A Journey to “Journeyman”

Which is easiest – dropping Matt Miller in Colonial America or dropping a package containing the novels through my letter box?

My wife saved me from a perilous journey of self marriage in order to pick up my copy of Journeyman by Mark J. Rose.

Schrodinger’s Cat Wandason’s Wife

When Mr Delivery man brought me the first two installments of “Matt Miller in the Colonies” (“Journeyman” and “Prophet”), kindly sent by author Mark J. Rose (there’s my disclaimer! 😉 ) he didn’t live up to his name.

Mr (Non) Delivery man decided that instead of delivering my package he was going to shove a letter through my letter box explaining to my wife (who was at the time, sitting in the lounge on the other side of the letter box) that she wasn’t home and he was taking the books back to a collection point. For our convenience.

A couple of days later, collection might have been a bit tricky. In this wibbly wobbly world of wrong doing, privacy is becoming ever more important – hence my online ‘pen’ name of “Wandason”. So like the existence / non-existence of my wife in the lounge, Paul “Wandason” both exists and doesn’t.

This latter point made it rather difficult for Paul Wandason to show ‘his’ ID at the collection point. And coupled with the non-existence of his fluency in the Dutch language, explanations to the clerk were going to be more than difficult.

As on so many other occasions, my gallant wife came riding to the rescue on her white horse bike. Because she was picking the books up for her husband, her ID didn’t need to match the name on the package as mine would have done. Result! So as well a being the proud husband of my wife, I’m now also the proud owner / reader / reviewer of Journeyman and Prophet! 🙂

Journeyman and Prophet by Mark J. Rose
Finally the Journey can begin!

It makes me wonder though. In order for me to have been able to pick up my books myself, I’d have had to have pretended to have been married to myself! Definite echoes of the brilliant “The Man Who Folded Himself” by David Gerrold, and Robert A. Heinlein’s “By His Bootstraps”!

(And definite echoes of “have” which appeared 3 times in that last sentence…)

Well, thankfully my wife is married to me, and I’ll be doing the reading – and the review!

Meanwhile…a quick peek forward to a trip back in Journeyman

The back cover blurb of Journeyman tells us that scientist Matt Miller finds himself in colonial America and “…must meet the challenge to survive in a newly forming society where he seemingly has no relevant skills.”

Paul Wandason lost in Holland?

I can empathise!

I’ve no knowledge of history, so if I were to go back in time I’d have no advantage in hindsight. (Or would it be foresight?).

I guess that would make my own story of time travel into the past pretty interesting, throwing Grandfather paradoxes left right and centre thanks to mind blowing oblivion when it comes to recognising people or places of historical note. I’d probably chuck in a few ontological paradoxes for good measure too if I was feeling home-time-sick and wanted to bring back some of my knowledge with me.

But the differences between me and the time-locals would be minimal as far as context-based current affairs would be involved. Indeed, they would probably have the upper hand!

So naturally I’m very curious as to how Matt will deal with his situation, complete with his “twenty-first century knowledge of science and technology” – perhaps I’ll learn something along the way too!

Time will tell – I’ll keep you posted!


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Review: An Age (Brian Aldiss)

An Age by Brian Aldiss takes an age to get to the point, and by the time it’s been reached it’s too late.

A Funny history.

I’ve had a funny history with this book. A friend lent it to me about about 2 years ago, and I’m rather embarrassed to admit that it had sat untouched on my bedside cabinet for pretty much about the same length of time. The ‘trouble’ was was that there were always other seemingly better time travel books to be read.

An Age by Brian Aldiss - OK at best.
An Age by Brian Aldiss

And of course there’s the front cover which looks far from sci fi / time travelly. It would give the impression to someone watching me read it that I was reading a slushy romance that I might have picked up from a 2nd hand store (you can read these kinds of books only once…).

Nothing wrong in that, apart from it wouldn’t be true.

Well, apart from one thing; it turned out that whilst packing my house up in a series of boxes for a house move, I came across two copies of The Age. It turned out that I had indeed bought this novel from a second hand store, and had confined it to my bookshelf.

The back cover blurb mentions that the lead character, James Bush, traverses across geological ages and starts to question the direction of the flow of time. That’s what probably what motivated me to buy the thing, though I suspect the further description going on about something to do with being a “psychosexual thriller” (what the hell is that?) relegated it to “to be read under cases of extreme emergency”.

First things first, give copy back to my friend. Second things second – let’s not forget that in any other position we’d be talking chaos – move house. Third, find an emergency.

The Emergency

It turns out that after my house move my commute time has been cut in half on the train. Previously, my train journey was so long I stopped reading and writing for pleasure and started using commute time for work (hence my long hiatus on this blog).

Now I’m back to an hour on the train, but it’s not a direct journey; there’s a connection in between 2 legs. And at the top of my legs, there’s usually no connection between my arse and a seat because it’s so busy (I’m talking here about the train..!). All in all it makes for a difficult work atmosphere, so I’ve gone back to reading. How I’ll get to making notes with one hand holding a book, and the other clinging onto a metal bar in the train for dear support I don’t know yet, but I’ll work something out….

And fourth: find a nice bookmark. My youngest daughter makes them for me frequently, so choice, rather that finding, was more the case.

So after an age, I started reading An Age.

A time An Age for everything.

(Butchered from Ecclesiastes 3.1-8)

It took an age to start.

It took me an age to get into it.

And it seemed to take me an age to get to the end – even though I ended up skip reading this trash.

I couldn’t find a focus; the clearest sense of a story line was only to be found on the back cover. Regarding the “psychosexual thriller” bit, the main character makes out with a lady and there are repeated references to his mistrust of women. I guess that was it.

The thing which did rouse my interest (and here I use my wording a little carefully given the content of the last paragraph) was that there was a mysterious shadowy lady who seemed to be watching the main character. Of course this instantly reminded me of Stephen Baxter and his darned Gaijin (Japanese for “foreigner”) – mysterious beings or creatures which watch and observe from a distance – that he crow-bars into just about anything he writes – Time’s Eye, for example, Time, Space, his so-called “sequel” to H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (The Time Ships), and so on. Was An Age the source of Baxter’s ‘inspiration’?

Anyway, rambling aside, the explanation behind this shadowy lady is interesting, but it’s presented badly because it’s garbled out very quickly in a page or so after about 150 pages of nothingness. It reminded me of Selected Shorts and other Methods of Time Travel (David Goodberg) which does the same thing – a slow moving (short) story, then even the author seems to lose his patience and hurriedly hurls the key to unlocking a weak mystery, allowing him to wrap up the book and start again with something new (and hopefully better).

