I’ve had to make a decision: what to do if I find one of the Clarke nominees unbearable. Do I carry on to the end (I have undertaken to read and blog about these books, after all) or not? I’ve decided not, as I got through 70 pages of Martin Martin’s on the Other Side, and really couldn’t face the other 230. If that invalidates the whole process, so be it — but I will explain myself.
I didn’t get far enough in to gain a full understanding of the plot, but this is what I can gather. Perhaps a hundred years hence, our ‘hero,’ Jensen Interceptor, is a consumer researcher for the government (such research now being an official undertaking, as the authorities issue personalised money-off vouchers). He’s is sent to interview a man named Reg, whose answers suggest he is not toeing the line sufficiently. This leads to Jensen being recruited as a spy to investigate Reg, whom, it transpires, is involved with a group called the Martin Martinists.
That’s about where I got up to, but I gather that Martin Martin was a TV psychic from the early 21st century, who (his cultists believe) really was psychic, and whose death (again, so they believe) derailed the progress of society. There’s some stuff about Martin Martin seeming to come back from the dead, or something like that (apologies for the vagueness, but I would have to have read further to be able to be more specific).
Why, then, did I feel the need to abandon this book? Could it be because of a narrative voice like this:
What you’re about to read is all tru. The incomplete truth is tru, innit? Geddit? Ha ha ha.
I’d quote more, but it’s annoying me already. Actually, it’s not because of this, not entirely; though Jensen’s voice is certainly difficult to tolerate (and I wasn’t overly keen either on Mark Wernham’s narrative voice in the prologue, which seems to rely too heavily on long lists of details). But the whole point is that we’re supposed to find Jensen and his world repugnant.
I think the real trouble is that the author doesn’t make it worthwhile persevering. Wernham labours some of his points into the ground through repetition, and I didn’t find his satire all that great. True, some is quite subtle (such as Jensen’s concern for his score on the entrance exams for his new job, rather than for how much he learns); but I found other ideas unconvincing — for example, people in this future are born with a ‘Life Debt’, and receive payments for that instead of a monthly salary. It’s an amusing idea, but I can’t see that it would ever work in practice, and that lessens its impact for me.
I hear there may be a kernel of a good book within Martin Martin’s on the Other Side, but I’m in no hurry to find out for myself.