Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Left-Handed Hummingbird by: Kate Orman: That Power Would Set Me Among The Gods

After watching every Doctor Who story televised so far and several audio dramas I came up with a theory that when Doctor Who is written by a woman and there is little to no executive interference it is going to be a great story.  The only stories written by women that have been bad were Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks and The Woman Who Lived which both had interference from the showrunner.  I’m talking about this because The Left-Handed Hummingbird is the first Virgin New Adventure written by a woman and it fits in with my theory very nicely.  Kate Orman’s debut novel involves an alien device that has fallen to Earth in the time of the Aztecs causing a genetic mutation to amplify the powers of the brain to a select few with a genetic mutation.  It has infected an Aztec warrior, the titular Hummingbird, who has been able to extend his life indefinitely and it is up to the Doctor, Ace and Benny along with Christian Alvarez to stop him from taking over the world.


The first thing that strikes you about this novel is just how much of an expansive tale this is.  Much like Cat’s Cradle: Warhead, the setting is always changing location and time as we see the Hummingbird’s origins to his eventual defeat.  Once the story gets going around page ten it doesn’t stop for air as the Doctor continues to change his plans as he works out the mystery of the note Christian left him in 1994.  The story implements what the Third Doctor said about straight lines not being the most interesting way to get to two points as there are diversions that lead the Doctor astray.  Now this would normally be a problem in a story, but they do eventually come together and tie back into the plot.  They also allow Orman to explore the character of Ace and Bernice as she switches to other people’s perspectives at different times.  Explore she does as we really get inside the companions’ heads as they are both put through a ringer psychologically from hallucinations to violent outbursts.  Orman also puts in some great comedic moments between the Doctor, Ace and Benny, my favorite being when the Doctor calls for a conference which brings up images of the three of them huddling together while Christian looks on in confusion.


The villain of this piece is the titular Hummingbird who much like the titular character in Dracula doesn’t really appear much until the end of the novel, but his presence is felt.  This is especially in apparent during the sequences taking place in the time of the Aztecs.  The climax where he is defeated is also great as the tension is ramped up and the setting is shifted to the Titanic on that night in April when it was sunk.  Christian is also a really good supporting character as you see him grow and shrink when we meet him at different points in his time stream.


If I had to complain about this novel is that the constant changing perspectives can be extremely confusing especially when it happens in the middle of a page.  The other supporting characters are a bit bland with the exception of Lieutenant Macbeth who ends up capturing and torturing the Doctor for information and tying into the plot.  Macbeth is where most of Orman’s energy went when writing the novel’s middle sections.  To summarize The Left-Handed Hummingbird is an amazing novel with a near perfect blend of comedy and drama with some great tension and character interaction that falls flat with its supporting characters and has a few too many diversions within its plot.  90/100

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