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Martin Martin's On The Other Side
Mark Wernham
Vintage paperback £7.99

review by Tony Lee

Jensen Interceptor is a young man with a mission. Unexpectedly promoted from his cushy job in the government's social studies department, he's no longer permitted to spend his time watching porn disco or monster trucks on TV, or recklessly snorting up designer drugs in legalised brothels, while not caring about the lives of London's poor and oppressed. Following a brief security training course and a specialist makeover, wannabe hero Jensen becomes new undercover agent 'Norfolk', spying on a suspected terrorist cell. But one cranky dissident, crusty old Reg, and his sympathetic sidekick, the lovely Claire, do not seem like leaders of a British outlaw group, and little here is as it first appears.

This is a brisk dystopian satire that lifts more from Burgess' A Clockwork Orange than it borrows from Orwell's 1984. It also owes much to Philip K. Dick for its world-turned-upside-down revelations, characters with bizarre secrets, and weirdly nightmarish plot twists. Apart from its initially-amusing writing style, and the intriguing backstory about a TV psychic's genuine powers wreaking political stability and causing widespread social unrest, Mark Wernham's first novel does not maintain the energy of its early chapters. Martin Martin's On The Other Side fails, overall, and becomes boringly repetitive, while its obvious subgenre references and notions taken from SF's familiar dark futures, quickly drain the book's novelty value.

Vivid prologue vignettes lead to the laddish fun of Jensen's wastrel-turned-spy lifestyle, and hints at the provocative impact of Martin Martin's demonstrations of omniscient clairvoyance, but any significant fascinations and potential entertainments are quickly dropped in favour of a predictable coming-of-age fable, one mired in blatant dishonesty and simple-minded romantic comedy.
Martin Martin's on the Other Side

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