden.  The Dominion is a secret pocket universe which a race of aliens are being completely dominated by the Bane, and people on Earth are getting killed as the universe is bleeding through.  The first third or so of the book is excellent, setting up plenty of intrigue for the Doctor and Fitz to follow as Sam is missing for the first third of the book.  The Eighth Doctor is characterized excellently as aloof into the danger that Sam is in while investigating the strange goings on and the disappearances.  He is fully invested in the mystery and believes that Sam can easily take care of herself.

Fitz on the other hand, is still recovering from his experiences in Revolution Man and is afraid of losing someone else that he has grown to care about.  Throughout the book he grows close to Kerstin, a woman who has lost her partner to the pocket universe.  Perhaps his characterization in places is just a bit too simplified down to the chain smoker we saw in The Taint.  Kerstin is also a highlight throughout the novel as Wallace uses her to explore how people grieve and bargain to get the ones that they love back in their life.  Having Sam not really appear during the first third is also a very interesting as it allows the reader to have a sense of worry along with Fitz and the Doctor.  It adds a stake that the reader can really feel, and once Sam does show up and fulfills an admittedly necessary part of the plot, that is almost lost.  We know that Sam is alive so these other characters who are missing perhaps don’t matter as much.  Once the reader gets to this point in the novel, the story slows down to a snail’s pace and it becomes more difficult to really invest time in.

This isn’t to say there isn’t anything great about the rest of the book, far from it.  Nick Wallace does an excellent job of evoking the setting.  It is a breath of fresh air to be exploring a then modern Earth location that isn’t in the UK, as Wallace takes full advantage of the forests of Sweden to really give a fairy tale setting.  There is also some excellent work done by exploring UNIT of this period and experiments they were conducting which caused the issue.  UNIT and C19 as presented here are put right into the morally gray, as they do not trust the Doctor and have been using alien technology in a very Torchwood in Army of Ghosts way.  Jennifer Nagle is the main UNIT operative to get her own story arc and it is perhaps the highlight of the novel.  Overall, Dominion has the potential to be one of the truly great Doctor Who novels and it is clear that Nick Wallace has promise.  The book fails in pacing which just drags the book down to an above average read that is difficult to get through in places.  6/10.

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