Martin Martin’s On The Other Side (book, 2008)
A review from Death Ray 10. I’m entirely mystified as to why this book was shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award back in 2009, but it’s actually pretty good (it’s just not very good).
Mark Wenham/ Jonathan Cape
Near future dystopia comedy mash-up with, like, totally loads of fucking swearing, yeah?
An impressive debut from new author Mark Wernham, Martin Martin’s on the other Side does not deserve the plaudits on the cover that rather cheekily imply an intellectual kinship with 1984 and A Clockwork Orange – it’s nowhere near this league of excellence, but then few things are. Describing well a near future of hyper-capitalist conformity where folk are kept under control by a never-ending stream of free drugs and porn, it perhaps has one too many ideas to its plot, and doesn’t seem to know if it’s making a political statement or having a giggle.
The most impressive thing that the book does is to keep up the expletive ridden , infantile dialect of its hero Jensen Interceptor right the way to the end, an odd kind of poetic swearing shot through with little flashes of descriptive brilliance, it’s this that brings the controlled world of the next century to life so vividly. Jensen’s life is like on endless round of reality TV, he talks like he’s at an endless party with his mates from the city, and he is. Imagine a ridiculous cocktail being poured down the throat of uncomplaining idiots for eternity – that’s how Wernham casts our future. In fact, this idea is powerful enough in itself, but the story, which sees Jensen turned into a spy to keep tabs on the followers of a long-dead psychic, undercuts the setting’s ingenuity with a load of astral time tripping that may or may not be real. It works fine, and intrigues enough, but keeps the book firmly in the Tom Holt pen of gentle entertainment, albeit in its sharpest corner, and away from the big school attended by the hard sociopolitical dystopias referenced on the cover.
Almost believable in its prognostications, Martin Martin’s On The Other Side is worth the effort of getting into Jensen’s future estuary patois.