An alien observer studying the Spanish Civil War cannot understand
why the various viewpoints of human beings refuse to adhere
to a single, objective truth. He sets about to reconcile these
disparate perspectives into a cohesive version of events.
Perceiving an alteration in Picasso's painting Guernica,
the Eighth Doctor decides to study the war first-hand...
may recall that in last month's review of Steve Lyons' The
Crooked World I commented upon how good it was to have
the occasional light-hearted story to break up the depressing
tone of several recent Eighth Doctor novels. In fact, a distinct
pattern has emerged of late, with a cheerful book following
each gloomy one. This month we're back to the doom and gloom.
101 is all about perspective, driving home the point that
it is impossible to be entirely objective, especially where
political strife is concerned. The confusion experienced by
the alien observer, the Absolute, is shared to an extent by
the reader and also by Anji and Fitz, because the Spanish
Civil War is not an easy conflict to grasp. With several different
nations and political parties involved, there is no straightforward
distinction between "good guys" and "bad guys". For example,
although the Russians oppose the Fascists, not everyone standing
against the Fascists entirely trusts the Communist agenda
either. These are factors that George Orwell covered in depth
in his personal account Homage to Catalonia, the style
of whom Halliday mimics most effectively in a number of passages.
considerations, coupled with the frequently incomprehensible
viewpoint of the Absolute himself, made this novel a real
struggle for me to complete. When the perspectives of several
human characters are distorted so that they see different
versions of events, the book covers similar territory to Justin
Richards' script to Big Finish's recent audio drama, The
Time of the Daleks. But Richards managed to communicate
this concept with more clarity than Halliday does here. I
can still only guess about exactly what happened at the end
of the story (but then, perhaps that's the point: that history
is what we perceive it to be).
author has certainly chosen a bold and intriguing subject.
There are a number of effective scenes in Halliday's narrative,
in which she succeeds in surprising the reader about the nature
or identity of certain characters. The return of the Doctor's
adversary Sabbath is also extremely welcome, if rather brief.
On the whole, however, this novel is hard work rather than
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