Tunnel Out of Death
by Jamil Nasir
Cover Artist: Getty Images
Review by Mel Jacob
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765306111
Date: 07 May 2013 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Readers familiar with Nasir's The Houses of Time will be able to follow the shifts from one reality to another in Tunnel Out of Death. Others may have to work a little as Heath Ransom tries to track the whereabouts of the spirit/soul of a wealthy old woman, now in a coma. In his initial foray, he barely survives and then only by taking the body of another. Is it for real? An alternate future? Or a vision?
Heath, an endovoyant, senses the feelings and emotions of others, but can also travel to the ethereal sphere. It is not clear whether Heath sees a real spirit world, possible futures, or his own imagination. His visions affect the real world or what he considers the real world. It is seldom clear what is factual and what is not.
He sets out in search of any trace of Margaret Biel, the missing wealthy woman. He follows her spoor through the various stages of her life from childhood and beyond. When he finds the last faint trace, the woman she now is tries to kill a young man. Heath gets caught up when the young man dies and Heath finds himself in that body and alive.
Conspiracies abound, but it remains unclear exactly who the parties are. Heath is the target for reasons unknown. Androids and mutants figure prominently in the narrative. Heath's major problem is determining who he can trust including himself.
Overall, the novel is the desperate struggle of a man clinging to life with a tenacious grasp. Others do the same. The old woman wants to regain youth and beauty and will pay for the privilege. She'll even kill others in order to live.
With so much tossed into the narrative mix, the main thrust of the novel becomes lost. It has much to offer intellectually, but fails as a science thriller. The ending is more anticlimax of acceptance than an active achievement.