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Alan Cash - The Janus EffectThe Janus Effect was the debut novel by Alan Cash from the Birmingham SF Writers Group; at the time of review (this is a re-post) I considered it to be a “ok effort for a debut novel, with some strange changes in style and topic halfway through. Overall an enjoyable read and a promise for the future – we look forward to the next book Alan!”

The book plays in a dystopian near-future suffering from Global Warming, with the UK as an isolated Dictatorship, experimental time travel available to a select few, and Aliens on Earth (no contact so far). Plenty of standard SF clichés, then.

Liberty Moss (don’t call him by his first name, he hates it!), better known as Loratu, is being freed from captivity and the mind-read-technology experiments Dictator Berbek’s scientists performed on him, trying to uncover how he became a Terrorist. Moss, having lost 20 years of his life (or, rather, the memory thereof) due to these experiments, which led to a mind block. He can’t remember himself how he moved from being a loyal servant of the administration to become the leader of the ‘People of the Mist’, opposing Berbek’s regime. We’re looking at a UK which reminds us very much of what usually happens to England in a Ken McLeod novel: this is a dystopian near-future scenario, with the UK as an isolated Dictatorship, with the Thames barrier breached due to Global Warming, and with some quite advanced technology, which is only available to the inner circle of the leading classes, plus some rogue scientists (there’s always a few, no?).

Veema Price, his common-law wife, also escapes from captivity in parallel – except that she is let go/allowed to escape, with the aim to compromise Moss’ terror cell, and Camille Blanche (‘The Lady in Black’ – groan… horrible joke), who doesn’t get along with her at all – for reasons of jealousy?
While Moss tries to piece together his past, and his role in this world, we learn that he used top-secret, experimental time-travel technology to go back in time, and warn himself to delay the discovery of DNA, which is being used to separate the UK population into breeding stock, and ‘stunts’, who are forcibly sterilized due to genetic ‘aberrations’ in the family (grandparent had spell of mental problems? You’re out of the gene pool!). No idea why he warns himself, as this is way too late…
There is a spy thriller’s worth of loyalties, compromised loyalties, betrayal (voluntarily and due to mind probes or hypnotic instructions) in here; and later in the novel we encounter a race of very powerful aliens stranded on earth for a long time (slight contradiction there!) who need Moss’ help, too.

The concepts in the novel are SF staples – the near-future, underdog setting is classic Cyberpunk (although there’s no such thing as the Matrix etc here), the political setup has been done again and again before, Genetics as a danger to Privacy and Humanity in general has been shown several times before (for an example see Sawyer’s Frameshift; time travel and the associated time traveller’s paradox (which Cash uses when it suits him, and ignores if it’s not to his taste) was explored comprehensively by Gerrold in his The Man Who Folded Himself; and for first-contact novels (this is just slipped in without much ado here) – don’t get me started!
There is a lot of criticism that can be levered at this book if one is so inclined, including quite some logical gaps in the story, a confusing storyline (ok, it’s time travel, so the time line has to fit on a Moebius strip, but still… I read the book twice, and drew diagrams, and still couldn’t make sense of some parts…), or simply the fact that, halfway through, the style of the book changes significantly (the first half is better IMHO); but, to be honest, this is a good first effort, using a good number of vanilla SF clichés.
Alan Cash is a member of the Birmingham SF Writers group; this is his first novel, which we picked up from the man himself at Novacon. It is an enjoyable book, a good and fascinating read, and as long as you don’t over-analyse things (guilty as charged, gov) you will enjoy the yarn he provides you with.
This is a new voice in English SF writing, a talent well worth supporting (go get the book already – links below!); I look forward to future works of his to see how his writing matures – and to enjoy the books, of course! Reviews here, as always…

Title: The Janus Effect
Author: Alan Cash
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL:
Publisher:  Y Lolfa Cyf.
Publisher URL:
Publication Date: 2005
Review Date: 8 December 2006
ISBN: 0862437695
Price: UKP 6.95
Book URL:
Author URL:
Pages: 239
Format: Paperback
Topic: SF
Topic: Time Travel
Topic: First Contact


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