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Past Tense by Nick Marsh

01/01/2011. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Past Tense in the USA - or Buy Past Tense in the UK

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pub: Immanion Press. 234 page small enlarged paperback. Price: GBP 11.99 (UK), $20.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-904853-75-6)

check out websites: www.immanion-press.comand

It shouldn’t happen to a vet but apparently it does. Perhaps Nick Marsh is so bored with small animal vetting that he makes up peculiar plot-lines in his lunch break. His previous outing as a fantasist was ‘Soul Purpose’ which tickled my fancy when it came out. This second novel sees our previous protagonists picking themselves up and beginning another epic adventure.

Marsh is keen to point out his inspiration is the late, great Douglas Adams but he is also good at observation and keen, I presume, on history. This time the team are flung back into the past, Housesteads Fort to be precise, where the future of the human race hangs in the balance.

Alan Reece is the vet with a difference. He happens to be a Conduit, a kind of bridge between the spiritual and the real world but he is in denial after his previous adventures. Somehow things are breaking through and he has a series of disturbing experiences of an alternate reality. When he meets two strange be-suited men he is surprised to discover that they are also Conduits, as opposed to travelling condiments. His friend Kate, who is cursed by her mediumship ability, has a new boyfriend but she can’t understand her attraction to the boring, nerdy, archaeologist Paul. Then there is George, best friend to Alan, who is another nerdy loser. He is hoping for a mammoth session of ‘Red Dwarf’ but instead features in a supporting role trying to protect the bodies of the time-travelling Conduits whilst ingesting large amounts of pizza and tea.

This book has a lot going for it. I enjoyed the plot and resolution. What it does need is a little less self-indulgent wandering away from the plot. The character of Kate in particular seems to off in reverie of historical background which just slows down the progress of the book. It seems to me that someone wants to put their research into Roman history in Britain on the page when it could quite happily sit in the background. If we want too much information then we’ve got Wikipedia. There is also a little too much self-conscious referencing to popular culture. In other words, this would be a lot tighter and more pleasurable if someone, perhaps an editor, had read it critically to start with.

When it does get going there is plenty to enjoy but I fear the initial chapters may put people off.

Sue Davies

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