(ISBN 0-563-53835-X)






 Enter an Empire where

 the laws of physics

 are preposterous -

 nothing can travel

 faster than the speed

 of light and travel

 in TIME IS impossible. 


 A thousand worlds,

 each believing they

 are the Centre, each


 control of which

 they themselves are

 completely unaware.

 As the ONLY beings

 CAPABLE OF travel

 between the worlds

 instantaneously, the

 Doctor and his TWO

 friends must piece

 together the puzzle

 and decide what

 should be done.


 The soldiers of the

 EMPIRE are always

 hard on their heels.

 Their own minds are

 busily fragmenting

 under metatemporal

 stresses. And their

 only allies are a man

 who mAY not be quite

 what he seems and

 A creature THAT we

 shall merely call...

 the Collector.


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The Slow Empire

JULY 2001






Of all Dave Stone’s Doctor Who works, my favourite is Death and Diplomacy,

which on balance is probably his most conventional offering. The Slow Empire, conversely, sits at the opposing end of the scale; the apotheosis of its author’s inimitable imagination and indelible style. As such, it could be viewed as his greatest masterpiece, but for me and my weary old brain, I’m afraid that it’s his most arduous and least gratifying effort to date.


A loose-fitting sequel to his earlier novels Sky Pirates! and Heart of TARDIS, Stone’s story sees the Doctor take his companions on a heavily-abridged tour of a thousand world Empire where neither lightspeed nor time travel are viable. The Doctor is trying to prevent a swarm of marauding Vortex Wraiths manifesting themselves in the universe by using the Empire’s unique matter transmission pylons, yet the total sum of his plan appears to be to push his unwitting companions out of the TARDIS on a number of different Imperial planets and hope that his opponents will take the bait. As the book rattles towards its disappointing dues ex machina conclusion, the reader can’t help but feel that he hasn’t read a novel, but one of the longest and most complex jokes ever.


However, The Slow Empire does at least do a fine job of sewing the seeds of many a future plotline without going so far as to tip the reader off. With hindsight, the nascent arcs are easy to spot: the eighth Doctor’s archenemy, Sabbath, makes his first oblique appearance, and the fact that the harried Vortex Wraiths are so desperate to escape the Time Vortex bleeds beautifully into Anachrophobia and Sometime Never.... At the time, however, these things were broached with uncharacteristic subtlety, the author smothering them with his opaque prose and bonkers narrative.



Furthermore, Stone’s words are much more entrancing than the pictures that he paints with them. Each sentence that he constructs is vested with such florid conceit that one can’t help but wonder why this fellow isn’t a poet or lyricist instead of a peddler of scientific romances. I suspect, however, that Stone would find such things every bit as constraining as he evidently does the customary pulp paperback. Desperate to escape these confines, in this novel he goes a step further than usual, specifically creating a character to serve as his mouthpiece; to say what he wants to say in the way that he wants to say it. The whole business is littered with Jamon de la Rocas’ lyrical first person perspectives, each of which is presented in a disarming comic book font that scarcely masks the sting of the author’s sharp and undiluted voice.


For me though, the most

impressive aspect of this

novel is not the author’s

grandiloquent wordplay,

but his quirky and irre-

verent use of allegory.

I wouldn’t applaud his

handling of any of the

range regulars here, but he does use Anji as a conduit for some of the most hilarious genre similes that I’ve ever encountered. For instance, the display on one of the TARDIS monitors is described as looking like something off an old episode of Top of the Pops; a terminal on one of the Imperial planets looks like something off “that film done by the man who did Time Bandits”; and most memorably of all, one set piece is described solely through reference to a scene in Independence Day where “Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation” is killed by one an alien. It’s inverted literary snobbery of the most amusing kind; absolutely inspired.


If you’re brave enough to tackle The Slow Empire, you’ll either come out of it waxing lyrical about Stone’s twisted genius, or scratching your head and wondering how one man can use so many words to describe so little. There is no middle ground. It’s the literary equivalent of roulette…


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

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