The time travel element

The time travel mechanism is “minding”. This involves the use of a chemical to allow “mind time travel”, though any more detail into the time travel methodology is absent, other than the mention of travel along an entropy gradient and feeling dizzy whilst doing so (similar to H. G. Wells’ time traveler feeling dizzy whilst twisting through the time dimension).

Book – and time – flow

The novel is divided into two parts. The first part, or “Book One” as we’re invited to call it, seems to be at best a huge character introduction, full of thought, a bit of history and a load of events which have nothing to do with what happens in Book Two. It’s incredibly tedious going which might work in a film where it would only take a few minutes to view, but here it fails.

Book 2 should be Book 1, i.e., where the novel should start, but by page 97 (of 187) I was hardly in the mood to push forwards much further. I award myself a few points for doing so, though admittedly I should give it another try another time with more attention, because there was a nice idea – as mentioned in the back cover blurb – that time runs backwards.

It seemed to me that the idea was spewed out rather quickly with little grounding behind it, but what made it interesting was some of the secondary effects and the meaning they held for the meaning of life. A down side was an omnipotent all knowing all wise all powerful blandness (even named here as God, or the God of the Galaxy) which was more cheesy than a Dutch cheese market.

I’d like to suggest that this is hardly an original idea (think of Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey) but then again, An Age was published in 1967 so not only might this idea of all-knowingness be (the) original, it could also possibly be the initiator of the idea – even of those mysterious Gaijin observers too.

Final thoughts and rating * * *

I love the dive into the real consequences of the reverse flow of time, and I’m nearly always up for biological / mental methods of time travel. (In that latter respect I really recommend reading Bonnie Rozanski’s The Mindtraveler, or for chemically induced time travel then Fabien Roy’s Buckyball 🙂 )

I also like the ideas of observers and omnipotence, though the latter seemed somewhat unnecessary in The Age.

However, these interesting sparks of time travel and writing techniques come towards the end of the novel – after an exceedingly slow and irrelevant ‘beginning’ which drags out for seven eighths of the novel and dulls the senses. Sadly it means that the final part couldn’t be enjoyed.

All in all An Age by Brian Aldiss is an exceedingly slow moving story and moves at about the same rate as the passage of the geological epochs I think the main character might be wandering through.

If you were to pick up a copy of this novel at a second hand book store, you’re welcome! 🙂 – though I do apologise for the coffee stains on the first few pages where a fellow train passenger spilt some over me when our train lurched to one side. Secondly, I think I left my bookmark in there. You’re welcome to that too – as I said, I have a large incoming supply!

Lastly, I’d recommend starting at the beginning of Book 2. Or just go straight to the concluding pages right at the end.


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Review: Memoirs of a Time Traveler (Doug Molitor)

“Memoirs of a Time Traveler” by Doug Molitor is a novel of 3 halves. I love the writing style and the humour, and the time travel aspect is well thought out!

There’s a paradox at work here! Usually the first book in a series provides a hook for the reader to progress onto subsequent installations. When the author, Doug Molitor, contacted me about reading Memoirs of a Time Traveler he mentioned that mechanics of time travel as well as its logic is explored in the second book. So I was already hooked on it!

Further, climate change features in Books 2 and 3 enough to make it infuriating for the idiots (my word) who think that climate change is a hoax. Having carried out post-doc research on sea level rise I’m quite certain that climate change is real, so I feel I’m well set up!

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Memoirs of a Time Traveler

Memoirs of a Time Traveler is the first book in the Time Amazon series by Doug Molitor. Confessions of a Time Traveler (Time Amazon Book 2) and Revelations of a Time Traveler (Time Amazon Book 3) have already been released, and Chronicles of a Time Traveler (Time Amazon Book 4) is a work in progress.

First impressions

A girl on the front cover makes me think there’s a female lead character. As a father of two daughters who already at the ages of 6 and 8 face a certain level of prejudice at this early age, I was pleased with the prospect!

Ariyl in Memoirs of a Time Traveler

It turns out that the blond, leggy and busty beauty on the front cover is the second of two main characters – certainly not ‘the’ indefinite time traveler of the book title. A marketing gimmick, maybe. Sex sells.

The main character is David Preston, an archaeologist who describes himself as someone who “crouches in the sand looking for broken dishware”. In some ways this already makes him a time traveler of sorts, traveling through historical epochs as he rummages through soil strata.

It isn’t too long until David meets our busty blond, Ariyl. Ariyl is from the future and is an interesting mix of a source of knowledge from a futuristic view of the past (David’s present) and ignorance which arises because knowledge can be simply looked up thanks to nano technology.

It’s a brilliant extrapolation of today where many of us are guilty of being ignorant because why bother knowing stuff when it can be googled? And do we blindly trust the sat-nav, or do we have a geographical idea of where we are?

David is accutely aware of Ariyl’s physical features, perhaps too much so given that he’s engaged (to someone else). I don’t think it’s a spoiler to suggest that it’s no surprise who the subjects are of the romantic comdey side of this “romantic comedy meets sci-fi” novel.

The Plot

Memoirs of a Time Traveler is a novel of 3 halves. The first half is how David and Ariyl meet. This develops into why and how they need each other – which morphs into the second half where together they time travel through various parts of history meeting and interacting with key figures at key moments.

I’m usually sceptical of romps through the ages because it is usually evident that these are not much more than a playground for an author to arse about with historical figures / events and / or alternate histories (aka real-life fan-fiction). Take Time’s Eye (Baxter and Clarke) for instance, which geographically meshed different epochs together. Brilliant idea, but it ground down to historical figures meeting futuristic ones and nothing much happening. A huge let down.

Anyway. Memoirs of a Time Traveler does this is a much more elegant way thanks to the largely unseen third character, Ludlo. Spoiler prevention etiquette disallows elaboration, but I’m happy to say that the technique that Doug Molitor uses with Ludlo puts faith back into time travel through the ages!

The last half is the part I didn’t read – from about page 200 of 269.

Just before this part of the novel David and Ariyl find themselves in a Nazi-run alternate time line. Nazis…certainly a well-trodden road in this genre. Then the duo are present around the American Declaration of Independence. My historical knowledge is poor, and my interest in it is even weaker. Perhaps this also feeds into my dislike of alternative history where it is likely that I miss any nuance and literally can’t separate fact from fiction.

David is exasperated at Ariyl’s lack of historical knowledge (and therefore mine) which comes on top of his treating her badly. He shows arrogance by assuming that his present is best (or is it more of a self-preservation thing?). I found it difficult to empathise with David and became really frustrated reading from his viewpoint; I ended up skim reading.

