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BOOK
Doctor Who
The Stealers of Dreams

Author: Steve Lyons
BBC Books
RRP: 6.99
ISBN 0 563 48638 4
Available 08 September 2005


In the far future, the Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack find a world on which fiction has been outlawed. Here it is a crime to tell stories, a crime to lie, a crime to hope, and a crime to dream. But somebody is challenging the status quo. A pirate TV station urges people to fight back. The Doctor wants to help - until he sees how easily dreams can turn into nightmares...

Behold Rose Tyler's amazing technicolour dream-sweater! Either she possesses a number of such garments with similar stripes on the arms, or the same sweater that keeps changing its colour to match whichever cover she's on at the time. On the front of The Deviant Strain it was blue, on Only Human it was green, now on this book it's a turquoise shade.

Such idle speculation would be deemed criminal on Colony World 4378976.Delta-Four, where even the slightest use of imagination has been outlawed. Lies, of course, also played a large part in Only Human, in which the Neanderthal Das had trouble grasping the concept of the deliberate untruth. And, like the future civilisation depicted in that previous novel, the people of this world have only dim recollections of their own history - the planet used to have a proper name, as opposed to its dull designation, but everyone seems to have heard a different rumour about what that name used to be.

What starts out as a seemingly straightforward "oppression is bad" kind of message proves not to be quite so clear-cut after all. There are various moral interpretations of the situation on the colony world. For example, though the suppression of free speech and the destruction of literature are regrettable, overactive imaginations are seen to damage the brain and cause dangerous hallucinations, from which not even the Doctor's companions are immune (an anti-drugs interpretation). Illicit images on TV and in print are believed to corrupt the masses (a pro-censorship, anti-pornography message). And it is claimed that the worship of imaginary beings used to cause great strife (an anti-religion stance).

On a more frivolous note, the author uses one character's excitement about the launch of a new fictional television series to symbolise his own glee (and that of many fans) at the return of Doctor Who itself to our screens. The same character, Domnic, is similarly enthralled when the Doctor uses his opening line from the memorable teaser trailer: "D'you wanna come with me?"

Unlike the other two books in this batch of novels, which are evidently set between The Doctor Dances and Boom Town, this one contains a reference back to events in Boom Town, so it must take place between that episode and Bad Wolf. This is slightly at odds with Bad Wolf, in which the Doctor mentions having visited only the planet Raxacoricofallapatorius and 14th-century Japan during this gap. Perhaps the TARDIS made a wrong turn on its way to Raxacoricofallapatorius. Tying in with a running theme of the episodes that surround it, this book reminds us that the Doctor usually tries to avoid getting involved in any "mopping" up that might be required in the aftermath of his adventures.

The Stealers of Dreams may well be the final Ninth Doctor novel (unless he enters the realm of the past Doctor books, though that seems unlikely given that the BBC is keen to retain a separate identity for its new series merchandise), so make the most of it. Although my favourite of his six books is still Only Human, this one is also very readable and goes like a dream too.

Richard McGinlay

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