The Winning Side (Time Hunter #1)
by Lance Parkin
"The Winning Side" is the first novella in Telos' new Time Hunter series, following on from the Dr Who novella "The Cabinet of Light" and featuring Honoré Lechasseur and Emily, who we met in that story. While the second and third Time Hunter novellas are by authors unfamiliar to Who fandom, "The Winning Side" is by Lance Parkin, his only novel of 2003 (although he's also done the "Miranda" comic, a Who audio, two co-written non-fiction books etc. etc.).
A solid, enjoyable story, "The Winning Side" begins as a mystery and then turns into a time travel story with a neat central idea. In a very readable story, Honoré and Emily come through as strong characters. Much more of a beginning point for the Time Hunter series than "The Cabinet of Light", "The Winning Side" appears to offer the ground rules for the series along the way.
"The Winning Side" zips along, feeling more like a short story than a novella. It seems very short, but I don't know how much that reflects an easygoing prose style or the word count. My main criticism of the story would be that the resolution is pretty abrupt. Early on, at one or two points, the prose feels like it's heading in the direction of "Junior Honoré Lechasseur and the Cabinet of Light", but Lance finds a voice that fits with "Cabinet" while also offering a light touch of humour. With the Time Hunter series seen as a way of continuing to do Dr Who-esque stories without the Dr Who license, it's also reassuring that Lance offers a dynamic between Honoré and Emily and a wider context that isn't simply Dr Who with the serial numbers filed off.
While the content is great, I was less impressed by the packaging. While the Telos Who novellas look lovely, I felt the design of the paperback of "The Winning Side" was quite ugly. The cover is mediocre (and spells out the main literary influence), but more than that, the design makes "The Winning Side" look like a learn to read book with nice, friendly, big letters all over it.
In all, a neat story in itself and a neat beginning to the Time Hunter series. "The Winning Side" continues the high standards Telos has achieved this year.
Henry Potts, 8 Dec 2003; revised 29 Oct 2005
Originally posted to the Jade Pagoda mailing list.
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