doctor who - stealers of dreamsSteve Lyons
BBC Books
2005

In the far future, the Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack find a world on which fiction has been outlawed. A world where it’s a crime to tell stories, a crime to lie, a crime to hope, and a crime to dream. But now somebody is challenging the status quo. A pirate TV station urges people to fight back. And the Doctor wants to help–until he sees how easily dreams can turn into nightmares. With one of his companions stalked by shadows and the other committed to an asylum, the Doctor is forced to admit that fiction can be dangerous after all. Though perhaps it is not as deadly as the truth…

Another favorite topic of science fiction, the danger and dread of not only losing the ability to imagine, to dream, but to have that concept banned outright, thereby rendering anyone with even a spark of imagination an outlaw to the rational majority is a scary notion indeed. The left side of the brain and the right side of the brain just never seem to be able to play nicely, it seems. But, once in a while we all need to be reminded that, were it not for the dreamers and those enamored with their flights of fancy, reality as we know it would probably not exist, let alone be as exciting as it is. And of course, this kind of “what if?” scenario is always good for an enjoyable yarn. What if, not only would fiction, actual dreaming and story-telling be made illegal, but those who dare to dream and give in to their imaginations are deemed a social threat and thrown into a lunatic asylum for treatment? This is the topic that The Stealers of Dreams tackles.

The Ninth Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack arrive on a planet that was colonized by humans from Earth in the far-off future, only to notice that things seem a bit…off. And bland. The citizens are encouraged to take medication to suppress them from dreaming. All the television channels seem to have either news programs, talk shows or reality shows; no sit-coms, not dramas, certainly no fantasy or science fiction programs. And when the Doctor decides to go on a spontaneous ride-alone with a policewoman, he discovers that there are hidden factions of what are referred to as “fiction geeks”, who gather together in secret to write and share their created fiction, that are considered dangerous criminals. Of course, there seems to be an underground leader that’s been hacking the television signals to inspire the dulled masses to gain back their power of imaginations and fight back against the government suppression, and the Doctor’s keen on meeting this individual. But, when Captain Jack gets himself committed to the main asylum for the fantasy-crazy, and Rose begins to see things that aren’t there rather vividly, the Doctor begins to suspect that there may be something much more at work going on than the surface-level Fahrenheit 451 scenario.

In the end, The Stealers of Dreams turned out to not just be your standard Science Fiction Tale About Censorship yarn, but more or less explores both sides of the argument: Which is worse, having your ability to dream, imagine and tell stories taken away, or not being able to discern the difference between fantasy and reality? The situation isn’t made out to be completely black and white, and in the end, there isn’t any kind of cut-and-dried moral judgment call for either argument. The story itself moved along at a pretty good clip, the banter between the characters was crisp and engaging, and the twists and turns were handled fairly well. In the end, The Stealers of Dreams was a rather satisfying read, both as a Doctor Who novel and as a Science Fiction novel in general. Three and ½ TARDISes out of five.

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