THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
AND "DEATH AND
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'NEW
RELEASED IN MARCH
The Earth colony on
Yemaya 4 is a very
ordinary place. But
the Doctor and his
TO find a virus THAT
IS unleashing the
psychic powers, AND
troopers of the Dione-
Kisumu company, who
have come either to
reclaim theIR stolen
sterilise the planet...
Kate Orman is one of Doctor Who literature’s most respected authors, and it’s a reputation that’s well deserved. I liked both The Left-Handed Hummingbird and Set Piece, and whilst I think that they are generally a little over-rated, I can see exactly why Orman is so revered. She’s definitely the best ‘technical’ writer to write for the New Adventures series: her prose is rich and vibrant, alive with detail. Even when her narratives are not massively compelling, Orman still manages to hold the reader’s attention through the sheer strength
of her writing.
SLEEPY, however, is wearisome in the extreme. This may be because it’s a different type of novel to Orman’s previous efforts. This book is a fast and hard, plot-driven science-fiction tale rather than compelling character drama. Consequently, the characters suffer. I couldn’t tell you anything about any of the supporting characters here; I only put the book down about forty minutes ago and I’m already forgetting them. The only thing that sticks in my mind is that they have whimsical, almost Paradise Towers-awful names like GRUMPY and BAR B and Dotty Smith-Smith!
“Don’t worry, I’m just trying to steel myself against the inevitable.”
That said, the TARDIS crew are each handled exceedingly well. The Doctor celebrates his one-thousandth birthday during this novel (if you can believe a word that the little rascal says about his age) and he also explores some of his deep-rooted fears about his companions dying – the whole ‘eggs in one basket’ sequence is brilliant. Orman also reveals a new side to Bernice – something not to be scoffed at after about forty novels – in that she outwardly shows signs of discontent. She’s getting older and she seems lonely. Almost broody, even.
But - nail in the coffin time - if Orman was going to change tack and write a powerful, plot-driven science-fiction novel then she should have written one with a more riveting narrative.
If your characters are unremarkable but your plot is great, then you could probably get away with a passable novel. If your plot is ‘a virus suddenly infects people with psi-powers’, then you’re sunk.
In mid-November 1969 Terrance Dicks commissioned Don Houghton’s Operation: Mole-Bore to round off Doctor Who’s seventh season under one proviso – that he changed the name of the serial to something that wouldn’t give the critics a free shot. Regrettably, Orman didn’t have the benefit of the same sage counsel. And I’m sorry; I know it’s cheap but I can’t resist. This novel made me SLEEPY.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
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