Revolution Man

Bryan Adams sang about the 'Summer of 69' but curiously, he neglected to tell us about the fact that the earth almost got incinerated by hundreds of nukes. Obviously he wasn't playing at Wembley the day the Revolution Man took to the stage and entranced a seemingly doomed audience.

Revolution Man takes place over the course of three years - 1967-69, and is a tale of sex (well, a passing mention anyway), drugs (all the usual hippy stuff, plus a new and rare substance called Om-Tsor) and rock 'n' roll.

The Doctor Who slant comes in the form of the Om-Tsor, an alien substance that can enable godlike mental powers in humans that take it. Looked after by Buddhist monks, it eventually falls into the possession of a young singer called Ed, who uses it to further his own anarchic ends, becoming the Revolution Man in the process.

Here's where I got confused - Ed sets the Cold War alight, pushing the capitalist west and the communist east into conflict. Then, when the time comes, he proclaims to a capacity crowd at Wembley that he is the second incarnation of Jesus, and that he's going to save everyone by crushing the missiles as they come in.

Regardless of the relevance to the story, this doesn't quite gel. In order to reconcile the two viewpoints, we either have to conclude that he's insane (although we're given very little indication of this) or that he wants to be recognised as a legend in the annals of history, for which we are shown very little motivation. In fact, considering Ed's character is central to the plot, he's given very little character development and indeed disappears for a good chunk of the book.

To counterpoint the negatives however, Sam is given something useful to do. Infiltrating an anarchist's circle of friends is an interesting use of her character, since broadly speaking she agrees with their ideals, if not their methods. She prefers talking, they prefer acting. In fact, Sam's analysis of the group - comparing them to children - is entirely accurate, since they tend to bumble from one situation to another, acting on impulse and having no idea of the possible consequences of their actions and thus no need to care about them.

Add to this the fact that Fitz falls in love, spends 1967-69 on Earth, first with his girlfriend Maddie (Ed's ex) and then in China as a brainwashed soldier and we've got a fairly character focused novel. The Doctor's not so well treated, but he ticks all the usual boxes so it's not too bad.

The best thing about Revolution Man is the ending. Fitz ends up with a gun, and in thinking he has no choice but to shoot Ed, blows a hole in his head. This makes things worse, as Ed's frenzied mind then goes into overdrive, and he's still feeling the effects of Om-Tsor. Which leaves the Doctor with an ethical conundrum - finish Ed off and save the day, or leave him and let everyone die. I was relieved to see that given an absence of options, the Doctor can still pull the trigger. Granted, Ed was going to die anyway, but the fact that the Doctor used a gun to end another being's life is a something of a rarity.

Some people argue that the Doctor should never use a gun, but I disagree. In certain circumstances, such as when all other options have been exhausted, it may become necessary. Besides, it's not like he's never killed to save innocents for goodness sake - the seven planets anyone? (The Pit) an entire alternate universe? (Blood Heat.)

The upshot (pardon the pun) of all this is that the Doctor goes into a remorseful self-imposed exile in the TARDIS, while Sam blames Fitz for taking away the Doctor's innocence and Fitz blames himself (while trying not to let Sam see his guilt.)

And then it ends. Which may either be a blessing or a curse. If the rift between the three is followed up in Dominion, then it's an excellent piece of character drama, set up in this book and left hanging. However, if it's not followed up, then someone is in for a bit of a rant, and I suspect it might be Dominion author, Nick Walters.

Anyway, Revolution Man is a pleasant read with a few nice twists and good character drama.


Review by Tom Hey


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