Skim reading is rarely useful – flitting through paragraphs here and there hoping to tease out a story line or thread or character development from text where until now it had been dissipating through personal disinterest. The duo seemed to be going on a wild goose chase through the ages using Ludlo as an excuse, or at least, a historical justification. Of course, this didn’t get any better with my skim reading and naturally at some point I’d completely lost the plot (which to be honest, I get told a lot…)

To clarify here though – although the device was lost on me, I think Ludlo’s role as the underlying motivation for time travel works very well – it was just lost on me!

Writing style

Another paradox. How can my mere words describe the truly excellent writing style? It would be like trying to use shades of grey to describe colour.

Or gray to describe color, if you prefer.

It’s brilliant! Doug Molitor writes in a conversational easy first person style where I feel that he’s writing to me and not to an unknown reader. It’s got a professional feel, for example, by bringing up character traits first which then come into play later. It feels realistic, rather than “Oh crap, how am I going to get out of this mess I’ve just written myself into? I know, I’ll write in a positive character attribute.”

Some of the good writing is readily obvious, by explaining the strength of a volcanoe foreshock by comparing it with Krakatoa which in turn is compared to a 300 megaton hydrogen bomb, for example. Other times it’s more subtle. Here’s a line I liked:

“Sure, make yourself at home,” said Sven, setting his tea kettle atop my stove burner.”

Actually, talking of Sven, he gets some nice personal details which fill out his realism – he speaks with a Swedish accent only when he’s on the phone. There’s no need for this detail in terms of plot / story line, but it’s realistic – and I say this as an expat! 😉

At least once I was caught out by Americanisms. For example, a date was given as “10-6-13” which I took to be 10th June. Later it turned out to be 6th October. A small point, but this happens in Hollywood too where extra terrestrials and animals speak English – and with an American accent! 😉

I should say that the novel doesn’t read as a “memoir” as perhaps might be expected given the title, but it is clearly written from David’s perspective. Humourous thoughts are injected into the writing which provide an insight into his character, and I really enjoyed reading how he gave adjective nick names to otherwise un-named characters. It was a disappointment that Ariyl started doing this later too – I think this was less of her development and emulation of David that it was of a general writing technique.

I did note that at times the focus seemed to swap with a little disjointedness. One moment there are hands on breasts and bums and thoughts of absent fiancees, then suddenly we’re talking about why the time crystal zooms back home if it’s separated from the wearer (which incidentally I thought was a strange idea, then I changed my mind and thought it was a good safety net against it getting stolen or sold into wrong hands!).

Golden nuggets

There’s (physical) romance and time travel, and there’s more!

Specifically, Ariyl tells David about how things are in the future where she comes from. He digests this information, and narrates it back to us. The picture of the future Ariyl paints sounds fascinating and I’d love to read more; I’m not sure if it features in the following novels in the series.

As for David himself, he’s irritating! In some some ways he’s similar to the arsey Time Traveler main character in Baxter’s The Time Ships – both characters are arrogant, treat others with disrespect and hold the blinkered view that things in their own time and place are better than other places at other times.

As a marine scientist I noted Davids first reaction to hearing that in the future energy is derived from the sea. He immediately assumes hydrogen fusion – where the sea is a source of fuel rather than a store of solar energy (in wind waves / ocean thermal energy conversion) or tidal, which is where our modern (though as yet under developed and non-converged) technologies currently stand.


“N-tec” plays such a key role that I’m giving it it’s own sub-heading!

N-tec is nanotechnology, and it does and solves everything. It’s integration into every aspect of life (and body) is so deep that in some ways the separation of reality and augmented is difficult to differentiate. I found it a fascinating view of the future, and reminded me of Nathan Van Coops’ augmented reality in The Chronothon.

I’m deliberately keeping the description of N-tec vague because it’s better if you hear it direct from Ariyl; Ariyl’s description of N-tec is from the point of view of a user without real understanding. If I can quote:

“Yeah, like I listened to the lecture!” she snorted….. “Who cares, it gets me around.”

Thankfully David is educated, has talked (or listened) to people with understanding so it’s an interesting and semi interactive read about the future-society and its dependence on N-tec.

We also get a glimpse into the negative sides of the future through Ariyl’s friend Ludlo. He refers to N-tec not as “Big Brother” but as a “digital nanny”. Class!

Time travel mechanics

Admittedly I’m a bit embarrassed about this. The time travel mechanics are only briefly mentioned – something about creating and spinning through wormholes, time crystals and probability waves. Or something. This is important – my vagueness is not out of disinterest, but I’m acutely aware that my description of it here is probably startlingly close to Ariyl’s description of it – and she was disinterested in it! However, in my case I admit that I was wrapped up in the writing and read on without stopping to take notes. And being a pesky ebook it’s not exactly easy to go back and find out where it was that I read it!

So having acted like Ariyl, I share David’s frustration. Maybe yours too – so we’ll all need to be reading books 2 and 3 to find out more!

As with many time travel novels, the reader suffers from foreknowledge. We know that time travel has occurred, but the main character may take a while to figure it out. It’s painfully true here – David is particularly slow at understanding what’s going on – although through his thought process he does craft some interestingly justifiable alternatives.

But even after time travelling and having it explained to him (by Ariyl) he’s still slow; slower even than his elderly and forgetful neighbour (Sven) without “full-blown alzheimers” symptoms.

N-tec solves a lot of time travel conundrums. For example, it helps to avoid paradoxes; if an action will cause a problem then N-tec will yank the traveler back. The corollary is that if you’re not being pulled back to your original time then what you’re doing must be OK.

N-tec also provides other built in safeguards. Saying “Previous trip” into the time crystal immediately takes the traveler back (or forward) to the same previous location – but with a few hours difference so that you can’t visit yourself. The dangers arising from a self visitation aren’t explored, but they’re avoided!

Sometimes I wondered whether the N-tec solution to everything was too easy. So did David. At one point Ariyl’s time line is destroyed but she still exists. One might expect the Grandfather Paradox to kick in here; with no history – let alone a family tree – how can she exist now in the present? Ariyl’s response – “I don’t know!”

Sometimes, honesty is the best policy!

I had the feeling that the time travel component is well thought out. Why doesn’t N-tec yank back a traveler who’s making changes just by breathing air? Because time has inertia. Schrodingers cat having a double existence of being both alive and dead is used to explain the creation of alternate universes. (I didn’t really agree, but parallel universes is my own personal gripe!)

Some other things seemed under-explained or a little stretched. For example, the time crystal itself seemed powerless at one stage then suddenly it worked again. I assumed it gained its energy from solar radiation because it was lying in the sun, but whether I was supposed to infer this or whether I was just filling in my own holes I’m not sure. Perhaps it will be clearer in following books.

And in an alternate existence Sven has no wife, kids or grand children, but he’s living in the same flat. I don’t think this is very likely, but still, this kind of thing makes its way into several novels (and even more movies) so Memoirs of a Time Traveler is not exactly on its own here!

