purplecat: (books)
Since I now officially only purchase Dr Who related books that look promising I would appear to have missed an important part of the Bernice Summerfield story. In fact, I was always missing important parts of the Bernice Summerfield story since I never listened to her audio adventures. I purchased Nobody's Children (which is another book consisting of three linked novellas) almost entirely because it had the names Kate Orman, Jonathan Blum and Philip Purser-Hallard on the author list (which, as a team, are a hard to beat combination). I was, needless to say, expecting great things.

So I'm a little disappointed. Firstly, this book is irritating to someone who doesn't have the complete back story. It's not confusing, there's nothing I needed to know and didn't but still I was kind of "the Draconians have invaded? when? why? how?" not to mention I am completely lost about what is happening with Benny's boss, Braxiatel. Last time I looked he'd mysteriously vanished for reasons largely unclear but which apparently had something to do with trying to turn her ex-husband, Jason, into a Cyberman. Now he's back, only "different" and completely off-stage for the whole novel except at the very end when four mutually contradictory viewpoints are offered for his take on the events - I suspect these were supposed to be significant of something but without the other pieces of the jigsaw they were just a "you what?" moment and thus a bad way to end.

Anyway the good points. You have three author's all with a strong grasp of character, plot and theme. These authors are working closely enough together to make this feel like one novel not three loosely linked novellas. You can see the skill in evidence, in particular, in scenes where Benny and Jason argue. These are normally distinctly tiresome in the hands of most authors but are used here to good effect. The High point of the relationship comes in Purser-Hallard's Nursery Politics when Benny is tearing a strip off Jason for endangering himself and he reveals that he had some sperm frozen "as a precaution" beforehand.

"Which is when she blows her top, and the conversation takes something of a tangent."

And yes, this novel is all about children and our responsibility both to our own and to other people's.

Orman's novella All Mimsey were the Borogroves, the first in the sequence, is the weakest of the three. A fairly generic tale of infiltration and espionage enlivened by a distinctive and affecting first-person narration by a shape-shifting alien sponge anxious to rescue his/her children. Blum's The Loyal Left-Hand is a taught novella built around a Draconian female right of passage with a clear focus and a unity of structure. If anything this novella loses by its connection to the over-arching structure since it seems to lose its way a bit once an evil shape-shifting alien sponge intrudes upon the action. Purser-Hallard's offering plays around with multiple viewpoints and narrative voices weaving a story of diplomatic intrigue. It's more inventive than Blum's novella but could probably have used a full novel length (diplomatic intrigue tends to look a bit simplistic in under 100 pages).

They are all strong stories but, in the end, I felt they were more constrained than anything else by the need to link together and my general weariness with Bernice Summerfield in general, and the Benny/Jason dynamic in particular didn't help to make this the great reading experience it occasionally looked like it might be. Nobody's Children is probably one of the strongest Benny novels/novella collections out there but, if my reaction is anything to go by, it's not a good jumping on point for the range.

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August 2017

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