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Marcher [original text]

by Chris Beckett

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382595,914 (3.44)None
When people are found to be shifting between parallel universes, it is up to the Marchers to stem the flow.

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I didn’t know that this was set in Bristol before I bought it and so was pleasantly surprised to be in a very familiar location. Beckett has written an intelligent SF novel where Charles Bowen, our protagonist, is an immigration officer. However the immigrants he’s concerned with are “shifters” who travel the timelines/alternative realities using a drug called Slip. In the world of Marcher the percentage of the population who are unemployed (“Dreggies”) live in “inclusion zones” separated from productive members of society. The shifter problem seems to be getting worse and when Bowen is called to an inclusion estate in Bristol to investigate a group of shifters who, as a group, have realised that they can get away with whatever they want and, using slip, get away scott free. As the cult, based loosely on Norse myth (Dunner = Thor, Wot = Odin etc.), get ever more bold in their lawbreaking the shifter problem gets more and more attention. Beckett uses the premise of the novel to explore the themes of boundaries and identity and in our protagonist we see a very conflicted character obsessed with mirrors. The plot hurtles along to a bit of a rushed, and slightly clumsy denouement but you get the impression that Beckett was more interested in the inner lives of his characters than the plot and there is a coda at the end. The edition I read was littered with grammatical errors and words that were spelt correctly but out of place (Breath instead of Breathe for example) and read more like a pre-edited draft than a completed book, maybe the publisher didn’t do much more than run it through a spell checker? It didn’t spoil the book totally for me but be warned.

Overall – intelligent alternative worlds thriller ( )
  psutto | Mar 19, 2013 |
Chris Beckett's intelligent second novel is concerned with borders and transgressions. The novel's narrator, Charles Bowen, is an immigration officer, but the migrants he pursues are `shifters', able to move between infinite universes by means of the drug `slip'. Then shifters begin to murder in the name of the Norse gods, taking slip to evade the consequences of their actions.

The novel's setting is an Earth similar to our own but with certain significant differences, not least the `inclusion zones' into which the British underclass has been segregated, paid welfare money but disenfranchised - a clever idea which lets the novel explore the enduring class boundaries of contemporary Britain. Charles's hesitancy in his relationship with girlfriend Jaz poignantly illustrates the psychological boundaries that people erect in self-protection. A thoughtful and inventive novel. ( )
  Altariel | Apr 1, 2009 |
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This is the Cosmos Books or Dorchester Publishing version of Marcher. Do NOT combine it with the version from Newcon Press which was revised and has a different ending.

Marcher began as a group of six short stories:
"Watching the Sea,"
"The Welfare Man,"
"The Welfare Man Retires,"
"Tammy Pendant" and
"To Become a Warrior."
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When people are found to be shifting between parallel universes, it is up to the Marchers to stem the flow.

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