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Set Piece

By Kate Orman

Book review by Chris Girdler

Set Piece sees the departure of Ace, and is every bit as good as The Left-Handed Hummingbird. It's very different to Orman's debut novel, more comparable with Andrew Cartmel's writing. There's a more generous amount of characterisation attributed to the supporting characters. Perhaps daunted by writing out such an established character, Orman has taken fewer risks this time round - no drugs, a lesser degree of violence and less historical detail.

One of the risks that is taken is the inclusion of a character who previously appeared in an unpopular New Adventure. This character's shifty untrusting relationship with the Doctor is an example of the fine characterisation in this book, and this time they aren't stuck in such a torpid story. Because the plot leads up to Ace's farewell (which is expertly handled) there are many references to her past stories, giving the book a retrospective mood.

Much as I enjoy the historical Earth-bound settings of Orman's novels, I'd like to see her tackle a futuristic story set in space or on an alien planet. The first two chapters in this book are excellent. They depict an alien craft which is original and interesting - organic walls housing huge metal ants and littered with butterflies. Despite being monsters of the fetch-and-carry variety, I loved the Ants and would like to see more of them.

The concept of splitting up the TARDIS crew and following their quest to find each other is not new but is well structured. When the time travellers reassemble, the pace becomes merciless as the plot accelerates right up to its consummation.

The best thing about Set Piece is the prose, which exudes energy and constantly delivers unpredictability. During the more surreal moments, the writing strikes an unusual compromise between quirkiness and obfuscation. The prose is stronger than the plot and I guess if I looked hard enough I would probably find plot holes, but the details aren't important. This is one piece of writing that your set shouldn't be without. (10/10)

This item appeared in TSV 43 (March 1995).

Index nodes: Set Piece