Time Hunter
The Albino's Dancer

Author: Dale Smith
Telos Publishing
RRP: £7.99 (paperback), £25.00 (deluxe hardback)
ISBN-13: 978 1 84583 100 4 (paperback), 978 1 84583 101 1 (deluxe hardback)
ISBN-10: 1 84583 100 4 (paperback), 1 84583 101 2 (deluxe hardback)
Available 15 June 2006

"Goodbye, little Emily." A shadowy figure attends an impromptu burial in Shoreditch, London. His name is Honoré Lechasseur. After a chance encounter with the mysterious Catherine Howkins, he's had advance warning that his friend Emily Blandish is going to die. But is forewarned necessarily forearmed? And just how far is he willing to go to save Emily's life? Honoré isn't the only person taking an interest in Emily. She's also come to the attention of the Albino, one of the new breed of gangsters surfacing in post-rationing London. The only life he cares about is his own...

I think I can safely say that this is Honoré and Emily's oddest adventure to date - and that includes Daniel O'Mahony's Doctor Who novella The Cabinet of Light and Claire Bott's The Clockwork Woman. Though The Clockwork Woman remains my favourite Time Hunter novella, here we meet more and stranger automatons and augments than ever before: a mute albino gangster who communicates via an elaborate system of wax disc recordings, a half-man half-mechanism library-retrieval system - with a Cockney accent - and a time traveller augmented with mid-20th-century machine parts.

Then there's the story structure. This being a tale of complications arising from trying to alter the past, it's hard to pin down a specific beginning or end to the narrative. Consequently, author Dale Smith tells his story in neither chronological order nor the order in which the events are experienced by any one of the characters. Each section of each chapter contains a time index, so you can refer back to previous pages to remind yourself which other events took place at around this time and fit the whole thing together in your head. I found myself leafing back through the book quite often. This is not a criticism - it's actually very stimulating - though if the same structure had been applied to a full-length novel it might have become tiresome. As the narrative unfolds, we revisit or reappraise certain events and discover that their causes are not quite what we might have expected them to be.

Emily vehemently resists the temptation to change history, sowing thematic seeds for the next book, The Sideways Door. She explains along the way why these circumstances are different from those of The Winning Side, the plot of which had a similar starting point (the death of Emily).

The author makes a point of not allowing the characters to touch their past or future selves. Doctor Who fans will know that this is in order to avoid shorting out the time differential (Mawdryn Undead), though you don't need to know that to follow and enjoy the story. Smith throws in other cheeky references to Who and even Star Trek. I won't spoil them for you - see if you can spot them!

At the end of the book the author provides a handy chart, which allows you to reread the novella from the viewpoints of various characters and even a couple of inanimate objects. You can therefore get several reads for your money. It's well worth hunting through the pages of this book - many times over.

Richard McGinlay

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£7.99 (Amazon.co.uk)
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£25.00 (WHSmith.co.uk)
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£25.00 (Countrybookshop.co.uk)
Deluxe Hardback
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