Doc Sidhe (pronounced “She” as in banshee) is an odd tale that combines the modern world with an early 1930′s era fantasy land inhabited by fay people, zeppelins, and magic. The story is how the two worlds collide and why. Much of the story takes place in the fairworld, a land of fantasy with an abstract similarity to the real world. The cast of characters, which range from kickboxers to Doc Brown from Back to the Future, find themselves plunged into a strange adventure jumping between worlds. The overall experience is enjoyable and a huge break from Aaron Allston’s Star Wars novels. It is also a very unique story in many ways.
All books have a main character and in Doc Sidhe it’s Harris Greene. Harris is a kick boxer with some recognition. He’s also on a losing streak. As if his career being in a slump wasn’t bad enough, things soon get worse as a plot envelopes that sends him to another world. Unlike New York, this new land is filled with odd buildings and vehicles that look like they were pulled from the 1930′s. Old Ford Model T’s and sleek looking Rolls-Royce cars populate the streets. Buildings stretch into the sky with a strange architecture that combines the look of castles and skyscrapers. Instead of television sets and telephones there are talk-boxes. And strangest of all, everyone is allergic to steel. Harris is forced to deal with the culture shock on top his already mounting troubles. What unfolds is a character journey that helps him find a new place in life, and a new course for his future. That is if he survives.
Along with a strong female lead that ties closely to Harris, there is also title character Doc Sidhe aka Desmond MaqqRee. While Doc isn’t the main character, he often steals the spotlight and becomes the focus of most of the story. In the fairworld Doc is a legend. He’s one of the fay people and is magically gifted. He has a long history that has put him in the limelight and he’s made plenty of enemies along the way. Furthermore his character is a lot like Doc Brown from Back to the Future, though I don’t think this was intentional. Regardless, it made the story fun. Both Doc’s are of an older age and both have long, white hair. They’re also scientifically inclined and people gravitate toward them, leaving them in roles of leadership. In this case they both transport people to other places, though Doc Sidhe travel’s between worlds rather than through time. They also both get into lots of trouble.
The story at first is dominated by strangeness. Allston takes a relatable, familiar character, Harris, and quickly throws him into a series of weird events that made little or no sense. As Harris is plunged into a new world, things get even stranger. Yet all of it has a fascinating quality to it that teases your curiosity and leads you further into the story to see where it’s going and what these things are. Odd objects like talk-boxes and brass guns lead to odd people made of clay or filed toothed, vengeful dwarves and pointed eared natives. All of it woven into an interesting character journey that deals with overcoming your weaknesses and finding your place in life. Whether it’s facing failures, dealing with relationship troubles, or just figuring out who you are, all of it leads Harris to finding a sense of normal. Perhaps even a new sense of normal, one that forces him to look to the future and to think for a change rather than coasting along in life.
In perhaps what is a crowning moment for Allston, the story very nearly ends on a line of humor, though the epilogue takes it past the last laugh. Still it was that defining moment that reminded me of all the humor Allston packs into his Star Wars novels, and though this book is more heavy on the adventure than laughs, there is still some humor packed in. If you’re looking for something very different, I highly recommend giving this book a try. It’s a fun story and if you’re hesitant about whether you would like it or not, Baen books actually has it in their online library so you can read it for free. You can check it out here. That said, I easily give it a four out of five metal bikinis.