Saturday, 11 June 2011

Seeing I - Jon Blum and Kate Orman (1998)

Prompted by a discussion on a mailing list about whether a great Dr Who book series with authors hand-picked by, well, us would ameliorate in any way the pain of the cancellation of the TV series, I read Seeing I over the last few days, the first EDA I've read for a while.

And it was great.

I've always wondered just a little at the enormous amount of praise that Kate Orman's New Adventures get, since for me they were each a teensy bit plodding, a tiny bit dull and lacking in humour. Equally, Jon Blum seems at times to be the most unfairly overlooked of Who authors, with his short stories being some of the best around (his Iris short in 'Wildthyme on Top' is exceptional, for instance) and 'Fallen Gods' being one of the best of the generally excellent Telos novellas. The insinuation that I've seen several times that Blum only gets gigs because he's married to Orman appears to be the wildest baloney to me, therefore.

Together, in fact, I think they work perfectly. The poetry of Blum's writing is anchored by the anxiety in Orman's and tied more securely to a recognisable, solid plot than is the case in his other work, while Orman's earnestness is pleasantly diluted by Blum's wit. Some of the individual phrases and sentences are as good as anything in the books (or on the television for that matter) and while it feels as though you can tell who wrote what - 'the aliens reached for her with hands made of angles' is surely Blum, and 'she thought of rows of babies wired up drip-feeders for a life-time, their eyes never opening because there was no-one inside to look out' seems equally plainly to be Orman - the mix works well. And 'the metal...broke with the sound of an accordion being murdered' is as laugh out loud funny a line as Steven Moffat ever penned, never mind lesser writers of the TV show.

There's even some precognition of the current tv story arc, with the Doctor telling an alien threat 'You know who I am' and expecting them to flee on the basis of that recognition. Incidentally, the alien threat kept reminding me of Lance Parkin's Eyeless, and not just because of the name. Reading The Eyeless, the debt to Paul Magrs Glassmen of Valcea (from The Blue Angel) was fairly massively obvious, but Parkin owes an equal debt to Orman and Blum for inspiration, I think - truly there's nothing new under the Who sun :)

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