Milla Carter, Derek E Pearson’s feisty science fiction heroine, is back in the third and final instalment of the Body Holiday saga and this time the stakes have never been higher. Her one woman crusade against the sinister Body Holiday Foundation, an organisation more toxic than a radioactive spillage, has cost the lives of both friends and strangers. The day of reckoning is on!
Once again Pearson uses the theme of a dysfunctional society detached from its moral core as the backdrop to his fast-moving narrative. Violence and cynicism flourish beneath a veneer of cosmopolitan sleekness and the Body Holiday Foundation is the malevolent force behind the pulling of every vicious string. Pearson’s imagery, like the bluntness of his language, is unflinching as he dares the reader to look the other way. Yet to do that would be a mistake as it would mean missing out on a style of justice that only Milla can deliver.
The deaths of her enemies are gruesome although the killings are described in a tone of restrained mischief. One of the rare occasions when Pearson breaks away from that discipline is when he’s describing the death of Ibrahim al Aqaba, a Foundation client with a psychotic fear of sewage. When Milla and her friends turn his phobia against him, Al Aqaba’s wives celebrate his unpleasant demise by joining hands in “a gentle, circular childhood dance of rejoicing” reminiscent of “the three famed graces of mythology”.
Al Aqaba’s murder is one of several to put the frighteners on the Foundation, although a business that makes its money from trading extreme pornography and turning serial killers into celebrities, is unlikely to roll over without a fight. Milla will have to pull every stop if she is to finally close out this David and Goliath epic. Her telepathic skills and enhanced physical reflexes are impressive but can they match the dangerous talents of the Foundation’s newest recruit, the lovely but lethal assassin Su Nami? Part human/part machine Su Nami is in a league of her own and a woman for whom killing is a game with edible benefits:
“She was thorough and enjoyed her time with her victims. Many a seasoned law officer had lost their lunch when confronted by the shocking aftermath of her seductions.”
This action filled adventure has an enjoyable bullet speed narrative that never loses its way as it hurtles towards a brutally gripping climax. Danger is hiding in every shadow as Milla and her associates are pursued through a glamorous Antarctic ice dome, a tranquil Japanese garden and the bustle of a London Sky Tower. Nowhere is safe as long as the Body Holiday Foundation is around to menace its targets.
A Time to Prey maintains the excellent standard of writing that fans of Pearson have come to expect. The “tell it as it is” style with its references to science, philosophy and theology inject his novels with an addictive quality that makes them genuinely difficult to put down. His towering imagination has a vastness that takes the reader into far flung corners of a universe powered by concepts that stretch the boundaries of physics and conventional reality. The ideas may be abstract but Milla Cater is the reassuring presence at their centre. She is the ultimate hope against the Foundation’s symbolic wickedness, making her one of the most enduring female protagonists of the science fiction genre.