Final thoughts and rating * * * *

Memoirs of a Time Traveler by Doug Molitor is a refreshing read; extremely well written and punctuated with humour as well as a few philosophical points.

I’m giving Memoirs of a Time Traveler a tentative 4 stars. I really enjoyed reading Memoirs of a Time Traveler, in particular its take on the future and how Ariyl describes it. Time travel is well thought out and deployed, and I’d expect that the details regarding its methodology in subsequent novels will be brilliant!

I’m sure that the latter part of the novel will hold much enjoyment for those interested in (alternate) history but I can’t comment further as I don’t fall into this category!


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The River of Time: What’s its Direction?

The “River of Time” is a commonly used model of the passage of time where time flows in one direction. But in which direction?

The River of Time

The “River of Time” is a commonly used model of the passage of time where time flows in one direction. The analogy allows a lot of play, for example, you can scrabble out of the river, run along the bank and re-enter time at a different place in the river. Or cause swirls and eddies within the waters of time. Or drown in it. There are lots of applications of the model and many authors have written may good novels based on them.

The model sounds simple enough – but I think there’s a more complicated undercurrent; which direction does the time flow?

Bridge over troubled waters

Earlier this week I was on a walk with my family through a small forest, in which was a river. OK, I’m exaggerating – I’m living in Holland so vertical gradients are famously small in this flat land. So let’s redefine and call this a small barely flowing stream of water.

The main point is that there was a bridge over it, and the main point of that, as far as my daughters are concerned, is that we can chuck bits of wood into the water on one side and wait for them to appear downstream.

Bear in mind that both I and my wife are marine scientists and have therefore spent many moments discussing turbulent eddy flow, bottom friction and boundary effects in order to optimise our winning strategy.

But on this particular occasion, to be blatantly honest, I had other things on my mind, such as – I’ve just been offered a new job which takes me not only outside the realms of marine science, but well and truly outside the realms of my house. Relocation is well in order, so as such you’d have found me standing on the bridge staring upstream wondering what the future held.

And that’s what brought me back to the river of time. Which direction is the future?

River of Time: Where is the Future?
River of Time: Where is the Future?

Is it upstream where I’m looking at the water which will be arriving at the bridge?

Or is it downstream where the water flows on towards its destiny, towards its future?

Maybe it depends on the direction of view, or relativity. Considering the water, upstream is where it’s been so this direction represents its past. And vice versa.

Traditionally, we move from the future to the present and then to the past. But if (for example) we consider the year 2019 as the future, 2018 as the present and 2017 as the past, doesn’t this description of flow seem a bit out of kilter?

I think the key is in the case of the stationary bridge, or the fixed point of the present, we’re not immersed in the flowing river of time. We have a relative motion compared to it, but only one of us is moving. If I overtake a stationary car, it looks like that car is moving backwards when this isn’t necessarily the case.

A few years ago I wrote this post: Follow the leader where I showed that looking at the x-axis of time shows that the relative positioning of time (earlier / later) is counter-intuitive.

Perhaps the same holds here with the river of time.

Sieze the Day

As I stood on the bridge wondering about my future, I heard my girls giggling in excitement. And I realised that perhaps I should be more concerned with what the present holds.

Nothing drove that point home more than when I cycled over to the bridge a couple of days later to take these photos. There were no giggling girls and there was no laughter as there was in the past. Just an empty bridge and the waters flowing on and on…

Ghosts of the past
Ghosts of the past


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Time’s up for my alarm clock!

My alarm clock has marked the passage of time for me but its time is finally up. Alarm bells have been ringing and alerting me of its imminent demise with limp hands, no glow and yes – a dead alarm feature. Farewell, my ex-trusty alarm clock. May you snooze in peace…

Let me introduce you to my alarm clock. I bought it at the start of my university studies and it has faithfully provided me with the time every day ever since. It has woken me from timeless slumber and ticked on through my waking hours.

An amazing 26 years later it’s sadly time for me to let it go.

Alarm clock - been with me through thick and thin but times up!
Time’s up for my alarm clock 🙁

Yeah, it’s a clock, and arguably there’s not much that’s special about it. It’s certainly not in the class of time pieces in this post but it has been special to me, and has reliably marked the passage of much time during which much has happened.

Everything was fine when I bought it, which is quite some time ago. And in this instance, “quite” means 26 years. Why so long? Yes, I hoard, but at the same time, why throw something away when it works perfectly?

Ah. In this case, “perfectly” means “not quite right”, though the hoarding part of me wants to clarify by saying, “not completely broken” either.

Let’s start at the beginning.

No cap on power

Although my clock is analogue it runs with a battery. A battery powered clock – and a ticker.

I wrote an article a few years ago about the horrors of analogue clocks and the terrible monotony of the tick-tock. Grandfather clocks are the worst with their sonorous din. Aaarrghh! They don’t even tock! Some sort of deep throated lazy C-U-L-L-O-C-K. Then that incessant striking every 15 minutes, worse each half hour – then on the hour it bangs out a chime for each hour we’ve endured its annoying operation.

The misnomer of digital clocks (clocks with no hands – or fingers) are beautifully silent. But my battery powered clock wasn’t silent; it ticked. Not uncomfortably so, but the tick was there, and if it was self aware it would have felt some shame of the noise it made, like a cheap electrical appliance would do when it makes that irritating high pitched whine.

And I think this is why it openly displays its energy source as a reminder that it is in fact battery powered, and is doing its best to be silent.

Alarm clock - missing battery cover

It’s nothing to do with me using it during my studies in Plymouth where it was on a shelf on the opposite side of the room to my bed, forcing me to get up and out of bed to put it on snooze when the alarm clock sounded) and falling off the shelf when I…got out of bed to put it on snooze, and the battery cover came off and somehow was never found again.

Too hot to handle

With age comes signs of wear. (Please recall that although this is a personal blog I’m talking here about my clock!)

Alarm clock - snooze button and melt mark
How many times has the snooze button been smashed in its life time? Note the melt mark in the top left and the fading luminous paint by the numbers on the clock face.

You might notice that there’s a part which has been melted away in the top left. Not in an El Salvador Dhali kind of way, but in an ironing kind of way – the kind of way that the neighbours of my in-laws came over to make and fit some curtains for us and somehow ended up ironing my alarm clock instead of the curtain. Was she removing a wrinkle in time? Making a stitch in time?

Who knows what goes on in the minds and on the faces of those who have traversed many years of time.


A missing battery cover didn’t stop the clock’s operation, as a further 23 years will testify.

Its operational demise started with the alarm – which ironically should have been an alarm signal for me, but wasn’t. This is the old fashioned alarm which is set with only an alarm hand which equates (in theory) to the hour hand. The idea is that when the hour hand crosses over the alarm hand, the alarm rings.

