(an attempt at a spoiler-free review by Kathryn Andersen)
This novel is right up there with Love & War in the best NA category, I think. Why? Hmmm. Many of the NA's are "okay". They have nothing wrong with them. But to be an outstanding story, it needs something extra; some character insight or development which changes the relationship of the major characters, an original plot/twist/adversary, an excellent turn of phrase - and LHH had all of these. Here, the Doctor is put in a position he has never been in before, hoist on his own petard, a victim of his own way of doing things, caught in a trap that travels with him.
(I am reminded of the Blake's 7 quote:
"When you know an enemy's strengths, and can use them against them, they become weaknesses."
-- Servalan, to Travis (Blake's 7: Weapon [B3]) )
There are some good insights about him and Ace, wondering
if they are more alike than they like to admit...
And finally, those turning phrases, made me want to write again.
It's not often you get some lovely stuff you'd like to quote -
my quotes file has many gems from "Transit", but hardly anything
from the other NA's. This one doesn't have as many quotable
jewels, but a number of places that made you sit up and take
notice. My favourite is:
"Ashes to nothing. Dust to nothing. Live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful empty space where you used to be." (p220)
This story stood out because, as I said above, this is the first time
that the Doctor has been a victim. There have been times when
he has been helpless to help others. There have been times when
he has been at the losing end, but he has been in control, able to
play for time. There has even been the time, with the Timewyrm,
where half the time he hasn't been in control, but he has always
been playing his game, fencing with the enemy. This time he couldn't
fence at all. The quote from Nietzsche at the start is doubly
fitting now that I know what happened. Because that's what happened.
He gazed into the Abyss, and became a monster. This is a good
follow-on from The Dimension Riders, because the stakes have upped.
In The Dimension Riders, for the first time, the Doctor's clever
plan didn't work, and someone else's clever plan did. He was
helped by someone else. And in The Left-Handed Hummingbird,
the Doctor was up against something too big for him to handle;
he hardly had a plan at all (no great plan involves suicide...),
and that didn't work either.
The Doctor is so used to being more capable than everyone else he meets, is he incapable of accepting help from others? I mean real help, not directed assistance to fight the enemy. He got into this trouble because he went looking for it.
Sid & Nancy scale: a thunderstorm wrapped in blue
an attempt at a spoiler-free review by Kathryn Andersen
So, here's the latest NA to pass through my hands. I'm wondering if the inverse-cover-rule applies to this one: the cover is great, the book isn't. But actually, the book was okay, even if not terrific. I can understand why the author said he did it for fun. Strangely enough, it picked up in the latter half of the book - or else I merely changed my mood and decided I wanted to read it.
The Ace characterisation harked back to the earlier Ace - or perhaps I was reminded of her because this was, in its own way, a sequel to "Survival", and that part of it it did well. I tip my hat to the author that I did not suspect who Kreer really was until it was revealed, even though enough clues were left around for someone more astute than I to figure it out, maybe. If I were more up with UFO-ology, I might also tip my hat to the author about his UFO research, but I don't know enough to know if he did it well.
Benny doesn't seem to have much to do, and the Doctor doesn't feature as much as he might - there seems to be an abundance of supporting characters being suspicious of each other, following orders, or being victims.
It was readable, but I'm keeping it for the cover. 8-)
Sid & Nancy scale: a model kit of a flying saucer
reviewed by Kathryn Andersen
Well, I finally read this one, months after I got it.
I can see why someone compared this with "Strange England", though in one sense, "Strange England" was more vividly horrible. There was more horror in those singing insects than there was in the two villains. Yet another NA with a surreal landscape. I wonder if it's a requirement. No, I don't dislike surreal landscapes, it's just that you start to get weary of them when they happen a lot. Which NA's didn't have a surreal landscape in there somewhere?
Am I becoming jaded, or are the NAs all running into each other in ordinariness?
Okay spoiler warning time. Discussion time.
But the most interesting question, and here's for the discussion time: who is the grey man? I mean the author seems to be proposing a change in the metaphysical nature of the Whoniverse, but there are several things that don't make sense about it.
I think I had some more questions, but I can't remember what they were.
(now I can read Set Piece! Yay!)
Later, on Thu, 30 Mar 1995...
Ah, I remember now. The other query/problem I had with "Falls the Shadow". And it was the most important one too.
Whoniversal metaphysics warning
Falls The Shadow spoiler warning
Okay, so Gabriel and Tanith were born out of the pain of the universe, a wounding of the universe, the pain of destroyed potential futures, such as the one that Jane Page came from. And the Doctor felt guilty because such pain was caused by him and other time travellers. Am I right, or did I completely miss what was happening?
