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factioncat ([personal profile] factioncat) wrote in [community profile] foremansworld2009-05-12 09:50 am


I've been very impressed with the Doctor Who Novellas range from Telos up till now, but unfortunately Nightdreamers by Tom Arden is a big disappointment.

I used the word "cardboard" to describe a couple of characters in my Halflife review, but I really should retract that; Nightdreamers has shown me the true meaning of cardboard. And we're not talking good stiff card, either - these are paper thin. The goodies come from Galaxis Bright, while the Darklings from its sister planet Galaxis Dark (both presumably Earth colonies) are evil. And that's the only thing we find out about the Darklings. Despite possessing advanced technology including spaceships and phasers - and that's current technology, not ancient relics of forgotten origin - the society and trappings are all strictly medieval, with no hint of explanation as to why they've regressed in this way.

The plot transplants A Midsummer Night's Dream wholesale to a strange forest-covered moon with a solitary castle. A few things are changed or added, but this leads to events from the play happening with no discernible motivation. The castle seems to be very small; the five actors and the butler seem to comprise almost the entire staff, aside from a few guards, yet "many" people have been captured by the Nightdreamer King, including the Duke's wife. Despite a disappearance rate that would make Sunnydale seem like a safe haven, the nightdreamers are considered a near-mythical threat, and people are happy to wander around the forest at night on a whim. And two of the most senior staff are spies, one under a one-letter-off-anagram name.

The prose is basic, and clumsy at times. It's hard to take seriously the telling-instead-of-showing claim that "not even the Doctor, in all his travels" had even "seen anything so beautiful" when the description is so reminiscent of the Slake Moths, the decidedly unpleasant dream eaters from the previous year's superb Perdido Street Station. Other flaws include ignorance of basic physics (you can't swim through air even in microgravity), and the Doctor picking up and carrying a guard's gun for no reason.

The basic concept isn't without merit, but the execution is very poor.