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REVOLUTION MAN by Paul Leonard
At last! After disappointment on disappointment, a readable EDA!
Revolution Man is set in 1967, which is an odd decision given that The Taint, only two books back, was set in 1963. However, given that The Taint had no sense of place at all, we don't get a sense of deja vu with Revolution Man, and in fact it reads as an enjoyably fresh setting. '60s idealism is given a modern slant which makes it more palatable for a cynical audience (that's us).
The book's got a lot of strong points. First of all, it's just plain well-written, which is a relief after some of the earlier books. There's no monster as such in this, and we like that a lot. Too often in Who novels, it feels like the author has shoehorned in Instant Monster - Just Add Water, sighed with relief and ticked it off the checklist. We don't think it's obligatory, and we're glad Paul Leonard doesn't either.
The plot is based on an interesting premise, with plenty at stake, and it fits the period well. Unfortunately, it kinda falls over in a heap at the end, for which serious marks off, but at least we were interested in reading that far.
But the thing we like best about Revolution Man is the characterisation. We haven't seen a Sam this mature since Seeing I, and God, what a relief. It just goes to show what a nice character she can be in the right hands. And for the first time we actually warmed to Fitz, who comes across as a real person rather than a collection of traits from a BBC guideline. He makes mistakes, but hey, who doesn't, and it rounds him out as a character rather than just making him look like a jerk as he did in the earlier books.
And as for the Doctor... Revolution Man has attracted a lot of criticism for an act the Doctor commits at the end of the book, but we're down with it. Firstly, Leonard works hard to sell it to us, and we think he succeeds. Also, without spilling too many spoilers, we're not too doctrinaire about the violence the Doctor should and shouldn't commit, because it seems to us the Doctor isn't either. Looking back at a televisual history that encompasses genocide, not to mention the ruthless dispatch of baddies without a grain of remorse, we look at the Doctor's behaviour in Revolution Man and we can't see any difference. So there.
It's tempting to give the book a really high score just because of the way it stands out from the others around it, but that's not really justified. While readable, well-written and well characterized it's no Alien Bodies. Distinctly above average, though.