Soul Purpose

There must have been a generation of veterinarians who thought it would be just like James Herriot’s practice is All Creatures Great and Small. Herriot probably has a lot to answer for. Alan Reece, the vet in  Nick Marsh’s Soul Purpose (and its sequel, Past Tense) certainly didn’t expect that his practice would mostly be either mind-numbingly boring or involve being called in the wee hours in the morning because something horrible to a poor cow in a cold and mucky barn. And the middle-of-the night calls are always in barns. And always about cows.

But our story begins when Alan’s middle-of-the-night farmer call involves a perfectly normal birth–of a completely transparent calf. The calf is transparent, but its organs are quite visible through the skin. The farmer is also quite visibly certain that something is not right, but is too shocked to give his fears a name. Alan can’t believe his eyes, so he does something both stupid and brave, which turns out to be typical of him. He touches the transparent calf–and it becomes a normal calf.

By the next morning, after almost no sleep (not atypical of mornings after Alan has been on call) Alan wants to forget the whole thing. The farmer calls and says he doesn’t want to mention the visit again. Ever. And Alan is more than agreeable to that.

There are a couple of problems with this plan. One problem is that the transparent calf was not either Alan’s or the farmer’s imagination. It really happened. And the force that caused it, well, let’s just say it more than noticed Alan’s intervention. And now, it’s noticed Alan. In fact, there’s a voice talking to Alan, and Alan is trying to pretend that he’s not hearing it.

But Kate brings in her cat Roger, and Kate can see the person or force behind that voice. Kate has always been able to see souls, and now, she sees lots of them surrounding Alan. Kate has another problem. Kate’s a physicist, and she’s been running computer models on the new ion accelerator that’s scheduled to start running in Kent in a week or so. Her models show that the ion accelerator will bring about the end of the world. Really. Scientifically.

And that’s just what the voice in Alan’s head is predicting.

There’s one other person involved in this. George is Alan’s housemate. George works for a magazine, Mysterious World. Mysterious World covers paranormal phenomenon, and usually everything that George finds is a complete bust. Until he goes to see a strange fireplace at a pub, and guess what? The fire is transparent!

Escape Rating B: This is a hilariously snarky genre-bender. It has elements of horror, but also some urban fantasy and science fiction thrown in. Alan and his friends are terrific fun, so I’m really glad there’s another book. I want to see how they do now that they know each other. And how everyone puts their life back together, since they totally chucked everything in this one. But all in a very good cause.

I did figure out who the bad guy was way before the end.

Did Trevor (Kate’s ex) have to caricature every stereotype of the male librarian, and was it necessary to launch into a “why Alan fears libraries and librarians” in the middle of the book? Really? Can librarians possibly be as scary as demon worshipers and zombies? (And yes, this question is relevant in context)

There’s a nod to P.D. James’ Children of Men, or at least I saw one. YMMV. Some bits even reminded me of the classic horror videogame Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem not an exact correlation, but I wasn’t sure of that until the end.

If Ford Prefect had picked up a vet instead of Arthur Dent, this is the sort of horrific journey that might have resulted. And if this reference makes sense, you’ll have fun on this trip.

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