This is a review of the Doctor Who tie in novel Engines of War. If you have no interest in Doctor Who you will have no interest in this. Caution there may be spoilers.
Doctor Who is a unique and beloved franchise and if you have to ask what it's about you probably shouldn't be reading this review. Needless to say the Doctor is a personal hero of mine. I love him in all his forms and enjoy every era of the show. In 2013 Whovians were given many gifts from Steven Moffat and others who have worked on the show. In my opinion the most memorable event to take place in the the Whoniverse was the 50th anniversary episode the Day of the Doctor. It was an epic multi-Doctor adventure featuring all of the past incarnations of the Doctor and saw the return of Gallifrey. The episode starred Matt Smith's eleventh Doctor, David Tennant as the tenth Doctor, Billie Piper as the Moment, Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald and John Hurt as the War Doctor. The War Doctor is an incarnation between McGann and Eccleston. He fought in the Time War and because of this his three immediate successors refused to acknowledge his existence.
No Doctor in the history of the show is without tie in books. I do not believe John Hurt could have ever truly been the Doctor in the same ways as the other twelve without at least one prose adventure. Engines of War is that adventure. I really thoroughly enjoyed this book. Because of that I'll begin by talking about what's wrong with it.
1. There are typos scattered throughout the book. They don't make anything unreadable but they took me out of the story on several occasions. I don't know why this is the case or if it's the same with every copy but you should be warned. Naturally you have just noticed a typo on my own blog and plan on gloating in the comments.
2. Your enjoyment/understanding of the book may rely largely on your knowledge of the established canon of the show. This wasn't a problem for me but I'm a very dedicated and obsessive fan. If you are a long time fan you are likely to get a lot of the little references and nods to the past and the future.
Engines of War is about the Doctor crash landing on the Dalek occupied planet Moldox. There he encounters the fiesty and emotionally damaged young dalek hunter Cinder. From there the two finds themselves breaking into Dalek headquarters, The Daleks it turns out have been developing a new weapon. The weapon is poweredby a temporal abnormality near Moldox called the Tantalus Eye. The purpose of the weapon is to wipe people, things or even places from both time and space. This would effectively make them no longer real. The Doctor and Cinder go to the Time Lords who in order to prevent the proliferation of time weapons decide to just go ahead and blow up the Tantalus Eye . This would of course destroy a dozen different inhabited worlds and every living thing on them but it's not like that matters. Obviously the Doctor and his companion work to stop the genocide as well as defeat the Daleks. They do this by stealing a Time Lord (Borusa) who Rassilon has turned into a weapon known as a possibility engine.
This book is interesting for a number of reasons. It is not only the best look we get at the life of John Hurt's Doctor it is also our best look at the events of the Time War. It's something we could never get in a multi Doctor story. This story allows for a kind of focus and exploration of the Doctor's past which would be out of place in the regular series. In book form however it works beautifully. We get an interesting cast of characters both from the classic series and the mind of George Mann and we get to see just what pushed the Doctor over the edge and put him in a place where he could even imagine pushing that big red button.
I'm a big believer that Doctor Who is first and foremost about the Doctor but at the same time it is never just the Doctor. Engines of War is not only the story of Doctor and the Time War. It is also the story of Cinder. Cinder is everything the Doctor values. She's brave and smart and capable of working independently and making tough decisions at a moment's notice. But more than that she's a girl who wants to escape everything but doesn't know if there's anywhere to escape to. She's stuck between a rock and a hard place and is determined to fight her way out. She could easily be compared to Ace. She adds a lot to the book. It's a real pity she only got this one adventure.
The George Mann wrote the Doctor is very true to the performance given by Sir John Hurt. He's a slightly grumpy, slightly goofy old soldier who desperately go back to exploring the universe for pleasure. He's got a dark and feels an enormous sense of responsibility to protect the universe. What I think Mann does really brilliantly is that rather than writing a character exactly like the one seen on screen he wrote the Doctor as he would have been before losing hoping. He shows us real character progression and makes his writing feel natural and not like some sort of prequel put out just to cash in on the popularity of the character.
Engines of wars is a fun and at times very sad story which sets gigantic standards for itself and then lives up to everyone of them. It's truly a must read for any dedicated Whovian. It stands up as a perfect companion piece to The Day of the Doctor and is an entertaining and poignant story on its own.