Format read: ebook provided by the author
Release Date: October 28, 2010
Number of Pages 238
Publisher Immanion Press
Formats Available: paperback, ebook
Purchasing Info:Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon, Immanion Press, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords
Alan Reece, an unassuming animal doctor from the West Country, was surprised to discover that he had become the link between reality and the strange world beyond. Unfortunately, ripples from his unwitting transformation have freed a dark and terrible creature from its improbable prison.
Past Tense reminded me of the old “Doublemint Gum” commercial. Because it was two, two, two books in one.
And you might think that’s a terrible joke, but it fits with the snarky tone of the first part of the book. Fully realizing that everyone’s taste in both humor and snark varies widely. And wildly.
The beginning of the book takes off about a year after Marsh’s first book, Soul Purpose, left off. It’s not necessary to read Soul Purpose in order to enjoy Past Tense, but if you like British humor of the Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy school, you’ll enjoy Soul Purpose.
(If Ford Prefect had picked up Tristan Farnon from All Creatures Great and Small instead of Arthur Dent, he might have sounded something like Alan Reece, except that I remember Tristan as being lazier, but I digress)
The point is that Alan Reece hopes that he’s going crazy. Because the alternative is that he’s got to save the world again. He keeps slipping sideways into an alternate world where large purple tentacled creatures like something out of H.P. Lovecraft are running things. Alan’s already saved the world once, he thought he could go back to his normal, boring life as a small animal vet.
If Past Tense were only about Alan saving the world from the latest incarnation of the Cthulhu Mythos, it would have been an okay book. But that isn’t the heart of the story.
When Alan saved the world the first time, he stirred up something. And its bad. And it wants the Earth. Of course it does, or we wouldn’t have a story.
In order to save the day, Alan has to go back in time, to the frontier of Roman Britain at the end of the Empire. Actually around 177 A.D.
How does he do it? He gets some help. Alan is special. He’s a Conduit. He’s responsible for the Soul, capital S, of the Earth. Earth isn’t supposed to have one yet. It figures.
Conduits from two other Soul Plains have come to Earth to help him stop the big evil, by teaching him how to send his soul back into the past to stop that big evil. The mechanics really didn’t matter.
What made the story for me was life in Roman Britain. Oh did that part ever work! Alan got dropped into the body of a medicus, a surgeon, just as the poor bloke was about to perform surgery on someone. Alan got the language and the skills, and working on a human turned out to be not that much different from a large animal, without anethesia!
But wow! Figuring out what he needed to do to stop history from going wrong, while living a life he really enjoyed. This part was terrific.
Meanwhile, Alan’s friend Kate got sent back too. By accident. And got to see Roman life from the bottom. As a slave.
Alan and Kate have a mission to complete in the past. They have to make sure history stays on the right course. It takes them a while to figure out what they’re supposed to do. And when they do figure it out, they almost blow the whole thing.
The Emperor’s son is touring Britain. The young man in question is Commodus. Yes, that Commodus, from the movie Gladiator, which hasn’t happened yet. At this point, he’s still a vain young man who hasn’t become emperor. But he has to. He has to become emperor and dictator and general all-around asshat so that the Roman Empire falls when it’s supposed to.
But if he dies in Britain too soon, the result will be that the Empire lives and becomes a world-wide theocracy with the Cthulhu-type monsters in charge. Can’t let that happen.
Alan and Kate decide to trust Alan’s best friend, the Roman Centurion Lucius. Of course, Lucius isn’t Alan’s best friend, he’s the medicus Anicius’ best friend. Alan’s trust is almost misplaced. But after the evil creature masquerading as a Roman Praetor attempts to arrest this loyal Centurion, Lucius throws his lot in with them after all.
I wish I could give Past Tense two separate ratings. The second half of the book, from the second they get to the past, is 4 stars or better. The ending is a tear-jerker for Kate. The first third is 3 stars.
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