This book’s title really is extremely, almost heroically unmemorable. You see it on the cover, look away and it just slips out of the mind. I’m not entirely sure why: Martin’s a straightforward enough name. It might have to do with the fact that the author’s first name sets up an interference pattern with the ‘Martin’; or maybe the reduplication of Martin wrongfoots us; or maybe ‘s On The Other Side is too unidiomatic or clunking phrase. I don’t know.
 The novel, like a dodgy second hand motor, is two elements welded together without due attention to the requirements of road safety. Down the left side it’s a near-future dystopia in which Loaded or Nuts! magazine provides the social and cultural template. On the right it’s an odder, and better, sub Phil-Dick ‘Mercerism’ rerun, in which a TV-psychic from nowadays turns out actually to be able to channel spirits, including a murdered WWII soldier and the narrator of (most of) the novel, foulmouthed and shallow ‘Jensen Interceptor’ from the Nuts! future.
 It’s a jumble. About a quarter is good jumble; the rest … not so much.
 At first blush Martin Martin’s On the Other Side looks like a self-consciously intertextual intervention into the genre of postwar dystopian fiction: slangy first person narration by an unlikeable young droog, complete with random Russianisms, like a paler Clockwork Orange (an if-you-will Clockwork Yellow); a police state keeping the proles in misery and ignorance and subjecting its core members to intrusive surveillance, like a tuned-down Nineteen Eighty-four (reduced, since it’s you, and I like you, to 7:99); society kept docile with copious drugs and sex, like a considerably feebler Brave New World (a sort of Bert Lahr New World … actually, I’m going to stop doing these parenthetical add-ons now); grim extrapolation parleyed into black humour and oddness like a unGilliam'd, de-deNiroed Brazil.
 Now, if we take the book to be an exercise in dystopian fiction, it seems to me it fails quite badly, for it is incoherent and excessively derivative. But actually I don’t think the book is an exercise in dystopia, or not primarily so. I think it’s an exercise in tone—the inadvertent eloquence of Jensen’s ‘fucking fucker’ laddishly limited register, the creation of a world less through description of concrete paraphernalia and more through monotony of narratorial voice. In that respect the book is rather better that it might at first appear, although ...
 … it's still not very good. One reason for its not very goodness is that, for all its vim, its spurts of energy and humour, it is very small-c conservative work. The Guardian blurb, quoted on the back, calls the novel ‘satire from a maverick new talent who clearly has a lot to say about these interesting times we live in.’ A couple of things here. First, and aiming my point at Cathi Unsworth rather than Wernham: '... interesting times in which we live'. Please! Second I must assume maverick is used, there, in the sense that John McCain and Sarah Palin applied the word to themselves last year. But most of all, whilst Wernham does indeed 'have a lot to say' almost all of it is straight from the ideological arsenal of the Daily Mail. The pastimes favoured by the working classes, particularly by working class males (larking about with mates, getting drunk, snorting coke, having sex) are Literally! Hell! On! Earth! On the other hand, the pastimes favoured by the middle classes (going to nice Italian restaurants, drinking glasses of red wine, not swearing, gathering in one another’s flats to talk about how the world is not as nice as it used to be) are Mankind’s Only Hope In These Desperate Times! The word for this is Snobbery. We might call it Reactionary Snobbery, except that that's two words.
The novel continually risks collapsing back into the Harry Enfield one-note gag (the boneheaded South African gym trainer who glosses his account of last night’s horrible, violent pub-binge with ‘you would have loved it, man’) from which, I'm prepared to believe, it originated. There's also a too-pat analysis offered, viz. that Jensen's problem is he didn't have a mummy to love him, that he's really just a big kid (in Starfucks: 'I sort of passed out with my head on the belly of one of the girls with her big boobies resting on my face. Very comforting. I could hear her blood running around her belly in pumps, rhythmical and soft. Everything at the right temperature. It made me feel safe and happy', 71) This seemed to me shallow qua analysis of youth discontent.
 Here’s a shorthand for what I’m saying: Wernham’s satirical commentary on contemporary Britain is too Yellow Dog and not enough The Information. Its Phildickishness, on the other hand, suffers by too shallow an understand of PKD specifically, and SF more generally.
 There’s a deal of creak in the construction. Wernham’s PKDocity excuses a certain amount of harebrainedness in the plotting and overall construction, but it's awkward nevertheless. The ending isn't strong. A couple of key transitions are lumpishly done. The novel is also not nearly as funny as it wants to be. There are some laughs, but not many laughs, and often phrases have the form of jokes without containing any actual humour (‘It’s The Barbara James Show … it’s “live”, which, I suppose, means it’s not dead’, 225).
 And yet ... there are a number of sustained stretches of very good writing in Martin Martin’s On the Other Side, evidence of a hugely promising, if not yet quite hitting-the-button, stylist at work. There’s an expressive vigour and an impressive forward momentum to Wernham’s writing, and when it steps outside its too obvious barrelfish-shoot it manages some remarkable effects. Jensen fleeing across the rooftops, getting his face changed by a bizarre Govt team, eating eels with a tramp, leaping out of his 29th floor window (plus the opening teaser trailor, not narrated by Jensen, describing a burning truck in WW2 France)—these, often brief scenes are very well nicely handled. Wernham is working his way up to something. Not leader articles in the Telegraph, I hope ('a stinky reek coming off old Blighty ... people running in and out ... like rats in and out of their burrows', 254). A better second novel, I hope.
A postscript. Jonathan M. notes the ‘idiocracy’ angle (personally I prefer the term stultocracy, although I wouldn't go to war over it). I was going to include my own opinion of this topic, but J. has already done the job better than I would:
Martin Martin's on the Other Side is not what you could call a serious work of dystopian fiction; its political analyses rarely rise higher than that of comedic works such as Is It Just Me or Is Everything Shit? (2005) and Idiocracy (2006), which also features a restaurant-based gag in which the burger chain Fuddruckers sees its name changed to "Buttfuckers." Martin Martin's... also treads very similar ground to Nathan Barley (2005) whose first episode featured a writer being lionised for heralding the rise of the idiots—a subculture entirely composed of terrible fashion victims who speak a blend of Jamie Oliver mockney and gibberish, much like Jensen Interceptor. However, the book also bears certain similarities to traditional dystopian works of SF such as C. M. Kornbluth's The Syndic (1953) and his collaboration with Frederik Pohl, The Space Merchants (1952). Kornbluth, much like Wernham, did not base his dystopias upon plausible political or economic analyses but rather upon selecting an unsympathetic group and then speculating as to what society might be like if it came to be dominated by said group. In The Syndic this group is criminals, in The Space Merchants it is advertising executives, and in Martin Martin's... it is idiots. Indeed, Kornbluth even produced a famous short story, "The Marching Morons" (1951), based on the very similar idea that society comes to be dominated by idiots, an idea which has recently been reprised by the excellent "Pump Six," the titular story of Paolo Bacigalupi's debut collection(2008).That’s right, I’d say. Stultocratic.