Fiction Reviews

Sensing Others

(2001) Frank Tallis, Penguin, 6.99, pbk, 295pp, ISBN 0-140-27884-2

Though not strictly speaking science fiction, this excellent novel has SF elements and should be at home on the SF readers' shelf. It tells the tale of Nick Farrell who lives in a bedsit that makes Tracy Emin look tidy and has a bathroom with so much fungi it may contain the cure for cancer. He is struggling in a band, the Free Radicals, but luckily has another source of income he is the subject of a drug trial for Naloxyl. It seems that the drug has an unexpected side-effect, it makes Nick sensitive to the thoughts of others. While putting up his eco-warrior friend Eric and carrying on a relationship with aging hippie-chick Cairo, the band play a gig at a gay S&M bar. Here Nick picks up on the unwelcome attention of a man who may just be stalking him. Is the effect of the drug real and is Nick in any danger, or has he just smoked one too many spliffs and gone a bit paranoid?

This blackly comic debut novel sparkles with wit and intelligence and the characters are uniformly endearing. Tallis is a practising clinical psychologist with a deft hand for prose and is the winner of an Arts Council Writers' Award (1999) and the New London Writers' Award (2000), and also writes non-fiction. Hopefully he will continue to enthrall us with more fiction. Highly recommended.

Tony Chester

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