And I press snooze.

I don’t know for how long I snooze, but it’s never long enough, so after an amount of time that someone who was fully awake would be able to tell you, when the alarm clangs its ringers again, my arm crashes again to the black button on the top. Snooze.


And I must admit that the process is repeated a number of times. A number which someone who was fully awake might be able to count and tell you.

The point is that the alarm clock isn’t a person, and doesn’t count out that number. And as time marches on and the hour hand slowly moves away from the alarm hand, the snooze feature isn’t reactivated. And correspondingly, my sleep isn’t de-activated and I remain in permanent snooze.

Permanent, that is, until someone who’s awake comes crashing into my room, or pounds on the door and startles me into the land of conciousness.

Snoozing. There’s no such thing really permitted. But I can’t even give it the chance now that the alarm no longer works.

A loose sense of time

So the alarm clock became just a clock – one which projected the circular motion of the hands onto a square clock face. A square peg into a round hole. But now it’s fumbling.

The hour hand has come loose of the central spindle so it hangs limply at or around the 6. Sometimes, like a spider in the bathtub trying to climb up the side, the hand will gain some energy and get itself to the 7 or even the 8. Perpendicularity to gravitational forces at the 9 are always too much; the hour hand drops back down.

You’d think that setting the alarm for six o’clock would mean either a continuous alarm, or a snooze of anywhere between 0 – 15 minutes. But who wants to get up at 6 in the morning?

The lights are on but no-one’s home

So to be clear, the internal time-telling mechanism works fine; it’s just the hands which struggle to keep a grip. So whilst the hands don’t run, the clock turns the expression on its head.

Shining for all to see

Time works in the dark, but where this clock has no back light, it has a glow in the dark capability – except the luminous paint is wearing off…or something. The glow has faded, like a red hot poker which has been out of the fires of time for too long.

The time has come

So finally the time has come. A clock which doesn’t work is right only twice a day, and I need it to be right more often than that. Or at least, for the number of times that I look at it, and by extension (or more accurately, interpolation) for all those times in between.

And when I look at my clock, I have memories of the times it has shared with me – but I don’t have any sense of time.

It cannot serve the purpose of its existence. It’s time has come. Goodbye dear clock, you have served me well.

May you snooze forever in peace…


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Watch yourself

Does the psychology of showing us a watch with a smiley face on it really help the sale?

Watch yourself

Although I can’t seem to find it, I’m sure I wrote a post a few weeks ago where I mentioned trying to buy a car. Being a technical chap I wanted to know about the engine – you know, being the most important part of a car – but getting frustrated because seemingly most car dealer webpages tell you nothing about the car itself and instead just try to sell you the idea of mobility and personal space.

It seems to the same with watches too, where we’re not quantitatively enlightened about either accuracy or precision. But what really annoys me is how the purveyors of these quality time pieces take us for being stupid, and set the hands to the “ten-to-ten” or the “ten-past-two” position. They treat us as imbeciles who are easily led and will part with our cash just because the hands are in a happy smiley face position.

Does this psychology really work on us – that a smiley face is enough to make us more likely to buy a clock of unknown quality? And factor in that the hands aren’t moving…meaning that we’re looking at a watch which is seen to not even be working! All we know about it is that it displays the correct time twice a day!

If this isn’t bad enough, we need to deal with the cheesy tag lines.

watch chronograph
Not just a watch, but a CHRONOGRAPH!!! Whoopee do. Happy to spend 700 euros? 🙂
watch gravity
Take off with G-force. Doesn’t gravity stop you doing just that? Happy face! 🙂
watch solar
Not a sundial but a solar watch. Oh look, it’s slim. Happy face! 🙂
watch international
This watch is so good it’s guaranteed internationally! Happy to pay a grand in euros? Happy face! 🙂
overseas time
I like how we see the atlas looking down from the North Pole, so effectively the watch hands are lines of longitude and play time zone. Sold by…a happy face! 🙂
perpetual day date
Perpetual day date: time goes on forever, but it tells history. Really? Happy face! 🙂

And what’s this crap about telling history? Admittedly there’s special terminology for a watch which tells the time in the past – “stopped” – or broken.

OK, enough!


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Review: The Door into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein

An easy read for a full length time travel novel from the author who brought us “All You Zombies” and “By His Bootstraps”. Was walking through this door worth it?

This was a very easy book to read through, though at times it did get get a little monotonous with its predictability and a lot of talk about stocks and shares.

Given some of Heinlein’s short stories, I was hoping for some more clever time loops and paradoxes and things; these were given a cursory page towards the end of the novel, but what actually did happen was so transparent you could see it coming a mile away.

I’m not sure whether cryogenics counts as a form of time travel, but the bottom line in that you’re in the future in less experienced time than actual time I suppose makes it almost viable – and then a time machine enters the novel and takes the main character back to the present.

It was interesting to read a description of our past (year 2000) as the future from the viewpoint of someone from the 70’s…but really not that interesting to read what he was doing there.

The writing style is fast paced, and sometimes with some quite comical moments and acute observations.


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Where’s my little girl gone?

Tomorrow my little 5 year old girl won’t exist any more yet I’m certain she’s looking forward to the event which takes her away from me…

I’ve just kissed my little girl goodnight. She’s tucked up nice and snuggly in her pink princess bed and she’s hugging her teddy bear. Her eyes close, and I’m sure that by the time I’ve blown her a kiss from the doorway as I leave, she’ll be asleep. She’s only 5 years old.

Tomorrow my little 5 year old girl won’t exist any more.

I’m certain she’s looking forward to tomorrow, even dreaming of it. Tomorrow it’s her birthday and she’ll turn 6, and I won’t have a 5 year old daughter any more. My little girl will be a step closer to adulthood.

A “step”? Overnight her yearly count goes up a yearly increment, but in reality she doesn’t age a year in a night; there’s a natural gradual progression. It’s natural to age, to grow old, and then to cease in physical existence.

Time marches on, but in summation of infinitesimally small steps. Steps like the minute hand of a clock which doesn’t appear to move when you look at it, but after a few minutes you see that it has.

Time flies, it passes us quickly without us realising. Before I know it my little girl will be grown up. Going to school, university perhaps, getting a boyfriend, and then the day when she’ll tell me she’s getting married. I’ll walk her down the aisle and “giver her away”.

And I’ll ask myself again: Where’s my little girl gone?


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When is it Now?

The differentiation between “later”, “now ” and “never” is not as clear as we might think, but a trip into London with my daughters helped me to unravel it!

“Daddy, can we go to the playground?”

“Not now, we’ll go later.”

“Daddy, now it’s later. Can we go to the playground now?”

