THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVELS "EATER OF
WASPS" AND "THE
FROM A STORY BY
& KATE ORMAN
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN JUNE 2001.
The weather is going
to hell. THE tigers
are coming to town.
And the Doctor has
taken his violin and
Hitchemus is home to
a colony of HUMAN
musicians and alien
animals. When BOTH
the storms and the
tigers break loose,
the Doctor tries to
protect the humans -
but the humans don't
When he ventures in
to the wilderness in
search of the tigers'
secrets, Fitz and Anji
find themselves on
their own, trying to
prevent a war.
for blood and STORMS
on the horizon, the
Doctor must decide
whether he's on the
side of the human
race THIS TIME.
The Year of
Often the best ideas are the maddest ones. Those that, by all rights, should never see the light of day, and would most likely never make it beyond the slush pile were they not bearing the name of a respected writer. Often the most memorable books are borne of such ideas, and The Year of Intelligent Tigers is one such book.
Kate Orman’s reputation as one of the most idiosyncratic, and indeed one the finest, Doctor Who novelists is one that is well-deserved, and if I were asked to point to one book that best typified her work then this would be it. Her prose has never been any more sumptuous; her characterisation never any more real, or raw. And in terms of its plot, The Year of Intelligent Tigers is her most outstanding as it does everything that a good science fiction story should, supplying incident and intrigue in roughly equal measure, but it is also couched in sublimely-executed musical metaphor. Every chapter – every verse - ebbs and flows with the rhythm of a Murray Gold concerto, whilst more overtly the narrative is built around musical conceits.
The premise is absolutely bonkers. We have a paradise planet, Hitchemus, where a number of human musicians have settled. Amongst them roam huge, apparently docile, Tigers which appear almost identical to those that evolved on Earth. But appearances can be deceptive. When Anji is accosted by a bibliophilic Tiger in the library, she begins to suspect that they might be sentient, and before long, she’s proved right. Having studied the humans for long enough, the Tigers stage a coup and seize control of the colony… and then demand to be taught the art of music.
Somehow though, it works, and works superlatively. With a view to unravelling the mysteries of their motives and intelligence, the Doctor goes native, infiltrating the Tigers’ Bewilderness and living amongst the ambush as a Tiger. He tries to discover why one generation of Tigers is intelligent, yet the next not; to unravel the mystery of this planet and its increasingly hostile weather. And in doing so, with his head shaved and his feet bare, the Doctor comes within a whisker of unravelling the mystery of himself.
Orman’s inspired portrayal of the amnesiac Doctor cuts right to the hearts of the character. She doesn’t focus too heavily on missing memories, instead exploring the lost Time Lord’s thoughts and feelings. Why was he so desperate to travel in time and space when he was trapped on Earth? And now that he’s got there, why does he feel the need to settle down? This Doctor is an emotional storm that quickly gives rise to a tumultuous physical one as, Christlike, he tells the Tigers and the humans to go and save their own world for a change. He’ll give them the keys, but he won’t open the doors.
The Year of Intelligent Tigers is
also kind to the Doctor’s friends,
the author affording each almost
as much development as she does
him. After his breakdown in Earth-
World, Fitz’s extended, peaceful
stay on Hitchemus prompts almost
the opposite. Given the chance to
catch his breath, form a band and
finally finish some tunes, Fitz finally
realises just how dangerous and
frantic his life has become, and
what a brave bloke he’s had to turn
into. Meanwhile, Anji’s trust in the Doctor is given an almighty wobble that puts the insecurity
of the last few books shame. Orman recognised that in order to give Anji’s worries about him credibility, she’d have to make them well-founded, and so whilst the Doctor of this story may live up to his ‘Oncoming Storm’ soubriquet, he’s still damaged. This book really makes each of the flaws in his increasingly alien character catch the light.
The Tigers themselves are spectacularly drawn, each of the main characters imbued with distinct personalities that manage to be far more memorable than any of the colonists, with the possible exception of Karl Sadeghi - a violinist with an artist’s temperament and an Alan Turing-like crush on the Doctor. Karl adds yet another layer to the tale’s already multifaceted makeup, helping to bring out aspects of the Doctor that we’d never glimpsed before. Violin virtuoso, or idiot savant? Detached alien rover, or lonesome soul in search of a home? The questions are posed, but the unfathomable answers lie behind two bloodshot pools of grey.
Complaints? Nil of note. The Year of Intelligent Tigers is at times a little slow to progress, but it’s never sluggish – it’s relaxed. Events move along at sufficient enough speed to hold
the reader’s interest, but are paced so as to give him time to appreciate every last word of the author’s lyrical prose and seek out every last delicate hint of subtext. This is not a book that should be wolfed down like a Tiger’s tea, but savoured.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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