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Speed of Flight

By Paul Leonard

Reviewed by Robert Boswell


I have a confession to make: I am one of a rare breed among Doctor Who fans: I actually enjoy Paul Leonard's books. Okay, so Toy Soldiers was ... errm, not very good (no need to resort to rude words, after all), but Dancing the Code was extremely enjoyable, and Venusian Lullaby remains one of my favourite Missing Adventures.

Leonard's new book, Speed of Flight, takes place immediately following Dancing the Code and contains several references to the UNIT family's adventures in Kebiria. But Venusian Lullaby is the more relevant reference point for Speed of Flight. It shares with Leonard's first novel the fact that it features mysterious and very alien settings and cultures around which the story is based.

When dealing with a place as strange as that of Naoma, the setting of this novel, it is easy to alienate and confuse the reader, making them reluctant to continue reading. Leonard avoids this by giving his readers information at just the right pace to keep them interested without revealing too much at once.

Leonard's prose style is experimental enough to satisfy those who dislike 'bland', straightforward narrative, but is never so experimental that the story suffers. As usual, Leonard's narrative point-of-view remains firmly placed within the minds of his characters. This enables him to give depth to the most briefly glimpsed of characters, a distinct advantage in a fast paced story such as this, where there is little time to pause for characterisation.

Speed of Flight also continues Leonard's trend of having major characters become possessed by alien forces. Following Barbara in Venusian Lullaby, Catriona in Dancing the Code and the Doctor and Bernice in Toy Soldiers, Speed of Flight sees both Mike and Jo fall under alien influence. Unfortunately, this means that both of the audience's points of identification are removed to some degree.

Overall, though, this novel is something of a return to form for Leonard after his slightly dodgy New Adventure. And, after all, who can resist a novel which features an appearance by (I kid you not) the sonic monkey wrench?

This item appeared in TSV 49 (November 1996).

Index nodes: Speed of Flight