Time Hunter

Author: John Paul Catton
Telos Publishing
RRP £7.99 (paperback), £25.00 (deluxe hardback)
ISBN 1 903889 41 3 (paperback)
ISBN 1 903889 42 1 (deluxe hardback)
Available 23 September 2004

In 2020, Honoré and Emily are thrown into a mystery as an ice spirit wreaks havoc during Kyoto's Gion Festival, and a haunted funhouse proves to contain more than paper lanterns and wax dummies. What does all this have to do with the legendary Japanese fox spirits, the Kitsune...?

It is clear that author John Paul Catton, who (according to his biog) lives and works in Tokyo, knows his Japanese culture and folklore. The book is steeped in the mythology of ice spirits, fox spirits and gods with many faces.

It is a strange and alienating place in which Honoré Lechasseur and Emily Blandish find themselves, not only a foreign country but also another time: 2020 is the farthest they have yet travelled into the future. Aside from the cultural differences, the cities of 21st-century Japan are noisy and garish places, and the narrative gives us a palpable sense of the travellers' disorientation (no pun intended) in the prose equivalent of the movie Lost in Translation.

The year 2020 also contains items, such as picture phones, that are commonplace to us but are amusingly new and novel gimmicks to Honoré and Emily. This future is far more familiar to us than it is to them, and Honoré is a little disappointed by the lack of flying cars and rocket-packs, a la The Shape of Things to Come.

Meanwhile, more hints are dropped about the mysterious background of Emily. Though she still cannot remember where or when she came from, she vaguely recalls a heroic man who rescued her from lots of monsters. Could it be that she once travelled with a Time Lord called the Doctor? The fact that she possesses a strange ability that enables her to always understand what people are saying to her, in any language, adds weight to this theory.

However, there is more mythology than science fiction in this book. There is frustratingly little in the way of scientific explanations for the nature or origins of the Kitsune. You can, if you wish (as I do), imagine they are some kind of aliens that crash-landed in Japan centuries ago, but nothing along those lines is spelt out. This would be fine in an episode of The X-Files, but it won't really do in a spin-off from Doctor Who.

This is an intriguing addition to the range, but not one of the best.

Richard McGinlay

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