Because, if that's the case, however poetically appealing it is, it doesn't make any sense. Because time travel isn't the only thing that destroys potential futures. If time travel was never invented, millions of potential futures are destroyed every second, every time someone makes a decision. Is the author trying to tell me that the natural order of the universe (that is, a universe supposing time travel had never been invented, an untampered-with universe) causes a wounding of the universe? Where is the logic in that, the design?
I am assuming that the Darvil-Evans structure of the Whoniverse is the one that needs to be used: the one which sets the Doctor's Gallifrey way way back in (to us) the past, which is actually the Present. And the nature of time travel is such that it is impossible to travel into the Past, into a point before the Present (thus nobody goes back in time to have a chat to Rassillon etc), but it is possible to travel into the future, but the act of travelling into the future and observing and participating in it, makes that future certain (or almost certain) to occur. It crystalizes it, so to speak. That there is only one universe; parallel universes take a great deal of energy to create and they are only temporary. It is not impossible to change history, but it is difficult, destructive, and a very Bad Thing.
So, in all this, why is there pain at the wiping out of possible futures? It's not as if they had a right to exist: there can be only one history-of-the-universe in the end. What exists, exists. What might have existed does not exist, and should not exist.
Is it because these potential futures were wiped out "sooner" than they might have been? Because the actions/decisions that wiped them out happened before the Present moment actually arrived there? But what does "before" mean in that context? We're talking about meta-time here, and that's so hairy I think I'll leave it.
Sid & Nancy scale: a Ken Done painting
Date - June 5th 1995
reviewed by Kathryn Andersen
The obvious book to compare "Set Piece" to would be the previous excursion of Kate Orman into the realms of the New Adventures - "The Left-Handed Hummingbird" (otherwise known in fannish shorthand as "Hummer"). Oddly enough, I think "Set Piece" was both better and not as good as Hummer. Better, because I can think of not a thing to point to that was a problem (on the other hand, maybe I just wasn't looking carefully enough?). Not as good simply because it wasn't the same kind of rollercoaster ride that Hummer was, not as much of the sheer angstiness that was in Hummer. Not the same psychological torture - here I was more worried about Ace than the Doctor. But maybe that's just that it's a different book. And it would be only half a point difference anyway. I did really like Set Piece. Action and characterisation in even amounts, a few surprises, and a few not-surprises. 8.5 or 9 out of 10.
This story is really Ace's story, not really surprising since this is the book in which she is written out of the series. The Doctor and Benny have their parts to play, but Ace is the emotional heart of the tale. The three time travellers are cast adrift through history when a rescue attempt goes awry, and the three have to survive in different eras while something living in a crack in space-time preys on people from the past, present and future.
Here, Ace is all alone, in the alien (to her) culture of Ancient Egypt, with only her own resources to fall back on, surviving and waiting, waiting, waiting for the Doctor to turn up and tell her the sneaky plan he had been preparing all this while. But the last time she saw the Doctor, "Benny was stooped over the Doctor, frantically trying to get a response out of him. Blood was trickling from his mouth and nose, sluggishly. His eyes had flicked shut. Ace wished she could tell Benny that the Doctor was dead." Isolated, despairing, Ace is in danger of losing her soul, of making the worst mistake in her life...
Again, Kate Orman has sprinkled the work with sharp pieces of prose: "Suddenly the Doctor did not walk up and say hello." (p50) about Ace's loneliness. "When you're short of everything except the enemy, you know you're in combat." (p138) was another good example. And touches of humour here and there. One might make a complaint, though, that the Whoniverse is becoming cluttered with metaphysical constructs; previous New Adventures have dream-encounters with Death and Time - here we meet Pain, with the Doctor as Time's butterfly. I guess that depends on how much one enjoys symbolism. There are some very good character moments - for Ace and the Doctor particularly. Ace faces herself, and the Doctor wins by losing.
The plot as a whole comes together piece by piece, jumping about from time and place (with a flashback and a red herring or two to stop it from being too straightforward), becoming clearer as it goes along, and tieing itself together very satisfactorily. No megalomaniacs, no 'fixed up in the last five minutes with the wave of a gizmo', and not even a 'I've been subtly planning this behind the scenes for months' which tends to happen with the 7th Doctor.
The way in which Ace departs the series had me cheering. I couldn't have asked for a better way for her to go. And I'd better not say any more about that for fear of letting slip hints about what happens.
If you are reading the New Adventures at all, there are no excuses for not reading this one, except perhaps putting it off until you've read all the previous ones by Paul Cornell, Ben Aaronovich and Kate Orman.
Sid & Nancy scale: chocolate cake with ice cream
note on rec.arts.drwho on Thu Aug 17 1995 from kat
I only have two things to say about this NA:
1. I expect that persons will have similar attitudes towards this as they
had about The Highest Science.
2. It made me laugh.
(who hasn't read radw for months...)
Sid & Nancy scale: Mystery Science Theatre 3000
a rambling rave by Kathryn Andersen
Whee! She did it again! So I couldn't put it down, what's the surprise in that?
