The novel “The Stealers of Dreams” by Steve Lyons was published for the first time in 2005.
The Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler and Captain Jack Harkness are visiting a planet colonized by humans where the situation doesn’t look very cheerful. Any form of fictional work is prohibited so for example on television only news and documentaries are broadcast.
The travelers discover that there’s an underground movement that spreads literature and a man who calls himself Hal Gryden spreads pirate television broadcasts. The Doctor and his companions try to understand the origin of that situation, which turns out to be more complex than they thought.
“The Stealers of Dreams” is part of a series of novels connected to the new “Doctor Who” series. They’re targeted to a wide audience by being linear enough to be appreciated even by very young readers but sophisticated enough to interest more mature readers.
This novel is set during the first season of the new “Doctor Who” series, after the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler met with Captain Jack Harkness and he began traveling with them. For once, the Doctor, brings Rose and Jack to another planet where, however, the situation is not exactly idyllic.
Soon the travelers realize that in the human colony existing on the planet every form of imagination is considered a lie and therefore prohibited. This means that all forms of literature but also other art forms such as movies and TV shows are prohibited. Even dreams are considered as lies and therefore suppressed by drugs.
Initially, the novel is developed almost completely as the story of a dystopian society. This also includes a resistance movement with its leader Hal Gryden spreading pirate television broadcasts. There are people who are not necessarily interested in fighting the colony society’s status but exchange literary works because they like them.
These are classic elements of a dystopian story but there are others that since the beginning suggest that the situation on the planet is more complex. The first chapter is about a teenage girl who has visions of a monster, a part of the plot that is clarified only in the second part of the novel.
In a dystopia you’d expect a government that keeps control over the population, sometimes subtlly rather than openly using force against deviations from the laws. In “The Stealers of Dreams” it seems that most people are really convinced that the laws against imagination are good and that the people who use it should be admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
Steve Lyons develops the plot separating the protagonists so each of them discovers different parts of the mystery surrounding the strange planet’s society. In the central part that creates a certain fragmentation in the story and as a consequence there can be a bit of confusion but the novel isn’t very long so the reader soon comes to a point where the pieces start coming together.
“The Stealers of Dreams” is focused in particular on the mystery of the planet’s society, a puzzle of which the Doctor and his companions have to put the pieces together to solve it. For this reason, it’s mainly plot-oriented with a limited attention to the characters.
The consequence is that this isn’t the novel in which the protagonists stand out at their best. They have their moments but they could easily be replaced by another Doctor and other companions. Steve Lyons created a couple of interesting characters among the planet’s inhabitants who initially may seem weird but in the final part of the novel they help to understand their society.
“The Stealers of Dreams” is a kind of novel that requires a little patience and, while it’s not a normal dystopia, contains a message in favor of arts and imagination. It has some flaws but overall seemed good to me and I recommend it in particular to readers who appreciate that kind of story.