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Walking to Babylon

By Kate Orman

Book review by Paul Scoones

There's something very charming and almost poetically lyrical about Kate Orman's novels, and Walking to Babylon is one of her best. It's a (probably unintentional) celebration of everything I've enjoyed about the best of the old New Adventures - the superb characterisation, the vividly depicted otherworldly cultures, the moral dilemmas, the crises that are all at once both universe shattering and deeply personal to the central characters... and a few of those books were also by Kate Orman.

Walking to Babylon sumptuously and effortlessly recaptures the atmosphere of such greats from this series as The Also People, Set Piece and The Room With No Doors. It also provides the reader with by far the strongest and most convincing portrayal of Bernice Summerfield I've read in a long time. In doing so, the novel inadvertently exposes a possible reason why its post-Doctor predecessors have been so dull - the regular central character, which once was male, is now female and few authors have the talent to bring out a skilful rendition of a character of the opposite gender. There's an argument here for getting a few more female authors writing for this series, or at the very least persuading Kate to pen a few more titles.

The novel allows Bernice to time travel - at last - courtesy of the (also) People and to visit Earth's past. Readers of novels like The Left-Handed Hummingbird or Set Piece will know to expect from Kate a well-researched and detailed yet entirely readable depiction of the ancient city and culture of Babylon; as always she delivers the goods with panache. Even if you're not following the post-Doctor NAs, I thoroughly recommend getting this one. The Benny New Adventures have yet to come any better than this. [5/5]

This item appeared in TSV 53 (March 1998).

Index nodes: Walking to Babylon