Time Hunter

Authors: Iain McLaughlin & Claire Bartlett
Telos Publishing
RRP: £7.99 (paperback), £25.00 (deluxe hardback)
ISBN 1 903889 45 6 (paperback)
ISBN 1 903889 46 4 (deluxe hardback)
Available 21 April 2005

When Honoré and Emily find themselves outside the imposing tower-block headquarters of Dragon Industry, both sense something is wrong. There are ghosts in the building. Images and echoes of all times pervade its structure. What is behind this massive contradiction in time, and can the travellers figure it out before they become trapped themselves...?

I read this novella more than a year after its publication. However, even if I'd picked it up immediately upon its release, I reckon I would still have had trouble remembering how the previous book in the series, The Severed Man (published December 2004) left off. Four months is too long to wait for a cliffhanger to be resolved.

Not to worry, though. Even though Severed ended with the claim that the story would be continued in this book, the connection is tenuous. The devil-worshipping cult, which I thought had not yet been thoroughly dealt with, is only alluded to in the satanic shape of the Dragon Industry logo. In fact, there's only one direct connection with the previous novella, and that is explained sufficiently well within the context of this book. In short, you don't need to have read The Severed Man (but it helps).

Despite time-bending shenanigans as convoluted as we have ever seen in this series, including this novella's predecessor, Iain McLaughlin and Claire Bartlett have turned in one of the most readable Time Hunter tomes to date. Several dialogue-only sections are a little hard to follow to begin with, as they contain no directions, apart from the dialogue itself, as to which of the (disembodied) characters is speaking. However, even these segments become clear in time as individual characters begin to stand out.

I think it helps that I am a Sapphire & Steel fan, as there are a lot of similar elements (no pun intended) here. Ghosts; rooms that switch between time zones, so that they are cobweb-strewn one minute and pristinely spotless the next; a room isolated by an unnatural darkness; a darkness that moves with intelligent purpose; the sacrifice of someone's timeline... this is all textbook Sapphire & Steel stuff. Still, I suppose it makes a change from Honoré and Emily being stand-ins for the Doctor and his companions! The authors should consider submitting proposals for Big Finish's Sapphire audio series.

The above might sound like a criticism, but it isn't as far as I am concerned. I can't get enough Sapphire & Steel, especially now that the first Big Finish series has come to an end, so any echoes of it are more than welcome.

Apart from some strange and inconsistent hyphen usage (for example, in this series it's important to decide whether or not you're going to hyphenate the term time-snake/time snake) I enjoyed this book.

Richard McGinlay

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