Towards the end of the Second World War, a mysterious new
coded signal is detected coming from Germany. British code-breaker
Alan Turing is called upon to decipher it. A new acquaintance
of Turing, an eccentric amnesiac known as the Doctor, seems
suspiciously well informed about the code...
author, who is known for his detailed depictions of convincingly
alien cultures, makes the surprising move of revealing very
little about the "strangers" behind the mysterious signal.
Instead, he writes a very human story, told from the perspectives
of three very different participants in the war.
addition to Turing, Leonard also adopts the standpoint of
the novelist and spymaster Graham Greene, as well as US Air
Force pilot Joseph Heller, who wrote Catch 22 in 1961.
Turing's narrative is full of the dispassionate language of
the mathematical theorems that brought him fame (he first
observes the Doctor standing in a "polygon of sunlight").
Yet he does feel compassion, especially for the Doctor, though
in his naivety he remains deeply confused about human feelings
and morality. Heller
sees the contradictory nature of Turing, and of war itself,
which he sees as enforced recruitment for the purpose of wholesale
murder, and quite rationally seeks any means to avoid causing
or suffering death. I found Greene's narrative to be the least
enjoyable, possibly because I have little interest in his
novels, and also because his chapters feature very little
of the Doctor.
Andy Lane and Justin Richards' The Banquo Legacy, wherein
two opposing accounts were collated into some semblance of
a sequence, the narratives of Turing, Greene and Heller are
regimented into separate sections. This makes for some abrupt
breaks in the story, where one account ends and the next jumps
back to an earlier point in time, told from a different point
of view. This device challenges the attention of the reader,
but is effective in the way in which it establishes certain
basic assumptions before turning them completely on their
not as satisfying as some of the more recent Eighth Doctor
novels (but then, the overall standard of this series has
risen considerably of late), this book is nonetheless well
worth a look.