Time Hunter
Peculiar Lives

Author: Philip Purser-Hallard
Telos Publishing
RRP: £7.99 (paperback), £25.00 (deluxe hardback)
ISBN 1 903889 47 2 (paperback)
ISBN 1 903889 48 0 (deluxe hardback)
Available 21 July 2005

Once a celebrated author of "scientific romances", Erik Clevedon is now an old man. Yet his fiction conceals a dangerous truth, as Honoré Lechasseur and Emily Blandish discover following a chance encounter with a strangely gifted young pickpocket. Superhuman children known as "the Peculiar" are reaching adulthood, and they plan to inherit the world...

The theme of eugenics permeates this novella, which is written as if by the fictional author Erik Clevedon, who is loosely based on the philosopher, poet and novelist William Olaf Stapledon. "The Peculiar" are by-products of experiments that took place between the Wars to breed supermen, and they themselves are now seeking to reproduce and improve their already superior stock. In the distant future, the successors of humanity look back through time to examine how their race evolved, and take steps to ensure that it does so. Even the fairly liberal mind of Clevedon conceives of a notion to better the human race by promoting matrimony between individuals possessing desirable heritable characters and encouraging the voluntary sterilisation of those less favoured by nature.

The narrative's moral ambiguity means that there are no straightforward right or wrong answers, or good or evil characters. As a consequence, the plot remains satisfyingly unpredictable.

"The Peculiar", who are blessed with such gifts as telepathy and telekinesis, are somewhat reminiscent of The Tomorrow People. Whereas they were known as Homo superior, "the Peculiar" have chosen the designation Homo peculiar. There's also an element of X-Men and Strontium Dog, as these beings are feared and despised by normal humans.

Author Philip Purser-Hallard has also thrown in a reference to the British Rocket Group of the Quatermass series, an organisation that was also mentioned in the Doctor Who serial Remembrance of the Daleks. And as though to remind us of the Time Hunter series' origin as a spin-off from Telos' Who novellas, the author alludes to the "scientific romances" of "Mr Wells", phrases that were used in the Who serial Horror of Fang Rock.

In case you were concerned that the mention of 1950 on the front cover of this book means that little or no time travelling takes place within its pages, be assured that this couldn't be farther from the truth. In fact, Honoré travels farther forward than he has ever done before, beyond even the far-flung Who adventures The Ark and The End of the World. Purser-Hallard depicts a marvellously and disconcertingly alien environment, which is populated by the towering pine-green-skinned descendents of humanity, who have manufactured a whole new world following the destruction of Earth.

The assumed writing style of Erik Clevedon makes this book slightly hard going at times, but overall this is a superior entry in the series.

Richard McGinlay

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