Saturday 6 August 2011

Original Sin, by Andy Lane (Virgin New Adventure)

I think Andy Lane's All Consuming Fire is a really great novel, so I had high hopes for Original Sin. I certainly did not enjoy it as much as All Consuming Fire, but I was still impressed with the fruits of his creative talents here. Original Sin has taken some criticism for being very heavy on continuity references, but they don't detract from the story. I got a little frustrated when it was revealed who the villain was. I won't spoil it for anyone who has not read the novel, but I don't see the point of bringing back an old villain just for the sake of it. I think one story was sufficient for this particular villain. Nevertheless, whatever the merits of including him, he was portrayed very effectively and came across as quite chilling.

There is plenty of humour and fun in this book. Nevertheless, there is also a lot of tragedy and suffering in it. The new reports detailing violent events at the start of every chapter are poignant and there is a strong theme of the pain of memories. The way the Hith changed their names to reflect the fate of their people has enormous pathos. Original Sin presents a very bleak future world. I don't think it is conveyed with the same realism and immediacy as Transit, but it is still a very interesting one.

Original Sin introduces new companions Chris Cwej and Roz Forrester. They are a really enjoyable pair. Of course, the naive rookie cop and the seasoned cynic are a bit of a cliche, but it still works. Bernice is portrayed pretty well too; she comes across more believably in this than in some novels.

Andy Lane really captures the manner and feel of the Seventh Doctor, but I was a little bothered by the Doctor's moral uncertainty. I would think that he would be able to give a much better moral justification than he does. The ethical debate about murder came across as a little tedious anyway. I do have a problem with the author's broad brush condemnation of empires. History shows us that successful empires have to allow a fairly high degree of tolerance and pluralism toward their subjects. Small nation-states tend to be much less tolerant of minorities than large empires. Given that All-Consuming Fire dealt with British imperialism, it is clear that Lane intended the Earth Empire to represent the British Empire and its failings. I think this is harsh. I would argue that though the British Empire could be brutal and had abuses, it was in many ways a force for good in the world.

Original Sin is not one of the best of the New Adventures, but it is a reasonably decent novel, though I don't know why the cover shows Tony Robinson wearing a safari suit.

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