RogerBW's Blog

Soul Purpose, Nick Marsh 17 August 2021

2006 SF/fantasy. Alan Reece is a vet who hates his job, who's just seen something downright strange on a late night call. Kate is an ex-medium turned physics student whose models of the new particle accelerator show some disturbing possibilities. It's not the end of the world. If we're lucky.

Disclaimer: Nick is a friend; we game together and co-host a film podcast. I did not pay for this book. He knows I'm going to give it an honest review.

This is high-stakes SF/fantasy, a story of a small number of people granted the chance to save the world… written with a strong sensibility of Douglas Adams (or, given Alan's monstrously low self-image, Tom Holt). It's not so much comedy as the need to laugh because the alternative is worse. (But I have an odd relationship with comedy.)

Several of Alan's incidents may be familiar if you've read Once Bitten (which of course came out rather later), but soon enough he's getting out of that life and into the world-saving business – which might be a bit of a wrench if you were expecting a book about vetting, but this isn't that book. It seems that souls have some sort of detectable reality, but the afterlife isn't as complicated as anyone had portrayed it. Or as pleasant. And nobody's keeping a terribly good lock on the gates.

All right, there's a revelation at about the two-thirds mark which Alan doesn't understand until four-fifths, but that's not as much delay as seen in some protagonists, even ones who are supposedly dedicated investigators. One of the two strands of narrative cuts off sharply and, in doing so, gives another clue. But, well, this isn't supposed to be a mystery.

Characterisation is convincing, but somehow shallow; people get more than one personality trait, which is more than many writers manage, but they still feel more like a collection of traits than like coherent people; one of them is just there to be an object of mockery, and another is a bit too perfect.

On the other hand this book doesn't suffer from what I think of as the usual first-novel problems: in particular, it isn't crammed so full of ideas that it can't do justice to them (nor does it lack them). It's not perhaps a masterpiece, and the voice is more Adams/Holt than Marsh, but it gets the basics right in a way I found most welcome.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

See also:
Once Bitten, Nick Marsh

Series: Conduit Sequence | Next in series: Past Tense

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