The Stranger Times by C.K.McDonnell
Bantam Press, hb, £11.55
Reviewed by Ann Mair
The Stranger Times is a weekly newspaper, dedicated to reporting weird and inexplicable goings-on in and around Manchester. Hannah’s first week at the newspaper as assistant editor, does not start well when tragedy strikes, and the Stranger Times are forced to do some real work for once. Reinvestigating some cases, Hannah and the rest of the team discover that some of the events they had dismissed as ridiculous were true. That they were being pointed towards something darker than their wildest imaginations could fathom, and now they are in the middle of a battle between Good and Evil.
This is a well-written book, a cross between Inspector Clouseau and Early Edition, both the films and the television series. The main characters are enjoyable, and the reader can picture a cast of actors who will fit the parts exactly. The writing itself is extremely good. The descriptions are graphic, you can actually follow the action of the piece.
The Strange Times covers the weird and wonderful, making a paper which reports the beliefs of its informants while making no judgement on the veracity of those said beliefs. Also attempts to follow up on those stories, for example, the trail of the haunted toilet around which weird things happen.
A particularly good part is the saga of loon day, during which the assistant editor sits behind a desk and interviews a stream of persons who have stories to impart, on a strict time-controlled basis. Some want money for their stories and are willing to tailor them if it gets them a better reward rate. Not that Hannah does.
As Hannah is new, she must learn to fit in with an already formed, if not functioning, group. She has a practical method of working with the other staff in the office, she bribes them with doughnuts. Many of her co-workers seem to live in the building which has offices and printworks of ancient design. It resembles a hoarder’s house, stacks of paper everywhere. She has come to this employment as she is penniless after a principled divorce and is clearly unflappable, which she’d need to be for this job.
With the book itself, we are given a mock newspaper, entitled The Stranger Times. This book is already the talk of science fiction clubs, so those newspapers will hold some value. Buyer beware you are going to be offered the book without the newspaper, check whether another copy that does have the newspaper is available.
While The Stranger Times wasn’t wholly to my tastes, I didn’t feel compelled to finish, I can appreciate it was enjoyable with many good moments.