I once heard that for children “later” doesn’t mean “not now”; it means “never”. And I must admit that sometimes as a parent this is how I mean it when I say it. And sometimes my daughters know this and make efforts to make sure that things do actually happen for which I really should commend them.

But sometimes the division between “now”,”later” and “never” is better defined.

Last summer we went to London, and somewhere along the way the girls managed to get hold of helium filled balloons. These are unwieldy at the best of times, but put them in the hands of young children in the center of one of the world’s major cities and you’ve got more trouble than balloon in your hands.

It was not an easy time. After hearing lots of reports about cretinous acid attacks I was fully prepared with several bottles of water in a back pack. You know how backpacks are – they seem to be invisible to people who stand behind you and who keep bumping into it or knocking it. Ironic really, given that contrary to the belief that I have eyes in the back of my head, I don’t, so I can’t see the backpack behind me whereas it’s fully in the line of sight of everyone behind me.

So I’m carrying at least 5kg on a hot summer’s day, trying to walk through heaving crowds of tourists along the bank of the River Thames towards London Bridge where my youngest wishes to confirm that it’s not falling down. Time dilation occurs and what should take 10 mins takes 45. Shoulders were killing me from the weight, and now I had balloons wafted in front of my face.

“Daddy, look at this!”

To put it bluntly, it was still a balloon and there wasn’t much to be seeing apart from Tower Bridge.

Playing with balloon by London Bridge
Playing with balloon in sight of Tower Bridge

“Sweetie, don’t show me your balloon now. We’ll always have it, so why don’t you show it to me later back at the hotel. Now we’re here on London Bridge. Let’s enjoy it and look at the nice view now and we’ll play with your balloon later.”

“Do you promise we’ll play with it later, Daddy?”

“Yes, I promise.”

the balloon against the London skyline
Here today, gone tomorrow 🙁 Balloon visible against the cloud.

It was a promise that destined to be broken. Moments later the wind tugged it out of her little hand, and it flew off to become one with the London skyline. And that’s when it hit me: the balloon was in the now, and until it falls down, London Bridge will always be with us for a later time.


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Fall back – how many hours?

When we fall back an hour in winter time we’re supposed to gain an hour. In my recent experience I’m not sure if I gained an hour – or lost many!

So now we’re back to GMT – we’ve snapped back to the right time according to our celestial tilt. Personally, I think it feels good! Adding an hour in summer doesn’t make sense so now we’re back to a welcome normal. This clock change, the paradoxical subtracting of an hour to give us an hour extra in bed in the morning is the ‘good one’!

But here’s how I wasted it.

Most of us wake up on a Sunday mroning with nothing much to do and as our feet swing out of the bed and hit the floor, as the fog of the night’s sleep lifts and as the sense of time ahead of us solidifies we start to think about how we’d like to spend it.

Often those Sunday plans have already been made, and often they rotate around easy and non-urgent activites. Activites which for the most part wouldn’t suffer if we turned up at the wrong time – which is why we do this twice annual clock changing activity at 2 am on a Sunday morning. Late enough on a Saturday evening not to make any difference, and early enough on a Sunday to…likewise make no difference.

But Sundays are those days when time means little and the whole of it can be spent without looking – let alone adjusting – our clocks, and I’m sure it’s not unknown to many of us for having turned up at work an hour out.

To ensure this doesn’t happen I tend to change my clocks on a Saturday evening – early enough that I’m still awake enough to have my faculties working with me, and late enough that it doesn’t interfere with any time dependent events.

So last Saturday night this is what I did. Each year changing the clocks takes less time as an increasing number of my devices do this automatically, so actually when I say “this is what I did” I pretty much mean “I spent a few seconds changing the hour hand on the clock in the lounge.” And having completed the last of my chores for the day I settled behind the screen and binged on Netflix.

Before I knew it I’d reached my bedtime and the lounge clock confirmed it. I’d had my extra hour early and I hadn’t even noticed!

That night my daughters were having trouble. They were both ill and needed parental attention. And the parents needed sleep – but it wasn’t to come until the very early hours. I don’t know how it happened, but my wife was able to wake up the following morning a couple of ours later, happy as a bird and with a spring in her step.

I, on the other hand, was a sleep deprived miserable wretch. And being the shining angel that she is, my wife let me have a lie-in whilst she sorted out the girls who had somehow recovered and were equally cheerful (as their mother) and were springing around the house.

So I slept.

Long and deep, and let the neurons cease fire and recharge in my pounding head. And eventually I woke and made my way downstairs. And as three pairs of hands, feet arms and legs managed to draw me out of the land of nod and into crazy town, I glanced at the clock on the lounge wall. A quarter to eleven.

To be clear: this is the lounge clock which had already been set back an hour.

A quarter to eleven! For a father of 2 young daughters that’s an incredibly long lie-in!

My wife catches my eye on the clock. “Don’t worry”, she says, “It’s really quarter to twelve” …


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Arrival to The Story of Your Life

Watching Arrival reminded me of The Story of Your Life (Ted Chiang) which I read whilst Arrival was being made. Then I read it again. There’s something a little circular going on…


Thumbing through the DVD collection at the local library I stumbled on Arrival, described on the back cover as a scifi thriller.

Arrival DVD

I didn’t understand the rest of the description as it was in Dutch, but “sci-fi” was enough to get it from the library shelf and into my DVD player.

It’s a slow moving movie, but it wasn’t long until the story line started to seem a bit familiar. It turns out that Arrival was based on a short story I’d read previously.

Dutch description of Arrival

The Story of Your Life (Ted Chiang)

“Here, read this, it’s not quite time travel but I think you’ll like it.”

I was passed The Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang.

It’s a long short story, or a short novella, about a linguist who has contact with aliens who have arrived on Earth. Who they are and what they want is unknown, and it’s Louise Banks’ task to find out.

But first she needs a line of communication with them. I was pleased that the Hollywood arrogance of teaching everyone (including extra-terrestrial Aliens) the English language was cast aside, and the focus moved more onto learning the language(s) of the visitors.

Actually I mentioned this in my recent review of Patterns on Pages (CR Downing) – that linguistics can effect culture – as well as the way of thinking. And this is the key to the plot – and where the “…not quite time travel” element comes into play.

Compare and Contrast

Of course there are always some differences between plot lines when printed on 2D paper or projected onto the silver screen, but generally speaking I think the movie remained pretty faithful to the original written word. (Perhaps this is obvious because I recognised the book from the movie!) It makes it all the more impressive then, that Arrival plays more with the idea of time travel without screwing up the original plot!

That said, there’s more specific detail given in The Story of Your Life regarding the complexities of time. For example, there’s a description of a “Book of Ages” which contains every detail of the future. If it’s read then our future is known and pre-determined. This opens the question of free will – are we actually able to choose to live out a different path than what’s already been written?