First warning - ignore the back cover blurb. It's misleading. It tells you too much about the wrong things.
Okay, what did we get?
The Zen - that was cool.
An angst-guilty Chris - of course since I haven't read an NA since... too long - I don't know what he was referring back to, except that it's presumably spoiled a previous NA, probably the one just before, "Eternity Weeps", yes?
Fanboy-Joel returns! And drops in a few fannish references, B5 included... Not to mention references back to "Return of the Living Dad" and "Sleepy". Probably other ones that I missed, too.
And the Doctor... his torture is on the inside, this time. Sort of.
Plus assorted "demons", legends, fighting, and codes of honour. And how many ways can one pronounce "Chris"?
And I love it how it all came together. Practically driving us nuts with not knowing what this ruddy pod is! Even though every man and his dog is fighting over it... typical, neh. And of course, driving us nuts wondering what the Room With No Doors is too. And What Does It All Mean? Read the book, and find out.
Can a house stand, if it is divided among itself? Can a Doctor stand, if he is not at peace? This does a bit of foreshadowing about the 8th Doctor's genesis, which is cool too. Hmmm, can you call it foreshadowing if we all know what it is referring to already?
This is a happening book - and not a happening book. The universe is not at stake, but that just brings it down to a level we can comprehend. People. There's certainly a lot of running around. And a lot of thinking, too.
Oh, look, I don't know how it compares with her others, I just enjoyed it. I liked it better than Sleepy, but then that was the one of Kate's that I liked the least.
Oh, and now that R.J. Anderson's "Sacrifice" is now officially
quoted in an NA, I'll just have to mention that you'd better go off
and read all of
<http://www.pobox.com/~rebeccaj/:R.J. Anderson>'s 11th Doctor stories, too.
(Two of which appeared in
reviewed by Kathryn Andersen
They did it again! Another one of those "Huh, what the hell is going on?" books, from the now-team of Ben Aaronvich and Kate Orman, where it does all make sense in the end. And here, when we thought everything was fine, we knew it couldn't be, because the book wasn't over yet. And again, got to a point where one was thinking, "How on earth are they going to get out of this?" and they did anyway. Surely it must be hard to think of yet more universe-threatening threats, and yet they did it. And very sensibly, they put the body on page one. Since everybody knew she was dead already, might as well take advantage of that, and still manage to leave us in suspense.
And of course, the in-jokes and past-adventures references - noticed the Tara reference - sneaky! And Kate(?) put in more "guns and frocks" jokes, um, in-jokes. I dunno, I can't see a reference to guns and frocks in Kate's books any more without smiling.
But the title still looks like an anagram to me.
A silver-dusted Rubic's Cube that someone does for you, on the Sid & Nancy scale.
reviewed by Kathryn Andersen
Well, I had gotten the impression from comments by other people that I would find this one confusing, that it would raise more questions than it answered, but I don't think so. It answered quite a few questions, or, strictly speaking, dropped the broadest of hints, hints which followed up the intriguing hints about the Doctor's past which had been dropped in COLD FUSION. Tied up quite a few loose ends, really. It even explained the return of the sonic screwdriver! In atmosphere, it reminded me somewhat of STRANGE ENGLAND, but more, really, of GHOST LIGHT.
After I read this, I realized something about many of the New Adventures. Much of the TV Who was dedicated to de-mystifying things. Gods are just aliens, faith as a weapon against haemeovores, human culture as a result of alien interference, and so on. But the New Adventures are bringing the Mystery back - and I don't just mean making the Doctor more mysterious, Leela's comment in LUNGBARROW about the Doctor notwithstanding. All the bits about Death and Time and Pain, the "gods" of Gallifrey, are bringing back the Otherness (and I don't mean the Other!), bringing the Mythic into Doctor Who. And I like it.
Sid & Nancy scale: a giant's house
reviewed by Kathryn Andersen
Here we are - the first of the New Adventures to feature the 8th Doctor instead of the seventh; the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one; ushered in by another on of the NA authors that I admire.
Whee! This one was more slow-moving than the others I had read in my recent Who-thon. It was also more straightforward. I was tempted to complain that there wasn't enough of the Doctor and too much of Benny (if one could really have too much of a well-written Benny), that I didn't get to see the 8th Doctor shine in his own unique Doctorish way, but I was wrong. It just took a while, that's all. I kept on looking at the cover to remind myself of him. I'm looking forward to the BBCNA's simply because I want more 8th Doctor. But don't let me give you the impression that the Doctor and Benny are the only decent characters there. The Brigadier's there as well, and gets in his own thoughtful moments. Plus other supporting decent characters; particularly the little bits with Doug and Oswald. (grin) I have a suspicion that there are some in-jokes there that I missed. Oh well, didn't stop me from enjoying it. Particularly the end.
Sid & Nancy scale: roast beef