Eye of the Tyger
Eye of the Tyger (EotT) is a tale of viral infection, alien big cats, black hole shenanigans and, for wont of a better term, a well-mannered war (the two sides involved not wanting to kill anyone.)
It begins with a human named Lieutenant Edward Fyne. We're unsure exactly of his era, but it appears to be sometime in between WWI and WWII. He's a British policeman in India, and as the story starts, he's being looked after by the Doctor as the Tyger virus spreads within him. As he dreams, he experiences flashbacks/replays of the events leading to his infection.
The Tyger species are actually one of the chameleon races, and the Tyger form is one they have developed in order to blend in with their surroundings somewhat, scaring the locals in the process. In order to proliferate their species (we'll call them Tygers), they scratch or slash other lifeforms, who contract the virus (actually a bunch of nanobots that alter cells) and turn into Tygers. Fyne got slashed in the stomach while helping to wipe out the Tygers existing on Earth. Now, he's the last one.
Let's get one thing straight; I hate flashbacks of this nature. A quick flashback that's relevant to the plot and wouldn't have made sense had it been put at the beginning of the story, fair enough. But a scene from the 'present' of the story followed by an extended scene from the 'past' of the story just detracts from the tension. If you've read the bit in the 'present', you know how the 'past' section will be resolved, which robs it of vital tension. Eye of the Tyger suffers from this, as the 'past' section contains quite a few action set pieces that would have been more engaging had I not known what would happen.
The Doctor installs a time loop in Fyne's system by making him swallow a large capsule (seems a bit like a plot device to create a race against time scenario to me) and they leave the Earth in the TARDIS for a world the Doctor thinks possesses the medical expertise to cure Fyne. Unfortunately, the time loop causes quantum entanglement and the TARDIS is forced to land on a colony ship that's been beached due to the gravity influence of a Black Hole.
Fyne's developing and changing character is the best thing about this book, in essence providing us with a view of what would likely have happened to Ace had she stayed on the planet of the Cheetah people in Survival. Fyne's struggle to reconcile his human thoughts and feelings with his newly found animal instincts is intriguing, so it's definitely for the best that the story is told from his point of view. The Doctor is more of a peripheral figure and seems less like the McGann Doctor than the one in Rip Tide. There is a nice contrast in their approaches however, the Doctor sides with the rebels, hoping that doing so is the quickest way to achieving a bloodless resolution. Fyne on the other hand, brought up in a military family, sides with the officers, regarding the rebels as something of a rabble to be tamed. The Doctor tries to make Fyne see both sides, but Fyne's reasoning is affected by the virus and his lust for lioness love interest Casimir (imprisoned daughter of the ship's leader.)
In the space of one story, the Doctor appears to have gone from being in total control of the TARDIS to the extent of being able to move it a few hundred yards into a mineshaft (Rip Tide), to having problems with control in EotT.
In closing, let's see how many story events we can trace to other sources; human turning into cat - Survival; Black Hole from which a race will emerge with something to do with the Earth's timeline - Eternity Weeps; Colony ship with curving walls and strange ecosystem - Parasite. And I haven't even read the Year of Intelligent Tigers yet.
Bearing in mind this lot takes place in around 80 pages (the book's total length), it appears there's nothing new here. Nevertheless, Paul McAuley draws you into the world of Lieutenant Fyne expertly, and the sections set in India are draped in vivid imagery. The story held me, despite the recycled story elements. However, in summation, it's a case of 'nice prose, shame about the plot.'
Review by Tom Hey