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[personal profile] rangersyl
This was one of my favorites when I first read it years ago, and the book still impresses me. The focus of the story is the dying Venusian civilization (of Venusian Aikido fame). I'd actually consider this essential reading for the NAs and PDAs.

Venusian LullabyVenusian Lullaby by Paul Leonard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

VENUSIAN LULLABY (VL) by Paul Leonard is everything an MA should be. I cheerfully declare it essential MA/PDA reading. Not only does Leonard bring the Hartnell era to life again (in full technicolor and surround sound, no less), he goes even further by crafting a magical story with imagery, theme, and heart.

VL is set at a turning point in the lives of the TARDIS crew: minutes after Susan's departure to lead her own life in war-torn London. Leonard rises to this challenge by lightly seasoning the story with just enough angst to vividly portray the Doctor as he deals with the changes he must face, and yet not so much as to have the entire book drowning in it. Ian and Barbara are also beginning to realize that while travelling with the Doctor is dangerous, it will also be the most exciting time of their lives.

For me, the most serious problem with the Ma's is that they tend to be retreads of a 'typical' television story of the period and the characters are not emotionally involved in the story and remain unchanged when it's over. VL shatters that misconception and demonstrates that real character development is possible even when the action moves at a breakneck speed.

And this one does move fast. The entire story is told in just over one day, Venusian time -- and has what is probably the highest Narrow Escape to Page Number ratio of any Who novel I've read thus far. Leonard does a nice line in action scenes, and more importantly, keeps in mind that what makes these scenes exciting is that the reader is concerned for the characters involved in them. As an aside, Leonard must have taken a few 'character torture' lessons from Kate Orman because Ian and Barbara (especially Barbara) are put through the proverbial wringer by the time it's over. Another surprise is that VL tripped over one of my pet peeves -- separating the TARDIS crew at an early stage and not putting them back together until the end -- and I didn't mind one bit. This being largely because the Venusians were so fascinating.

In a word, the Venusians are triumphant: one of the best-realized alien races in the entire Whoniverse. These people are not cookie-cutter clones of one another; each individual is fully three-dimensional with his own motivations and concerns. The entire Venusian civilization is painted in magical colors, and each new setting increases the reader's understanding of the whole. The prose is rich and possesses a rhythm that evokes a feeling of alienness -- deep and varied, like the Venusians themselves. I have never before been so impressed with the setting of an MA or NA.

But wait, there's more -- Barbara, Ian, and the Doctor also receive star treatment. Leonard effortlessly brings them all to full and vibrant life: Ian's skepticism and resourcefulness, Barbara's quiet strength, and the Doctor's curmudgeonly charm. The Doctor is portrayed with such skill that Hartnell's voice can be heard in each of his lines, and his mannerisms clearly pictured in the mind's eye. The Doctor is not featured as prominently as Barbara or Ian, but the reader is treated to brief yet brilliant flashes of insight into what makes him tick. There is but one scene told from the Doctor's point of view, but that soliloquy serves as the very definition of the post-Susan Doctor.

VL has all this going for it, and also the fortune of being tightly plotted and satisfying in its tying up of loose ends. Being very fond of the first Doctor myself, I cheerfully recommend this book to all Who readers, and declare it required reading for Hartnell fans.

The Good: Venusians! Just enough angst for satisfying depth. Solid all-around science fiction.

The Bad: Mildly gratuitous "we'll be back" scene at the end.

The Ugly: Zip.

View all my reviews


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