The Tunnel at the End of the Light - Review


The Tunnel at the End of the Light (paperback, ISBN 1-903889-37-5 - $9.95 US) is the third book in Telos Publishing's "Time Hunter" series dealing with 50's "fixer" and sometime-detective Honoré Lechasseur. For those not familiar with the character, who we'll hopefully post reviews of the first two books of down the road, Honoré is an American soldier, wounded in World War II, who stays in London after the war as a black market "procurer" and discovers he has the ability to "see" other timelines. In the first book in the series, "The Cabinet of Light," he encounters Emily Blandish, a woman who appears from nowhere and has no history, but we eventually discover has the ability to move through time. In conjunction with Honoré, she can direct her travels with his guidance and take the two of them into the past or future, altering history as they go.

In Tunnel... the story begins when the detonation of a bomb in a disused Underground station. The explosion awakens strange primordial creatures (not dissimilar from the primal creatures in Kolchak's "Primal Scream", although far more detailed) who begin prowling the streets of London in a quest for...something. Initially they are only looking for food - sweets in particular. But then they begin targeting specific people. Meanwhile, a poet, Randalph Crest, comes to Honoré and Emily for help, asking them to protect him from the creatures. The duo soon find out much more about the creatures, and discovers the link between their victims and the next target. This leads them into the sewers and an encounter with the person who is directing the Subterraneans - an old nemesis from a previous story.

Tunnel... is the first Honoré novel written by an American, and in some ways it tells. It hits on a number of the aspects of the noir setting that the two previous British authors certainly touched upon. Petrucha also has the advantage that he can convey the..."Americanisms" of Honoré a little better. The two previous authors, Daniel O'Mahony and Lance Parkin, both successfully conveyed Honoré's view of post-war London and his odd-man out nature, but did so by focussing on London. Petrucha does the same thing, but he focusses more on Honoré, while the previous authors focussed more ont he setting.

Petrucha also manages to give the characters a bit more...depth then his predecessors. In part this is because he has the advantage of them having set the stage - although this is the third book, Emily's abilities were only introduced one story earlier. So Tunnel... is the first Time Hunter book where it comes all together and the characters are operating "normally" as it were. This gives Petrucha more time to deal with the characters and less with setting up the concepts.

Regardless, the characters, even the secondary ones, have a bit more depth then in the previous works. The story gives us a four-page in-depth examination of the thought processes of a minor character, Lt. Gidley, who sets things off (literally). It might be an American-writer kinda thing, the exploration of personality to determine cause. Petrucha pulls it off well here.

There's a few things I'd note that aren't quite so well-done. The novella format and the 104-page limit means things get a bit rushed at times. After the event that releases the Subterraneans, the story jumps forward about a week to when they're already running around London and reports are starting to be made. There are a coupleo of relatively important scenes, like Emily being caught by Crest at his apartment, that just kind of fade to black and then she tells us about it later.

The "mystery" of the novella seems a bit...hokey, I guess. And I'm not sure how well the ending work. Well, rather the ending works successfully as far as the final fate of the character whose initial and closing thoughts are presented. But this is the first time that we see that Emily and Honoré can literally alter history. While they can still remember what happened in the original timeline, and the narrative character (name omitted to avoid spoilers) vaguely remembers things as well, in a sense the "change history" solution renders everything that has gone before somewhat insignificant by eliminating it. That isn't really a problem here, but if it's used (or overused) for future Time Hunter novellas, it could rapidly grow annoying.

Overall, I found Tunnel... the best of the three books to date, but it does have the advantage of being able to get right to the story without spending time introducing Honoré, or Emily, or their powers. I'd recommend it to Kolchak fans, not only for the minor overtones of "Primal Scream" (I'd argue it's that episode of Kolchak done "right"), but because it gives us a Kolchak-like noir detective, reminiscient of Darren McGavin's "Outsider" as well as reporter Carl. If interested in purchasing, check out to Telos Publishing or other online sources such as Barnes & Noble and amazon.com.


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