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The Left-Handed Hummingbird

by Kate Orman

Book review by Felicity Scoones

The Left-Handed Hummingbird is a non-chronological frenzied pursuit through time. As the novel flickers around through history and memories, it demands more concentration from the reader than any other New Adventure to date.

It begins slowly, alternating between modern-day Mexico and Tenochtitlan, centre of the Aztec civilization. A plethora of detail is provided about Aztec culture and there are points where this detail obscures the plot. The mythology is especially important but though plenty of information is supplied, it would help if its relationship to the action were more clearly presented. This in-depth view of the Aztecs does however give Hummingbird immense credibility and merits its inclusion.

Once out of bloodthirsty Mexico, about mid-way through the book, the pace really picks up - and keeps accelerating. The events in London, 1968 pack a lot of action into a short space of time, as it is here that the Doctor starts trying to take control of the situation. The portrayal of the hippy lifestyle seems very realistic. I particularly liked Orman's treatment of drugs; she illustrates their use clearly without either glamorising it or being judgemental.

The section set on the Titanic is chillingly well written and is possibly the best part of the book. As with the other eras, it is meticulously researched, but its real strength comes from the superb narrative.

Obviously an important part of each New Adventure is the characterisation of the Doctor and his companions. This is one of the determiners of how in keeping with the series the book is. In this case, the leads are very convincing. They come across as real people, interact with each other in a thoroughly credible way and remain consistent with their depictions in earlier books.

The other important character in the novel is Cristián, the psychically gifted Mexican. Cristián is interesting and well handled; we see him at three separate ages during the course of the book, and while his personality fundamentally remains the same, his different stages of maturity are quite apparent. There are a number of minor characters in the book but they do not leave much impression on the reader.

The Left-Handed Hummingbird entertains and at the same time is quite definitely mature Doctor Who, having extended the concept of the programme without contradicting it. Although some segments seem a little disjointed, this is a very satisfying book to read - and re-read. I look forward to Orman's next book in any realm.

This item appeared in TSV 36 (November 1993).

Index nodes: The Left-Handed Hummingbird