In the 32nd century, the members of a religious cult that
left Earth to seek a world of their own are trapped in orbit
around a black hole. Their leader, lured by a siren song from
the void, is lost to them. When the TARDIS is similarly trapped,
the Eighth Doctor and his passenger, an early 20th-century
English army Lieutenant infected by an alien virus, find the
colony vessel has become a world at war...
had only previously read one Paul McAuley book, Secret
Harmonies. This novella has little in common with that
earlier work, except for the topic of "going native" in an
alien land, as Lieutenant Edward Fyne becomes tempted to do.
While undergoing a transformation into a tiger-like beast,
he is enticed by Casimir, a lioness-like occupant of the colony
the reason behind Fyne's infection seems like an unnecessary
complication to the narrative structure. The first half of
the novella introduces us to the Lieutenant's world, the Kipling-esque
environment of colonial India, where Fyne meets the Doctor
and has a run-in with an alien creature known as a Tyger.
Then suddenly the book becomes a very different kind of story
as the Doctor attempts to take Fyne to a suitable hospital
facility, spectacularly fails, and the setting shifts to the
32nd-century spacecraft. The result reads more like two short
stories glued together than a proper novella, an effect that
could perhaps have been avoided had the author instead made
use of the Seventh Doctor and a post-Survival Cheetah-infected
As it is, the Tyger-virus is notably similar to the influence
of the Cheetah planet in Survival. References to libraries
at the end of the universe are also unfortunately reminiscent
of a museum depicted in Sometime Never..., the BBC's
first Doctor Who novel of 2004.
In spite of its muddled plot, the book boasts many intriguing
passages, including an excursion into the colony vessel's
hazardous, long-disused internal transit system. The inside-out
world of the spaceship and the labyrinthine interior of the
TARDIS both seem wondrous and fresh as seen through Fyne's
eyes, even though they will already be familiar to most science-fiction
readers. The ending seems a little hurried, despite this being
a short book, even by novella standards, at less than 80 pages.
this curious hybrid beast provides enjoyable reading.