It’s an interesting point. In a Greek tragedy, so Ted Chiang continues to write, there’s no freedom of will – and events will conspire to force us to live out what has already been written. I think this makes sense because it’s similar to the “past is fixed” argument. Recall that the Book of Ages will have been written in the (or “a”?) future, so today’s events are effectively those in the (unchangeable) past.

Arrival Alien Language - a circle
Image credit (and header): www.wired.com/2016/11/arrivals-designers-crafted-mesmerizing-alien-alphabet/

Arrival was released towards the end of last year which means that in all likelihood I was reading The Story of Your Life around the same time. And oddly enough, after watching Arrival I was motivated to reread the novel. It seemed familiar. Deja ‘Read’. It seems circular. It’s almost as if…no. Or could it?

Perhaps next time I’ll have an easier time making sense of the DVD back cover. I already seem to have advance knowledge of what it will be about…!


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Review: Patterns on Pages (CR Downing)

Patterns on Pages: Secrets of the Sequenced Symbols is a beautifully written full length novel following in the HOT L series by CR Downing with time travel integrated throughout.

Patterns on Pages: Secrets of the Sequenced Symbols follows in the footsteps of C. R. Downing’s Traveler’s HOT L series.

Patterns on Pages: Secrets of the Sequenced Symbols by CR Downing

Despite its consistency with the HOT L establishment for time travelers and the characters (namely Eternity, Chronos, Tempus and Epoch) in the first two volumes, it is a distinct piece of work since like Reverse Image: A Timeless Tale (Volume 3) it’s a full length novel rather than a series of inter-related tales.

I welcomed this as it gave me time to really get stuck into it!

You may recall from (or choose to (re)read) my review of Traveler’s HOT L (Volume 1) on Time Travel Nexus that my main misgiving was that several of the tales didn’t necessarily need time travel, or even covered genres which I wouldn’t normally have chosen to read.

Patterns on Pages is quite the opposite! It’s time travel through and through (although I should correct the term “time travel” and instead use “travel along the time fabric”) and it certainly sits comfortably enough within the scifi genre to capture and hold my interest all the way along the journey!

A cracking start!

Patterns on Pages starts with an almighty bang. Or to be more exact, a crack – the Earth shatters! Now what can possibly happen next?! I’m hooked!


After “The Day the Earth Shattered” the human population is in decline, although it doesn’t seem to know it. Amongst the debris humans struggle to survive. Technology and progress have taken a backward step.

It’s not like they’re able to help themselves – without the power of literacy, for example, books are viewed as a fuel source rather than a source of information and education. At best books are holders of “patterns on pages”. (This is somewhat ironic given that I had some formatting troubles with early versions of the manuscript on my ereader! 😉 )

With no means (or desire) for the ability to use products from the past – let alone fix broken items or develop new ones, human kind is in a mess. And then there’s the death rate which is starting to overtake the birth rate. Human kind is set for extinction.

The question of using (burning) books for short term benefit (keeping warm) instead of longer term survival (education) reminded me a little of the desire to choose plants over people in the movie Silent Running. An arguably agreeable attitude when you’re faced with villagers with pitchforks and scepticism when it comes to learning about the value of books. People can be too stupid to know how stupid their stupidity is.

Thankfully there are two characters, Marin and Lincoln, who are more open – and curious – about books. They’re able to wade through an old library and access some talking books (which reminded me of the 2002 movie remake of The Time Machine with Guy Pearce) running on electricity still generated from old solar panels.

The plan is to send Marin and Lincoln back in time so that they can see first hand how things used to be, and how literacy can be key to saving the human race – and then come back to their own time to share their knowledge and show their community that there’s a better and sustainable way to live.

Writing Style

Patterns on Pages has an original and brilliant angle when it comes to putting people from different times and cultures together. It’s executed perfectly and written with an incredible insight into human behaviour and society.

I was immediately taken with how a global catastrophe has a personal impact. I remember my aunt many years ago explaining that we can identify with the sorrow of an individual in, for example, a fatal car crash. But scaling that up to 200 passengers on a plummeting aircraft is much more difficult because our minds are less equipped to deal with that enormous amount of tragedy. It’s a fair point, and a little ashamedly I feel more sympathy for my daughter when she’s fallen and grazed her knee than hearing about a car crash on the motorway.

How author C.R. Downing (Chuck) manages to stir feelings of personal empathy within a worldwide event I’ve no idea, but it works! One Earth is kept separate from the impact that it has on many people. Be warned – it’s a powerful and emotional start!

There’s a similar display of personal versus many when Lincoln and Marin discover that tens of books have been burned. This is serious because it represents the loss of a lot of useful information which would help to not only improve the quality of life, but ultimately preserve the human race. Lincoln’s reaction is that instead of passing Marin a personal letter today as planned, he’d be better off giving it to her tomorrow when she’s not feeling so emotional. He’s not selfish; he’s bringing large problems to a personal impact level.

I should clarify again that Lincoln and Marin are residents in our future, and part of a relatively simplistic culture. I recently watched the movie Arrival based on the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang (stand by for a post on that…). The point is made that linguistics can effect culture – and vice versa. And we see that here with Lincoln and Marin who clearly have a different way of speaking English to each other than people of our time. I was very interested to see that after their education and residency in the past [culture] Lincoln and Marin’s speech changed.

One of my pet peeves is when authors spell out accents. It’s the exception to the “show not tell” rule; I’d rather be told someone has an accent, and let my brain make the sound when I read. Having phonetic spelling is patronising and barely different to reading a book with pictures. All that said, phonetic spelling is used here in a couple of instances where it comes over as a powerful literary device used to show the diversity of humans and how accents are perceived by Lincoln and Marin. Brilliantly done!

Lincoln and Marin aren’t the only characters. There’s also Rulora. I’m not sure what she was, but she came over as some form of AI, for example, by providing her location co-ordinates with her name, or by prefixing her sentences with qualifiers such as “question”, “statement”, “observation” , etc..

Lincoln and Marin’s teachers, Courtney and Dawn, fairly quickly become people in their own right as opposed to background and secondary characters used only to bounce around dialogue and ideas. They have a crucial role to play in the plot line, and subsequently each have depth without cluttering up the novel.

My own experience of teachers is generally pretty bad. Naturally I’ve had some very good ones, but (maybe this is my pessimistic outlook) I tend to remember most clearly the cretinous nightmarey ones I suffered under who were not only a disgrace to teaching but to the human race.

When I read how Courtney and Dawn felt about teaching Lincoln and Marin and the techniques they used I was really impressed. Perhaps this should have come as no surprise given that Chuck (actually here I shall refer to him in full as Dr Downing) has received several awards for teaching including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. It’s wonderful how he’s able to bring his personal experiences into his writing!

