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Book Review

Book Cover

Past Tense


Author: Nick Marsh
Immanion Press
RRP: £11.99, US $20.99
ISBN: 978 1 094853 75 6
Available 10 October 2010

Alan Reece has had a year to try and forget his part in saving the world, a year to forget that he is the Conduit, a being which acts as a bridge between the material and spiritual planes of existence. The problem is that this sort of thing has a nasty habit of coming back to haunt you. When Alan starts to experience, what he hopes are hallucinations, he is initially too worried to mention it to his friends George and Kate, until two men in black appear and inform Alan that the whole history is in peril and only the Conduit can save humanity, a claim which puts Alan’s job as a vet into perspective...

Past Tense is the second novel in the Conduit Sequence by Nick Marsh. The first, Soul Purpose, was an impressive first novel, so would Marsh suffer from the second album curse? Thankfully not.

Alan is the quintessential Englishman, dour in outlook, with a good slice of dry wit with which he views the inevitable nastiness, which is his life, the ultimate reluctant hero. In the new novel Alan and Kate find themselves travelling back in time to Roman Britain, possibly to save the life of Commodus, against a menace from the possible realms which spring into existence, before disintegrating through the probable and ending in the nonexistent. A creature like this requires that others believe in his existence so that his solidity in reality increases, the only problem it that the best way to do this is to create fear and murder.

The book is in the same vein as Soul Purpose with a humour that is somewhere between Douglas Adams and Tom Sharpe, there are a few laugh out loud moments but mostly the humour is of the sly chuckle type. That’s not to say that the book lacks depth.

I generally find that if I care a monkey’s snot about the supporting characters then the author has done a good job. Obviously, it’s pretty easy to get you to follow the main characters and with the bulk of the action the writer can even be a bit lazy about developing them. So, if I felt, as a reader, that the fate of the secondary character, Lucius, was a moving moment, then it stands to reason that such an attention to detail flows through the whole book.

Each of the main characters are well drawn, with their own motivation and believable reactions in an unbelievable situation. The book contains a mixture of deep and really stupid thoughts and a heavy slice of entertainment.

I was suitably impressed, actually blown away would be more accurate, with the first novel and the skill which Marsh displayed is, if anything, sharper in Past Tense as the story effortlessly flows, thematically between horror, fear, humour and laughter. Hopefully someone will pick this up; it would make a stunning television series, somewhere between Doctor Who and Being Human.


Charles Packer

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