Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Revolution Man by: Paul Leonard

Many of the reviews I have written for the Eighth Doctor Adventures have spent quite a bit of time lamenting the TARDIS Team themselves.  Companion Samantha Jones is not one whom is thought of highly in the Doctor Who community for good reason: she has a characterization similar to that of Clara Oswald, incredibly abrasive and bold yet treated as if she’s somehow a flawless companion.  It was clear that the BBC Books were attempting to recreate the powerful female companions of the Virgin New Adventures such as Benny and Roz, but they failed by making Sam an annoying character.  What makes this an even harsher disappointment is that seven books before her departure they introduced a second companion who actually allowed Sam to overcome her character’s rougher nature and show the real potential to be a great potential.  Revolution Man is the third novel to feature companion Fitz Kreiner, and Paul Leonard uses the story to really explore each characters roles as well as an in depth reflection on the late 1960s’ place in history.  The plot deals with the Doctor investigating an anomaly in the late 1960s, a time of protest, a time of revolution, and a time of drugs.  There is a new drug on the streets which seems to give those who take it telekinetic powers, and it’s up to the Doctor, Fitz, and Sam to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Leonard’s plot is interesting as it spans three years in the history of Earth, 1967-1969, only ending when the threat is done.  Leonard does an amazing job of setting the atmosphere of the novel as one of tension.  You can feel through the pages that there is revolution brewing, the Vietnam war is dragging on, the youth are restless for change that hasn’t come, and the Maoist reign of China is in full swing.  Every supporting character in this novel is either a revolutionary in some way, or a drug user, or at least tangentially related to those professions, making Revolution Man come across as incredibly tense as a riot could be breaking at any moment.  There’s also a real psychedelic nature to the novel with the drug Om-Tsor basically being LSD with added telekinetic powers, creating a genuinely silent threat as the Doctor has to track it through as it poses a danger to society.  The ‘revolution man’ of the title is a figurehead, shifting from person to person and remaining an ever present threat throughout the novel, leaving symbols on the Great Pyramids and subtly broadcasting their presence to the world.  It makes a great off-screen threat, and the actual reveal of the two behind the title creates a true monstrosity for the Doctor and company to face in the climax.

Sam Jones is placed in an interesting environment here as throughout the book she is working with anarchists who are planning violent resistance.  Leonard uses this to explore just how Sam believes protest should be carried out.  Sam has truly grown since her introduction in The Eight Doctors and has built up the idea that everything can be accomplished with peaceful methods.  Leonard truly gives her a voice, as she investigates the trail of the Om-Tsor and the phenomena it had possibly caused in Rome, as well as its potential to destroy the rest of the world.  Leonard gives her a foil in the ‘king’ of the anarchists Jean-Pierre Rex, who eventually takes the mantle of Revolution Man at one point.  Rex is a character who insists on using violent tactics throughout the novel who serves as a glimpse at potentially what Sam would become if she becomes violent, ending his life with a bang and leaving an impression on Sam.  Fitz on the other hand genuinely goes through hell in this novel.  Putting the character only a few years after his own time is used to really show just how different the late 60s are from Fitz’s 1963.  There is the rise of drug culture which throws Fitz as well as the genuine shift in music towards the psychedelic, as Fitz gets a love interest in Maddie, a user whose boyfriend is in a band and addicted to Om-Tsor.  Maddie is pitiful as a character, as Leonard intentionally makers her one of those characters who cannot fend for herself.  It’s essentially because of her Fitz is brainwashed by the Chinese government which has a lasting effect and because of the monstrosity her boyfriend becomes that Fitz has to shoot him.  Yes, the climax of this book involves Fitz in a fight for his life against the Revolution Man, once called Ed, now an amorphous mutated, Lovecraftian blob of terror and he shoots him.  This event shakes the TARDIS crew but not further.

The actual shaking of the TARDIS crew is the Doctor then picking up the gun and finishing the job in cold blood.  This is one of those aspects which resonates with the reader, seeing the Eighth Doctor have the first hints of a darker side.  Throughout the novel the Doctor is presented as the savior, coming in to make sure everything, but in being a savior he has to take arms and this alone is the highlight of the novel.  Overall, Revolution Man takes a place as one of the best Eighth Doctor Adventures, challenging the characters and acting as a turning point in their relationship which the forthcoming novels must resolve.  10/10.

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