What links a clutch of murders in Victorian London, an
angel appearing in a Staffordshire village in the 1920s and
a small boy running loose around London in 1950? Honoré and
Emily think they may have the answer when they encounter a
man who seems to have been cut out of time itself...
The notion of the titular "severed man" sounds, on the surface,
not unlike the premise of the Doctor Who serial City
of Death, in which a being was fragmented into several
"splinters" spread across time. However, the plot of George
Mann's novella is rather more complex than that late '70s
book is divided into sections, according to the different
time periods that Honoré and Emily visit: first their own
era of 1950, where Honoré is haunted by strange dreams, then
to 1892 and 1921 as he and Emily pursue the "severed man",
Barnaby Tewkes, and the strange forces that are out to destroy
him. It's all very weird, with a devilish cult coming into
play in 1892 and the villagers of 1921 being unable to perceive
the time travellers at all (a development that is reminiscent
of another Doctor Who serial, The Space Museum).
an element of mystery is all very well, but unfortunately
the story fails to make much sense until the events are explained
towards the end of the book. Now, I'm no slouch when it comes
to comprehending convoluted time-travel tales, but when Emily
says of her and Honoré's latest wild theory concerning disparate
temporal threads and convergence points, "It would make sense,"
I am forced to disagree. The perplexing narrative doesn't
really make for riveting reading.
is the story self-contained. It makes several cross-references
back to events in The
Cabinet of Light, the now out-of-print Doctor
Who novella that spawned the Time Hunter series.
And there are questions left unanswered at the end of the
book, which will presumably be picked up in the next one,
to be so severe, but all in all The Severed Man feels
more like the first half of a novel than a complete novella
in its own right.