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Beyond the Void
Mark Marsay
Great Northern Publishing, 256 pages

Neil Pearson
Beyond the Void
Mark Marsay
Mark Marsay is a Yorkshireman and author of half a dozen or so fiction and non-fiction titles. In December 1999, he received a "Regimental Oscar" from the Green Howards for the research on his début book, Baptism of Fire, the first in a series telling the story of the 5th Battalion, the Yorkshire Gurkhas, in WW1. A second title Yorkshire's Heroes is forthcoming. In January 2000 he received the "Millennium Author 2000 Award" from local bookshops for the unprecedented success of Bombardment! The Day the East Coast Bled, the story of German naval attacks on the coast of England in December 1914. The book went on to become the basis for a 30-minute BBC documentary in December 2000. His first novel (August 2000), Hazardous to Health, set in the world of labour unions, saw a complete change of direction into humorous adult fiction. Its sequels, Under Surveillance and A Bridge Too Far, are forthcoming. In the same genre, he has created a humorous adult pastiche of the original Star Trek with the current Beyond the Void and the forthcoming The Love Colony and Howling at the Moon.

Great Northern Publishing

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

Beyond the Void is a rollicking if shallow pastiche of the original Star Trek, with Captain James Armstrong Custer at the helm of the Erasmus, the pointy-eared reptilian Sadeck as first officer, Stumpy McGregor the Scottish engineer, Tuttle the senile ship's doctor, Daisy-May the buxom blonde bimbo communications officer, and, amongst others, Dweeb the whiny robot. The "mates at the pub" (i.e., frat boy) humour and colourful Yorkshire-enhanced language, along with the occasional forays into sexual situations, makes for a story where no Star Trek has gone before. However, notwithstanding the similarities there are plenty of original characters and situations.

When technologically advanced aliens contact the United Confederation of Worlds with their ultimatum, and the Admiral of the fleet simply replies "Bollocks!" then manned communications satellites and ships quickly end up vaporized. Who ya gonna call? Captain James Armstrong Custer, an individualistic, womanizing, damn the torpedoes and "splatter every gog-eyed, uppity alien from here to kingdom come" kinda guy. At the helm of a lemon, they go off into the void where they are quickly trapped by the aliens. With an alien probe investigating Nurse Lewis, the suspended animation pods thawing and Dr. Tuttle tinkering with both illegally obtained tissue samples and communications officer Daisy-May's honour, Custer has his hands full ridding the universe of the alien threat.

However, the story tends to be episodic at times, with tangents that don't really seem to have much bearing on the main plot. The humour and sexual situations occur in an interrupted fashion, portions of the novel reading as broad farce while others are fairly serious or are action driven. With the lazy assistant engineer dying in a particularly messy way, and the nurse, engineer and robot having to manually clean up what is left of the rotting corpses of half the crew, dead in their suspended animation pods, there's an awful lot of gruesome events, not terribly conducive to hilarity and not particularly tied in to the ultimate outcome of their mission. However, this is somewhat redeemed by the character of Dweeb (Diatronic Weapons Engineered Electronic Being) who, annoyingly whiny at first, slowly gains self-confidence, before playing a pivotal role in the demise of the aliens, and earning the respect of his peers. Certainly Beyond the Void is much more fun and better written than John Cleve's early 80s adult science fiction series Spaceways.

If you're not from Yorkshire but you enjoy Red Dwarf and have watched enough All Creatures Great and Small you should have no difficulty deciphering the distinct dialect of the crew of the Erasmus. As long as you're not expecting anything deep or particularly original, you enjoy Star Trek and are searching for something to while away a few hours, then Into the Void is just fine. It's fast-paced, a mite bit naughty, and best of all, they blow the crap outta those presumptuous aliens!

Copyright © 2001 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

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