11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Intriguing and thought provoking,
This review is from: Marcher (Mass Market Paperback)
In his second novel, 'Marcher', Chris Beckett returns to some of the themes and characters of his earlier short stories. The novel is set in a near future world in which members of the underclass are forced to live in special `inclusion zones'. Although they receive welfare benefits they are disenfranchised and in some cases prohibited from leaving their home estates. This characteristic of the Marcher universe forces us to examine the comparable (if less regimented) class dynamics of our own society. (I was reminded of the rather similar near future world of John Christopher's underrated 'The Guardians'.)
Marcher's narrator, Charles, is an immigration officer who is responsible for dealing with `shifters', people who use an illegal drug known as `slip' to move from one universe to another. Those who possess the drug are able to commit terrible crimes knowing that they can easily escape to another world and completely escape punishment. Many shifters worship the Norse gods, apparently because they have been influenced by a remote alternate universe in which Christianity never took hold in Britain.
Beckett addresses large questions and problems in this novel. Charles is forced to realize that if he found what he longed for he still would be no happier and must decide whether it is weaker to run away from his responsibilities or remain where he is, avoiding the risks which might transform his life.
Beckett's emphasis on mirrors, on doubles, on the permeable boundaries between both worlds and people, and his use of a rather cool and detached outsider figure as a narrator put me in mind of several of Christopher Priest's novels, in particular 'The Glamour' and 'The Extremes'. Thoroughly recommended.