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Could this be the perfect Who novel?

We haven't read any of Dave Stone's earlier stuff, so if he's recycling half of his material, we're blissfully unaware of it. But going by Slow Empire, we're deeply impressed.

There's no doubt that plot isn't what sold this novel. But that's part of the point. It's the writing, stupid. It's bloody fantastic. We were totally captivated from the first page to the last.

The characters are all interesting, with exceptionally well-distinguished voices, and there are some great ideas. The Doctor and his companions work brilliantly together, with the relationship between the Doctor and Anji a particular highlight. The plot's episodic and disjointed, but that works perfectly within the conceptual framework of the novel. And the writing's in another category altogether from the depressingly amateurish typical EDA. It's a total tour de force that pulls the reader effortlessly through the book, elegantly skewering any number of SF cliches along the way.

Has Slow Empire got any faults? Frankly, it's hard to find any. Stone can't resist a tiny preach when he mentions worlds devastated by pollution and so forth. And it's obvious he was at one point accidentally locked in a warehouse full of Hitchhiker books, an experience which has scarred him rather too deeply. Neither of these problems detract from a book which is far more than the sum of its parts.

And that's really all we can say about it. If your preference is for Who novels that are nice and simple, with a straightforward plot that has all its threads tied up in a bow at the end, you'll find this an uncomfortable and probably even a boring read. But for the reader looking for a lot more than a TV transcript, this novel is sublime.

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