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Time Hunter: The Severed Man
George Mann
Telos Publishing, 144 pages

Time Hunter: The Severed Man
George Mann
George Mann was born in Darlington, County Durham in 1978. He has been reading science fiction since he first managed to lay his hands on a copy of The War of the Worlds on his 11th birthday. He is the former editor of Outland magazine, writes an SF column for the internet and is the author of The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. He is currently putting the finishing touches to a new work of SF criticism. The Human Abstract for Telos Publishing was his first work of fiction and The Severed Man is his second. He lives in Tamworth, Staffordshire, with his wife, son and encroaching library, and when not writing, works as an international books consultant for a gaming company.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Hebblethwaite

The fifth entry in the Time Hunter series sees time travellers Honoré Lechasseur and Emily Blandish on the trail of two mysterious figures -- a small boy and a tramp. Lechasseur has the ability to perceive people's time-lines (or 'time-snakes' as he calls them here), and both these individuals have unusual ones. The boy's time-snake has no end or beginning; in contrast, the tramp's has been cut, so he exists only in the present. But Honoré and Emily have barely begun to think about this before they are transported back to Victorian London, where they become caught up in the search for a brutal murderer and the workings of a sinister cult. Andy why does Lechasseur have visions of Emily with a Devil's head?

Time Hunter has so far proved to be a reliable series of good (sometimes excellent) novellas; and The Severed Man continues this trend -- but not unequivocally so. The main problem is with George Mann's writing style, particularly his imagery, which can be too repetitious. Take this example: 'Around [the ruined church], the remnants of splintered gravestones erupted from the soft loam, describing a shattered smile of jagged, broken teeth.' There are a few too many synonyms for 'splintered' here for this metaphor to be truly effective. If this were an isolated example, it wouldn't matter so much; but there are similarly laboured images all the way through, and they become highly distracting.

It's not all bad, though. Mann keeps the tale rattling along at a brisk pace, and fleshes out the characters of the two leads nicely. He plays on the fact that Emily appeared in London in 1950 one day with no memory of her life before then, forcing her and Honoré to question how much they can -- or should -- trust each other. The author also does a decent job of bringing new readers up to speed, though it's a pity that most of the continuity references are to a Doctor Who novella which is no longer in print. Another criticism I have is that the final confrontation is resolved rather abruptly; though this is presumably so to set the stage for Echoes, the next volume in the series.

The Severed Man is less successful than some of the other Time Hunter novellas; but it is still a good yarn which is worth a read. Mann's tale poses more questions than it answers, but it leaves the reader keen for the resolution. It should be quite a ride.

Copyright © 2005 David Hebblethwaite

David lives out in the wilds of Yorkshire, where he attempts to make a dent in his collection of unread books. You can read more of David's reviews at his review blog.

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