Wednesday, 26 June 2013


BEFORE HIS TIME by Darren Craske

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read the first in this series a few months ago (review here:, and so I had some expectations going in. I expected it to be funny, I expected it to be silly, and I expected it to have some editing issues. All these expectations were fulfilled.

The editing issues are easily fixed, and there isn't one on every page or anything, so let's move on to the funny. I enjoy the distinct voices of the station guard and the rat (the author pulls off the difficult move of never naming his main characters; the station guard almost introduces himself a couple of times, but never gets his name out before being interrupted, and the rat always calls him Gramps). The station guard is a semi-retired British public servant, inclined to go into trivial detail and state the obvious, but at the same time the embodiment of "keep calm and carry on". The rat is foul-mouthed and streetwise and dramatic. The banter between them is consequently hilarious.

There's a lot of silliness in the setting. Sharks are in fact fish, not mammals, contrary to what the intelligent python says early on, and wouldn't last very long at all out of water, let alone the several days that the station guard has been gone from London at the start of the book. The 18th-century Swiss village has a greenhouse, but a compass is apparently a mysterious object to them. A forest-dwelling 18th-century kobold talks about injections. Fortunately, having read the first book, I didn't go into this one expecting much resemblance between the setting and any aspect of the real world (though the author does claim to have done research on Swiss legendary beings, so good on him for that).

Pop culture references abound. The author doesn't just stop at references for the songs, though, but quotes large chunks of lyrics, which will get him a serious nastygram from Sony or Warners one of these days. There are small-minded, humourless people whose daily job is to persecute such culture-jamming, and if this book becomes at all successful (which it ought to, in my opinion) there will be trouble.

Above all, though, it's a fun light read, so if that's what you're looking for and you're not going to be picky about realism, this is a good book for you. Unless you're an IP lawyer for a music company, of course.

The author gave me a free copy of the book because of my previous review, in exchange for another honest review. I received no other consideration.

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