Thursday, 4 August 2011

'Past Tense' - Nick Marsh

Nick Marsh is another author that was recommended to me via Twitter. His website has a couple of reviews where his books are compared to the work of Douglas Adams and to a lesser extend Philip K Dick. That's not exactly bad so after some further investigation, on Amazon, I decided to ask Nick Marsh for a review copy of one of his books. He sent me a copy of Past Tense, the second part in his series about Alan Reece.

Alan is a veterinary, which is funnily enough exactly what Nick Marsh is as well. Alan is busier than most other veterinaries though, he also has to save the universe once in a while. Hopefully all that is over now and he can go back to just saving animals. He is attending a veterinary conference in Birmingham with his friend George. Alan wanted someone to take turns to drive with and George wanted to meet some hot nurses. Win-win for all parties involved. It's a rather boring lecture, surprisingly so, almost as if the lecturer is making an effort to be boring. Suddenly, reality shifts and Alan is no longer in the auditorium. The lecturer has been replaced by something inhuman. The creature is speaking in front of a large crowd and the crowd breaks out in a cheer and applause. Alan finds himself standing up and joining in, clapping his hands like his life depended on it. This is obviously the moment where reality shifts again, and Alan is back in Birmingham. He is also the only one standing up clapping his hands loudly. Hard to tell who is more embarrassed, Alan or the lecturer. At least George seems amused.

Alan decides to ignore what happened, hoping that things will stay normal from now on. He's had enough of the abnormal for a life time already. Unfortunately, fate does not cooperate. Alan and George are having a coffee in a cafe after the conference. Two strange looking men are waiting for him by the checkout. All of a sudden they are standing next to him. There is a smell of melted wires, or burned out electrical equipment in the air. The two strangers asks Alan to come with them.

That's only the beginning. From here on Alan and his friends will embark on some time travelling, remove bladder stones in Roman times, meet the undead and fight unspeakable horrors.

Past Tense follows Alan Reece and his two friends, George and Kate, on their quest to save the world as we know it. Alan, is the Chosen one. He is also a very reluctant hero, his flight response is a lot more developed than his fight response. His reluctance to step up is all done in a humorous way. Kate is strong and brave. George is the somewhat useless comic relief geek. They are all likeable, convincing, but somewhat stereotypical characters. There is not much character development to talk about.

There are two things that Nick Marsh does really well. The first is bringing his world alive and creating funny situations for his characters. Our 'heroes' travel back to Roman times and I was impressed with the level of detail that went into the descriptions of life in general during that period. The author must have a special interest in Roman history. I liked this, but unless you are interested in Roman history this could feel like a big info dump.
The humour feels very British. The poor British weather, along with the need for putting on the kettle takes the brunt of Nick Marsh's jokes. It's not rolling on the floor funny, but the jokes keeps coming, constantly probing your defences, trying to make your face break out into a smile.
Time travel is like air travel; uncomfortable, scary but relatively safe. More time travellers are killed on the way into work than they are on the time trip itself though; in fairness, there aren't many aeroplane journeys you can make where you accidentally erase yourself from history altogether. Even on the really cheap ones.
I enjoyed Past Tense. It does have that quirky and absurd humour I've come to associate with Douglas Adams. I left the book feeling a little bit left down. Alan Reece is hyped quite a lot early in the book as the chosen one. This made me expect someone along the lines of Donaldson's Thomas Covenant, but that level of awesomeness never delivers. Thankfully Alan Reece is a lot less annoying than Thomas Covenant and a lot more likeable. Past Tense should make a quick and fun read while we are waiting for the British weather to give us some sun between the showers.

Past Tense weighs in at 234 pages and is published by Immanion Press.

Recommendation: read


  1. Hi Erik,
    Can't spot a way to contact you other than through the comments section.
    Would you like a copy of my books to review?
    Rowena Cory Daniells

  2. Hi Rowena,
    I never thought of that. Thanks for pointing that out. Off to your website to see if I can find a way to contact you there :)