Past Imperative

by Dave Duncan

Published by Avon Books (US)
U.S. 5.99 (Paperback)
456 Pages
ISBN 0-380-78129-8

This is the first volume in the new series "The Great Game". It is set in England just before the First World War, and in a alternate pre-industrial world, "The Vales", where vengeful gods rule the people. The main characters are Edward Exeter, the young Englishman, and Eleal Singer, a 12 year old actress that travels with a group of players in the alternate world.

Both of these characters are mentioned in an old prophecy, the Filoby Testament, that had proved accurate in past elements. Parties who do not wish the prophecy to come to pass try to stop elements of the prophecy from occurring, therefore invalidating the prophecy.

The characters and plot are more realistic than some of Duncan's recent books, and seem to work very well when put together. This book held my attention throughout, especially when the main characters meet. None of the characters are archetypal heroes and it does a interesting job of representing gods.

To be critical, I am not too comfortable with the idea introduced that the prophecy will no longer predict any event if one of the elements are disrupted (it reminds me of the all too confusing temporal mechanics that you get is sf).Also, the idea that people can access mana if they travel to another world they were not born in, is a simplistic explanation for magic and gods. I did not like the pre-WW1 England setting at first, but had come to like it by the end and think Duncan must have spent some time researching the setting.

The next volume in the series will be "Present Tense", which is due out inspring-97, and then "Future Indefinite" will be the third volume.

A score of 9 out of 10. Excellent first volume in a promising series.

P.F. 26th January 1997

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Paul Farris 1996