on 31 January 2008
I love So Vile a Sin.
I got back into Doctor Who after the 2005 season, after a lapse for a few years - although more in spite of than because of RTD's approach. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to get round to So Vile a Sin; I already knew I loved it, from when I was a kid (got it in a library book sale: 20p. Suck on that, eBay!); but, still, something was putting me off. What if it didn't live up to my thirteen-year-old memories of its gloriousness?
I needn't have worried.
It's such a beautiful book, cleverly but economically written. The way the huge scale and future setting is suggested through little references to the bigger picture, while being grounded in realistic reactions is quite wonderful, and all the characters are constructed with a minimum of fuss.
Heartbreaking, too - the inevitability of Roz's death is brilliantly set up throughout the book. The funeral epilogue-prologue is an absolutely wonderful piece of writing; I read it by itself a couple of months ago and it instantly made me cry. Placing Roz back within the context of her own time and family is also a beautiful way to make her death more resonant. Even the fact that her death isn't seen, per se, is such a powerful decision (the impersonality stops any potential mawkishness).
I absolutely love the Seventh Doctor - and, considering that he's being written by Aaronovitch and Orman here, it's a foregone conclusion that he's handled brilliantly. I love his spare appearances, and his contrasting emotional vulnerability and overarching manipulation (both at a peak here); it just reminds me what a good character the Seventh Doctor is.
The alternate Doctors are intriguing, although an idea like this could all too easily have become ugly - thanks to the authors' discretion though, it's effective because it's done with constraint. (I'm particularly fond of the ancient, wheelchair-bound Third Doctor.)
It's so nice having a book which is very much Roz's; she's so wonderfully unlike any other companions, and, as ever, the NAs are so many miles ahead of... well, everything else, that your `conventional' companions pale into insignificance by comparison. (Okay, maybe a bit strong... But I really like Roz. She's a bit world-weary and rough round the edges, and feels like a Real Person (!) in a way that even Benny doesn't always.)
It's bizarre really that such a `huge' book is so personal and affecting, too - which comes down to Roz alone (for example, plot-wise, there's only the slightest conclusion). (It's impressive also that the book is epic, moving - but also really funny, in a knowing, deadpan way.)
Roz's death really bothers me, actually, I think because it's written so sensitively and perceptively. It's really nice getting Benny's perspective at the end. I think also it's true that Roz is a character that, while she might have become familiar, as Bernice says, you don't really know her, and it makes everything all the more poignant.
Maybe there's too much, but I do like all the continuity - and the way none of it is dwelt on. In fact, the way the novel never stoops to explain anything and you have to really use your intelligence is wonderful (especially in relation to the new series); I really appreciate having to mentally piece together all the disparate characters, etc.
I guess it's all too easy to look back and dwell on a past era, but it's so sad they literally don't make them like this any more! The NAs really are `my Doctor Who,' so it makes me sad that they're kind of being erased by the new series. (I know it's a bit petty to complain about, but the Doctor's assertion that he's only 1003 in Voyage of the Damned does seem like the TV series pooing on the NAs, EDAs, audios, etc. Wasn't he 1002 or something in Vampire Science?)
Genuinely intelligent, moving, complex and adult Doctor Who - you can't ask for much better than that. So Vile a Sin is gorgeous.
on 17 August 2006
To date, Kate Orman has been the most prolific of the 'New Adventures' authors. Sadly, she is also one of the hardest to comprehend. 'So Vile a Sin' combines the worst excesses of the series with Orman's own idiosyncratic and frankly barmy take on contemporary sci-fi.
The fact that the novel was delayed, (its original author Ben Aaronovitch suffered unexpected difficulties with his manuscript), only serves to worsen the deal. It means that we already know Roz dies and the novel's only interest is already an open secret.
All-in-all the latest New Adventure continues the downward spiral from the series' half way point; leaving this reviewer to sigh in relief as the finishing post is now clearly in sight.