‘Seasons of War: Gallifrey’ reviewed

❉ The Gallifrey depicted here is quite unlike anything else we’ve really seen in any official media: but what would a war of time be without disparate, contradictory histories?

“This novel is very much its own thing and own creation… There is a literal Road to Perdition; people curse “oh my god” in the same way they’ve cried “oh Rassilon!” in the past; and poetry is an important pastime on a planet once mocked for creating works of art with soulless computer programs.”

Seasons of War just refuses to stop.  Every time it gets a new, limited edition print run, we are told that that’s most definitely it for physical releases and if you miss out now, you miss out forever.  And then a new one comes along a few months later.  It’s the literary equivalent of the Rolling Stones holding their seventh “Final Gig/Farewell Tour” with a knowing wink.

Rumour persist that another “definitely the last one honest guv” printing of the original anthology is being planned but to tide us over in the meantime we’ve this.  Seasons of War: Gallifrey is the first spin-off book from the fan fiction anthology, written by Paul Driscoll and Kara Dennison and printed by the newly-formed Altrix Books.

(Full disclosure here: I had a story in the original Seasons of War anthology and knew that more was possibly planned.  I pitched a short story idea that wound up being used elsewhere but that’s it.  Since the publication of that original anthology I’ve heard nothing from anyone, so please don’t think I’ve read this with any sort of bias one way or the other.  I’ve been as curious and eager to see what’s been going on as everyone else!)

The book opens with an introduction from the curator of Seasons of War, Declan May.  He’s definitely pleased to see where his original project has led.  His verdict includes superlatives such as “timely”, “beautiful” and “rich” in a glowing appraisal, comparing creating this new work from the basis of the original anthology to creating “a twisting Gaudi spire.”

Much like the Sagrada Familia, Gallifrey is startlingly different.  The Gallifrey depicted here in this novel is quite unlike anything else we’ve really seen with regards to the planet’s depiction in the show and official spin-off media. The love is more… well, human; there is a literal Road to Perdition; people curse “oh my god” in the same way they’ve cried “oh Rassilon!” in the past; and poetry is an important pastime on a planet once mocked for creating works of art with soulless computer programs.

This is a Gallifrey sprinkled with tiny cafés where people drink coffee and buy tea before nibbling on pastries from the markets.  I suspect that a lot of your investment in the novel and enjoyment of it will rest on how much you can buy into this new take on the planet.

After an opening chapter that ends with something partway between a blurb for the novel and a riff on Timothy Dalton in The End of Time, the story splits into different chapters focussing on the four main characters, torn apart by the war and facing a world quite alien.

Of them all, the chapters focussing on a military training camp and the political machinations of Gallifrey’s war council will be the most relatable and familiar to fans of Big Finish’s Eighth Doctor Time War output and the early and later series of Gallifrey respectively.  The latter cribs from that series a lot, to the point where you can hear the studio echo effects and Miles Richardson as you read certain lines.

Despite borrowing/finding inspiration there though, this novel is very much its own thing and own creation.  As stated before, this is quite unlike any Gallifrey we have glimpsed on audio.  By the end of the novel, it’s perfectly apparent that it is forging ahead with its own path and continuity: but what would a war of time be without disparate and contradictory histories? It’s to the writers’ credit that they’ve stood by their vision.

Something to also cheer about is that the book’s legal talk in its pages on copyright mentions that all proceeds of the novel will be going to charity.  When the anthology spin-offs were announced, the wording seemed to imply that only some profit would head that way, so it’s nice to see that clarified here.

The real legacy of Seasons of War is in how much money it has raised for worthy causes and this new spin-off venture is taking up that mantle.  That is worth every last-ever reprint going.  Even in the last Great Time War, hope finds a way.


❉ ‘Seasons of War: Gallifrey’ is the latest addition to Declan May’s charity Seasons of War fiction line. Print and digital copies are available at AltrixBooks.com, with proceeds going toward Caudwell Children.

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