Monday, August 22, 2011

Marcher by Chris Beckett

Marcher is a parallel universes, or parallel Earths at least, story that has some interesting ideas, but unfortunately goes nowhere very new with them. The story takes place in England, at a place called Thurston Meadows Estate, where the unproductive members of society are kept isolated from the productive ones, given living quarters, sustenance and entertainment. Very few ever rise above their circumstances and leave this gilded ghetto.

Charles Bowen is an immigration officer, who began his career with the mundane task of working with your usual immigrants to Great Britain, like the Pakistanis and Somalis and so forth, but when a different type of illegal alien begins to show up, he moves to a new team, dedicated to catching those people from other timelines that use Slip, a mind and universe-altering drug, that moves them from a parallel world into the one he is sworn to guard.

Charles begins, however, to relate more strongly to the shifters than to his own coworkers and friends, and ultimately engages in some very risky behavior.

One interesting quote, from one of the social workers, Cyril, at his retirement party, speaking to the residents of Thurston Meadows :

"All you lot would be gathered together, that was the plan, and given a special status. All all us lot would work with you and help you organize your lives; social services and health and police and everyone, all working together as a team. We would sort out your problems and get you back into the economy again...And suddenly one day it came to me! We're supposed to keep on battling but we're not supposed to win because the government actually needs you lot to be out of work. That's how they keep some discipline in the labor force."

Gives one pause, doesn't it?

Beckett crafts a well-told tale, but if you've been reading SF as long as I have, you'll not find any new slant on things, most likely.

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