tiny, remote human colony of Hitchemus is noted for two things:
its love of music and the planet's curious native carnivores,
which closely resemble the tigers of Earth. One day, the apparently
benign tigers alter their behaviour...
last month's Eater of Wasps, we have an even more curious
animal-related title this time around. But then, we are dealing
with Kate Orman here, the author who gave us titles such as
The Left-handed Hummingbird and (the non-animal-related)
Return of the Living Dad.
carnivores feature in both of the BBC's Who novels
this month, with Nick Walters' Superior Beings offering
us the vulpine Valethske, while Orman presents a feline threat
to humanity. In either case, the aliens are satirically based
upon an Earth species that has been hunted by humans in the
This book, however, gives us no clear-cut bad guys or good
guys. While we may empathise with the human characters, the
tigers justifiably regard the colonists as the invaders of
their world. Both sides of the ensuing conflict are vividly
realised, with one clash in particular played out from two
opposing, and equally understandable, points of view. Comparisons
with the TV show's Silurian stories are obvious, with the
Doctor spending a large part of the novel attempting to negotiate
for peace between the two races, and facing opposition from
either side. The author builds upon these familiar foundations
and dares to go further by having the Time Lord "go native"
and embrace the tigers' culture. The resulting hostilities
within the TARDIS team make the arguments that occurred in
Trevor Baxendale's Eater of Wasps seem, by comparison,
like a minor disagreement over a restaurant bill.
is a theme that pervades the entire novel, and not only in
the colonists' evident love of live performances, which the
time-travellers embrace whole-heartedly. Just like a piece
of music, the tempo of the narrative changes and develops
as it progresses, and accordingly the story's various subsections
are called verses and choruses. The verses present the calm
that exists before and after a storm or battle, as well as
the intrigue surrounding mysteries that beg to be solved,
such as the riddle of the tigers' waxing and waning intelligence
or the enigma of the Stela, a relic from an ancient civilisation.
By comparison, the choruses are full of conflict, fear, violence,
tragic death, and hopes that fall apart. Throughout all of
this, several characters are afforded their own solo performances.
usual with Orman's novels, I found this one a little difficult
to get to grips with at first. Once into the swing of things,
however, I found that the book's many lyrical passages are
the cat's whiskers!