Friday, August 26, 2016


A long time ago, in a TV universe far, far away (smirk), a character known as The Doctor, a doddering old codger having adventures through time and space with his granddaughter and two of her kidnapped teachers took a jaunt to the height of the Mexica Empire to spend some time among the Aztecs. The chief tension of that adventure lay in teacher Barbara's efforts to stop the Aztecs' slaughtering prisoners by the thousands to appease the blood-hunger of their war god (avatar, a hummingbird, because dude, have you ever watched hummingbird's at war over a backyard feeder?). She of course failed, because the First Doctor wasn't about messing with or influencing history. Oh no.

Fast forward hundreds and hundreds of years, both in our time and the personal timeline of The Doctor, and in The Left Handed Hummingbird he returns to his old haunt in his Seventh incarnation, accompanied by his friends Ace and Professor Bernice Summerfield (a fan favorite* who first appeared in a short story that appeared in Doctor Who magazine and then spread to other media). Except first stop, modern day (OK, circa 1994) Mexico City, where they quickly meet a sweet but panicky guy named Cristian, who says he met them back in 1968 in London and sent a message through bizarre channels begging for them to help him yet again. Of course none of the TARDIS crew has ever seen him before.

Their effort to help the poor guy -- a latent psychic and Aztec descendant -- sends them back to Aztec times and to London in 1968. And then to other times and places, but we'll get there. In both milieus, the TARDIS crew encounters a terrifying psychic force Cristian refers to as The Blue, that has insinuated itself into the spiritual life of the Aztecs and into the acid-droppin' hippie life of a houseful of hippies who mistake its distorting effects on their lives for enlightenment, man. But it's not. Oh, no.

In the process, The Doctor trips balls several times, Ace gets into a ton of fights, and Bernice, who is a Space Archaeologist from the Future (decades before River Song was that), does a lot of research, and everybody runs afoul of another non-TV character, one Hamlet MacBeth ("my parents hated me"), a former member of UNIT who founded its short-lived Paranormal Division (which, see Milkweed from Ian Tregillis' triptych), who interferes as only a UNIT guy can.

It's a pretty good, tight but convoluted plot, which alone makes this an enjoyable read (especially since it explores Meso-America, which not enough speculative fiction does. There's Aliette de Bodard's Obsidian & Blood trilogy and then there's... what? If anybody knows of more, please tell me. I love me that setting), but author Kate Orman is also a lovely prose stylist, with some passages manifesting as downright lyrical, as when she describes the TARDIS' famous groaning noise as "the arrogant music of equations shoving aside the particles of the air."

Really, the book's only flaw is its awkwardly shoehorned and totally unnecessary side trip into the life of John Lennon*, for reasons I don't really get except maybe because he was a peace guy, and his influence was, like, so important that it thwarted the Blue? 'Scuse me while I puke and die. Ha ha ha ha.

But so anyway, Kate Orman zooms up near the top of my author list, which is a good thing because she's written a LOT of Doctor Who novels. If they're all as good as this one (which even made me like The Gnome a bit more), I'm in for happiness!

So, speaking of those author rankings, after this one and Palace of the Red Sun, here are all the rankings, which, yes, have changed slightly. As I always warn, they are both Arbitrary and Mercurial.


Alastair Reynolds
Kate Orman
Mark Gatiss
Terrance Dicks
Gary Bulis
Jonathan Morris
Justin Richards
Gary Russell
Keith Topping

And the Doctors:


And a reader has demanded that I take a stab at formally ranking companions. So, solely including what I've had in the novels thus far:

Romana II
Ben and Polly

So next up is the Eighth Doctor, of whom I'm terribly fond because HELLO PAUL MCGANN. The TV movie was terrible but he's just wonderful in the Big Finish audio dramas he's made. So I'm excited. But instead of just picking what strikes my fancy to read first, since the Eighth Doctor Adventures really are, I think, meant to constitute his lost seasons, continuity might matter (as, actually, it does a bit with the New Doctor Who Adventures, as there was some stuff in The Left Handed Hummingbird that was carrying over from previous Seventh Doctor novels. O'well), so I'm going to read those in order as I go. Which means, yep, The Eight Doctors is next, even though it's by Terrance Dicks, one of whose novels I've already read in this first tour de Doctor novels.

Anyway, see you then!

*Which, funny about this, the few times when it really looked like the bits regarding the Beatles were looking to hijack my cool Aztec/Mexico story, I got super mad and started composing a rant in my head about how I'd always felt like Doctor Who was a sort of special present that the Silent Generation made for Generation X and why did the Baby Boomers have to go shoving their culture into everything, with an excursis into just how tired I really am of the damned Beatles, but then I looked up author Kate Orman and she's only two years older than Your Humble Blogger. So she was 12 years old when Lennon was assassinated and so that event probably meant more to her than it ever did to me and my ranty pants went back onto their hanger in my complainy closet.

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