Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Sky Pirates! by: Dave Stone - A Re-Review

Sometimes when you read a book things will just go over your head and perhaps you won’t appreciate what an author it attempting to do with a book.  Sky Pirates! is perhaps one of the Doctor Who novels which illustrates this fact perfectly.  In my initial review, I lambasted Dave Stone’s style of long and Tolkeinesque prose, however, on reread I found that many of my issues with the novel came down to my own impatience when reading.  Stone’s prose is lyrical in nature, full of incredibly dense paragraphs and many allusions and metaphors to classic literature which is all in aid of Stone’s major goal in this novel.  The point of Sky Pirates! is to tell a Doctor Who story that is examining the mythology of the show up until this point, partially reflecting on what the Virgin New Adventures had done with the Doctor and the Time Lords.  While I will admit this is something that Steve Lyons would later tackle to greater effect in Head Games, Stone’s own analysis is incredibly interesting and acts almost as precursor to Russell T. Davies’ era of Who and Big Finish’s Charley Pollard, web of time story arc.  There is this idea explored that the plot of this novel is all down to Time Lord conspiracy: Gallifrey has fought in several Time Wars in the past, and they will eventually fight one, mostly to stop species which have the potential to develop time travel.  There’s also a lot on the idea that Gallifrey influenced the universe’s evolution into mostly humanoid races.

This idea that the Time Lords interfere to stop people who may threaten their lordship was occasionally touched on in the classic series, but Stone expands it by including several hints that the Doctor’s own influence may be to blame for this.  There’s this metaphor introduced in the final third of the novel of how the idea of Zeus changed from Greece to Rome, from a brash and angry god to one that is lazy.  This feels very much like a reflection on the transition between the Sixth to the Seventh Doctor, especially when you take into account Season 24 and the development that the Seventh Doctor has undergone.  There is this idea that the Doctor has been waiting for his time to shine, planning in the shadows for some great final master plan.  Stone drops the ball on ever explaining just what this master plan may be, but it is implied to involve the Sloathes in some capacity.  Stone also pairs the Doctor with Benny for much of the novel which is an interesting pairing.  Benny in this book has a more comedic portrayal as Stone writes, not quite comic relief, but there are several moments and footnotes which are extracts from Benny reflecting back on the adventure in a large capacity.  Stone almost implies that Benny is narrating this book from some time after her travels with the Doctor, compiling gaps in her memory from historical records, but definitely put in the realm of fiction.

Sky Pirates! is also the first proper adventure for Adjudicators Chris and Roz who I initially criticized for being so different from their portrayal in Original Sin, and while it isn’t as strong, it is by no means a bad portrayal.  Stone does an excellent job of capturing the innocence of Chris Cwej’s character, still recovering from the body bepple from the previous novel, and shifting his own form at several points in the novel.  Roz on the other hand works just as well as the paranoid Adjudicator who takes absolutely no nonsense, and is of course placed in a situation where everything is nonsense.  The supporting characters are almost parodies of actual characters which allows Stone to set the tone for the book and integrate the copious footnotes into the text better than most.  At least once a chapter there is a footnote either dedicated to world building, giving some explanation to a character’s backstory, or even just telling a joke, which could easily have fallen flat, and only really works if you’re reading the book in print, but Stone does an excellent job of not overloading them.  Overall, Sky Pirates! is a novel which I initially disregarded as an overly long piece of writing that didn’t know it’s own good, but now I see it as a decent exploration of the VNAs as a whole.  7/10.

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