THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN "THE
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'NEW
RELEASED IN DECEMBER
1968: Cristian meets
the Doctor in London.
1978: The great temple
of the Aztecs is FOUND
1980: John Lennon is
murdered in New York.
1994: A gunman runs
amok in Mexico City.
Each time, Cristian is
there. Each time, he
experiences the Blue,
a traumatic psychic
shock. AND Only the
Doctor can help him
- but the Doctor has
problems of his own.
someone has been
tinkering with time.
events in his past
have been altered,
and a lethal force
from South America’s
prehistory has been
released: the living
The Left-Handed Hummingbird is the best written novel of the New Adventures series to date. Kate Orman, Doctor Who literature’s first female scribe, writes with a level
of detail that brings alive each of the diverse settings in her story (Tenochtitlan, New York, London, Mexico City, The Titanic…) and her prose style refreshingly challenges convention
- this book is the first original Who novel to directly address the reader or allow us to see character’s perspectives from viewpoints other than that of the traditionally omniscient author.
Orman’s plot is rather brilliant too. Back in the time of the Aztecs, Huitzilin come across the Xiuhcoatl, a weapon left behind by the Exxilons in their visit to Earth. Although this gave him his tremendous powers over his own people, it is only due to the interference of the Doctor’s mysterious enemy that Huitzilin is able to survive for centuries as ‘the Blue’, leaving a trail of death in his wake wherever he goes. This is the trail that Orman leads us down as we visit 1968 London, 1980 New York, 1994 Mexico City…
However, for such a well-written story that traverses so many different locales, to not have
an epic feel feels strange. For all its scope, Orman’s novel is actually a very claustrophobic and story about just five characters (the Doctor, Ace, Benny, Cristian, and the “living god” Huitzilin), and in each different setting the characters don’t venture very far or encounter any other characters of note (with the exception of the ex-UNIT man, Macbeth, who is Orman’s only really strong supporting character). Without a sympathetic native to latch on to in each setting, the thousands of Aztec sacrifices and the people dying in the sinking of the Titanic didn’t mean as much to me as they could have. Only John Lennon’s murder by a gunman possessed by Huitzilin had any real weight for me, and that’s only because I’m a fan of The Beatles and Lennon’s death was a real-life tragedy.
Nevertheless, I love how Orman
presents the narrative from the
Doctor and his companions’
unique temporal perspective,
rather than Cristian’s. We read
about the Doctor responding to
Cristian’s letter asking for help
in 1994, where he, Ace and Benny meet a Cristian who already knows them all from his adventure alongside them in 1968, which for them hasn’t happened yet! Though this device demands a reader’s full concentration, the time travellers meeting Cristian out of sequence creates a lot of suspense and intrigue, particularly in the first half of the book, where the story really needs it.
It’s also nice to have a writer handing the Doctor, Ace and Benny equally well, rather than one or even two characters suffering at the expense of another. Orman explores Ace’s attitude towards killing and war, Benny’s disillusionment about her travels in the TARDIS (and her apparent ignorance of Star Trek: The Next Generation, poor woman), and even
the Doctor’s fears about being erased from history.
Overall then, The Left-Handed Hummingbird is an astonishingly impressive debut for Kate Orman. I’m not convinced that it’s the all-conquering Doctor Who novel that a considerable proportion of fandom deems it to be, but it’s certainly one hell of a page-turner.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.
‘Doctor Who’ is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.