Present Tense

Dave Duncan, Author, David Duncan, Author Avon Books $23 (338p) ISBN 978-0-380-97325-5
A man falls naked out of the sky onto a WWI battlefield, landing in sight of four British soldiers. Apparently near-catatonic, he's placed in a mental hospital where he is eventually recognized by an old friend who helps him escape. Edward Exeter has been playing dumb, we learn, in part because his story is so unbelievable, and in part because he's been accused of murder. Exeter has spent the last three years in an alternate universe, Nextdoor, as detailed in Past Imperative (1995); in this second novel of a trilogy, we learn that two organizations, the Service and the Chamber, have for centuries been waging interdimensional war--the Great Game--over Nextdoor and other alternate universes. Many of the worst events in our history, in fact, result from this secret war. This premise isn't particularly original, of course, but Duncan has come up with an unusual wrinkle. Magic exists, but it can be accessed only by entering an alternate universe. Thus, someone from our world can become a virtual god in Nextdoor, while a person from that universe gains powers only in our world. Exeter is destined to be Nextdoor's Liberator and to defeat Zath, the evil God of Death. Unfortunately, he doesn't want the job. Duncan writes succinctly, avoiding the verbiage that bloats so many other contemporary fantasies. And while his novel contains fewer pyrotechnics than most heroic fantasies, it features gritty, well-developed characters, several of whom change and grow believably in the course of the book. 25,000 first printing. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/04/1996
Release date: 11/01/1996
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