The Left-handed Hummingbird (New Doctor Who Adventures) Mass Market Paperback – 2 Dec 1993
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A story featuring the further adventures of the time traveller Dr Who, as he journeys through time and space with a variety of companions.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is Orman's first Who novel, and although it's not her best (I'd say that would be "The Year Of Intelligent Tigers"), she certainly hits the ground running. Contending with a developing story arc surrounding Ace's gradual transformation from the innocent(-ish) young girl seen in the TV series, it's an ambitious attempt to really take advantage of the time travel aspects, from the Aztecs to the Titanic to John Lennon. Perhaps it tries to take on a little too much but generally it's very solid. It's rich, atmospheric, yet easy to follow.
With the story arcs of the companions, meeting characters out-of-sequence, and a particularly dark, mysterious, isolated Doctor figure, there's a lot that's quite reminiscent of some sorts of the new TV series.
Definitely one of the better novels in the Virgin New Adventures series.
This is Kate Orman's first novel and in truth it does feel like one, with a freewheeling prose style and a continued shift of location, any one of which has the potential to fill out a whole book (John Lennon's assassination, the sinking of the Titanic etc) and as several sites have commented you almost get the feeling she was worried they wouldn't let write another. But all the settings are all well realised, especially the Aztec scenes and the plot builds throughout the course of the book with the skill of someone writing their tenth book not their first. As to the suffering Orman puts the regulars through (especially the Doctor); it all has real impact without becoming grindingly miserable for the reader and is one of the best symbolic representations of the Seventh Doctor's manipulative nature and the cost it has on his friends and himself (particularly his decision to take hallucinogenic drugs as a means to fight the Aztec god Huitzilin). The only negative I have is the strange pose the Doctor is striking on the cover.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I picked up "Hummer" again for the first time in years and years, after a recent viewing of "The Aztecs" -- a 1964 "Doctor Who" adventure which is partly the inspiration for Kate Orman's debut novel. Indeed, the parts of "Hummer" which return the 7th Doctor (and Ace) to 15th century Mexico display a marvelous combination of action and historical detail. The segment begins with the Doctor attracting attention to himself by juggling in the marketplace... and ends with a barrage of corpses. While "The Aztecs" is a prime representative example of early "Doctor Who" (and has a relatively low body count), "Hummer" was "Doctor Who' at its best 30 years later, and the high body count is suited to the novels of its day.
At the outset of her professional writing career, Orman established a rhythmic routine, introducing with both the Doctor and the villain (Huitzilin, the living Aztec god of war) in the very first scene. After a series of dramatic psychic attacks, the story steps back for some well-written exposition. This alternating pace escalates over the rest of the novel. After the Aztecs are left behind, the TARDIS travels to hippie London in late 1968, an overly-dirty New York City in December 1980, and finally, to the last hours of the Titanic.
Also pioneered here in the books is the old-time fanfic concept of "hurt/comfort", in which the lead character is alternately brutalized and cuddled. Here, Ace, by turns, stabs the Doctor in the chest, and gives him a back massage. I can't say this technique was well-used -- it would be taken to rather silly extremes a few books down the road -- but it works in its initial outing.
Another welcome feature in the prose is the author's own personal interests -- making this a rare example of a "Doctor Who" story that actually inhabits its 1993 setting. Characters watch reruns of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" -- in Spanish. There's more use of the Beatles than "Doctor Who" had seen before, or would see since. There's a strong gun-control argument made throughout, including a pointed barb at Ronald Reagan. There are continuity references to other "Doctor Who" TV stories ("Death to the Daleks", "The Pirate Planet") which aren't integral to understanding the book, but provide an extra frisson if you remember them.
And then there is, of course, the research. In another neat narrative trick, the Doctor and Ace's journey to Mexico is intercut with scenes of the Doctor's other companion, Professor Summerfield, sitting in a library researching Aztec culture. The library segments actually increase the tension in the companion historical scenes. This is not an easy trick to pull off. Similarly, the Titanic sequence is intercut with authentic scenes set in the Titanic's telegraph room. The Doctor carries on board with him a typed list of the names of those who survived the disaster -- a wonderfully human touch.
"The Left-Handed Hummingbird", with all of the above, is a comparatively short 264 pages. There's horrific violence and great small moments of humanity. The only "dip" in the book's comes after the first 100 pages, with the introduction of a Dooctor-hating UNIT lieutenant, interruping the frenetic Aztec segment and leading into the slightly less interesting London sequence.
However, this is a book told with real passion for the historical and the temporal. In spite of the body count, it's got a boatload (sorry) of images to remember. Feathers growing out of the possessed Doctor's hair. The child's doll that improbably survived the Titanic's sinking. And the stunningly well-placed quote from "Hotel California".
"Gritty", "realistic" and "intense" are the words that come to mind first when thinking about this book. The characters are certainly put through hell, but it never feels gratuitous or unnecessary. Their suffering isn't approached one-dimensionally, as the ordeals that our friends are put through actually reveal a lot about how their characters work. It's a bit of a cliché to say so, but we learn about fictional characters when we see them put through the wringer. It's not so much that we see people here who are scared, but that their fear is portrayed in a realistic way. There is no false bravado or boring heroism. When people stand up against the odds, it actually means something.
The story is relatively fast-moving. I was amazed at how much had happened before I had even got to page fifty. The plot is perhaps a little more complicated than it really needs to be, but I found that to be enjoyable, so I can't complain too much. It all fits together logically and satisfactorily. No cheap short cuts are taken, so despite the different timelines and detailed plot strands, everything fits together amazingly well.
There's not too much to complain about here. A few of the Beatles jokes get a little silly. Maybe the plot jumps about a bit too quickly at the end. Though when these are the biggest problems in a book you know you're reading a winner. If you never got around to reading this one on its initial publication, then you missed out on something special. This one's a keeper.
This is the first novel by Kate Orman, who is one of the best of the Who authors, continues the "Alternate Universe" arc (started with 'Blood Heat' and 'The Dimension Riders' and continuing with 'Conundrum' and 'No Future'). And what a debut! A vital utilisation of the time travel concept underlying the series, a fairly complex plot that slowly unravels as the story continues.
One of Ms Orman's strong points is characterisation, and this is on display herein. However, she is not yet at the height of her writing powers in this book, good though it is. You should give this, and any other books by the same author, a thorough read.