The Tangled Web of Time, by Brian Stableford. Wildside Press 2016.
Review by Sally Startup.
Every ten years or so, Jimmy McKinnon has attempted to break out of the prison of his everyday consciousness. To do so, he has always sought help from Mark, his ‘astrological twin’ and the the narrator of this novel. And although Mark wants to say no, he has always ended up getting involved.
Now Jimmy, through his fieldwork in ethnomedicine, has obtained a new psychotropic drug. He also has a new accomplice, with whom he has been exploring metempsychosis and transanimation. The time has come for Mark to truly consider his own desires, and to examine the tangled web of time from his own perspective.
Under the influence of Jimmy’s new drug, his lover, Christiane, appears to channel Sosipatra of Ephesus, thus reaching back in time. Mark’s own past in relation to Jimmy is revealed in flashbacks as the novel progresses. The tangled narrative is cleverly controlled all the way through, until its interesting resolution. Background concerns about the ethics of ethnomedicine in the context of commercial research are also explored.
Mark cannot really ever be a detached observer of Jimmy’s experiments. He is vulnerable to delusion in the same way as everyone else. So what Mark experiences is open to a variety of interpretations; And what makes this novel so fascinating is that Mark’s very scepticism allows for the existence of any, or all of them.