On a similar note I was very happy to read about Lincoln and Marin’s introduction to Christianity. The subject is touched on very delicately which is all it needed to be acknowledged (its omission would have been a statement in itself…). Actually, for those interested, Chuck is working on a piece in Biblical fiction titled Who Leads the Shepherd).

There’s one final thing I want to mention about the writing style and that’s the thankful avoidance of blabbing on about historical crap. There’s a section where we’re taken back to 1816. Naturally there are some observations about the people and culture there, but it’s not full on, doesn’t go on for pages on end, and it’s not used as evidence that an author has carried out loads of research and finds it compulsory to bore us to tears with.

Like the religious segment, the 19th century view is treated softly and succinctly. (Phew!)

I think it’s clear that I’m very impressed with the quality of writing (and content) in Patterns on Pages! For the sake of balance, I do have only one very small negative comment: temperatures are given not in degrees Celsius / Centigrade but in fahrenheit – a measurement scale which doesn’t speak to me as a scientist.

Of course this is very subjective, but I’ll point out this – the fahrenheit scale was crafted with the aim of body temperature being set at 100 degrees fahrenheit. And they got it wrong (98.6)! (Certainly some of my school teachers made my blood run cold. Maybe Rulora has a body temperature of 100?

The Time Fabric

The Day the Earth Shattered caused a huge loss of human life. This means that the Fabric of Time was damaged and became unstable because it’s made from the summation of single life threads of sentient beings.

Epoch, Tempus and Pater become involved though I sense a little chicken-and-egg regarding their motivation. Is it to prevent the extinction of the human race; so that humans can occupy a longer length of Earth’s existence and get closer to their potential? Or it is that more human population threads are needed to support the failing fabric of time?

Moving from the the more ubiquitous time fabric to a more a local scale, we read that the Earthquake realigned the location of the HOT L establishment. (HOT L is the Harmonic Overlapping Time Location.) It’s another example of Chuck’s handle on scales of impact whilst keeping realism in check.

The HOT L series makes a point of neither approving or using the term “time travel” but travelling along the time fabric. This is a very physical approach, and could perhaps be seen as a move towards linking time and space – and back to time; time travelling walking along the fabric of time to 1816 took an hour! 😉 The idea of a physical approach to time travel is also enhanced when the travelers are advised to tread on each other’s footprints on the fabric to minimise damage to it. Love it!

I suspect that my electirical skills aren’t up to scratch, but something did strike me about the actual workings of the HOT L. The strength of current (voltage) harmonizes the vibrations of a person’s DNA to that of the HOT L. I’m not sure about this on two counts. Isn’t the strength of current the Ampere and not the Volt (potential difference – the amount of ‘push’)? And wouldn’t a change in frequency be required for harmonization?


There are several moments in the novel where it could have ended, or worse painfully peeled off to make a (perceived) marketable addition to a series. Thankfully this isn’t the case here and Patterns on Pages carries on taking us with it to a suitable conclusion (without it being long and drawn out!)

Rating * * * * *

Patterns on Pages is an easy full 5 stars! The time travel mechanism is well thought out and applied consistently throughout the novel. I really liked the story line which has an original approach on putting people from different times and cultures together – enhanced with a two-step learning process – from ‘older’ more advanced people to ‘younger’ less advanced – and back again.

There’s currently a KindleScout campaign on Amazon where you can nominate Patterns on Pages. I’ve already nominated this wonderful novel – you can do the same too! (Nominations close at midnight at 12AM EDT Sept 10.)

Author interview: CR Downing (Traveler’s HOT L)


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Star ratings:

| 5* Excellent! | 4* Good | 3* OK | 2* Not good | 1* Crud |

A Single Life (a short time travel animation)

“A Single Life” is a short animation where time is bi-directional on a single time-line. “You might think your life is never ending” – but only for as long as the duration of your life.

The Netherlands does it again!

I’ve written several times about how the Netherlands is making its stamp when it comes to things time travel. An appearance in one of the first time travel novels, the time travelling train, the temporally challenged table cloth and months to name but a few instances.

And now Joris from the “Job, Joris & Marieke” animation studio in Utrecht (the Netherlands! 😉 ) has alerted me to a brilliant time travel animation: A Single Life.

I could mention that A Single Life was nominated for the 87th Academy Awards® in 2015 for best animated short film and that it’s been awarded with 40 prizes. But pictures paint a thousand words. Come to think of it, a movie trumps the lot – so here it is!

Groove-y eh! 😉

A Single Life operates on a beautifully simple idea; that time follows a single time line but that it’s bi-directional. A straight-forward (and backward! 😉 ) idea, but one which got me thinking about a few issues.

Dead end

If the vinyl record (or “single”) plays the soundtrack to your life, maybe there’s an underlying story. A book of life, maybe. And as many authors are aware, there’s a beginning a middle and an end. Time travel is allowed only during this person’s life. The middle. Obviously there’s interesting stuff going on here!

A Single Life - as a baby

But time travel to before or after isn’t possible; it’s a hard stop. A point of singularity beyond which you can’t say “actually I zoomed on a bit too fast there, I think I’ll go back and not die/not be unborn” because there is no “go back” when you’re on a point. The line has literally ended; time travel in “A Single Life” isn’t possible beyond the point of death, or birth.

A smooth progression?

So time is progressive within boundaries – but it can also jump.

A Single Life - with a record player

I love the idea that the needle follows a scratch in the record and causes a time hiatus, a moment where two discontinuous points in time are adjacent to each other (an idea played with (rather badly) in Time’s Eye by Stephen Baxter and Arthur C. Clarke).

(Come to think of it, this seems to be a little similar to the idea of wormholes in space which connect two otherwise separate locations).

Time for progress?

Music enthusiasts would have us believe that the analogue sound quality of a record player is superior to the digital formats from CDs and MP3 players.

A Single Life - vinyl single

I’m not one to judge sound quality – or in this parallel, the quality of a person’s life, but it would be interesting to consider different kinds of music players as a time travel machine.

How would a time travelling CD track play out? The laser reads digital points located at specific locations on the disk, so in theory, with programming this could give us the same result as a needle following a groove (or scratch). We know this because we can easily skip from track to track, for example. This wouldn’t be so simple with an audio cassette when it comes to time jumping. I’m guessing an MP3 player would act similarly to the CD player – although perhaps we’d be open to effects due to corrupted files. Anything can happen with viruses

The personal touch

That’s the time travel machine – this one needs an operator / operatee…

One of the things which first struck me whilst watching this animation is that the hand was always able to remain on the record whilst the surroundings were changing in response to a change in time. It brought to mind my earlier thoughts about the time in a time machine (see my comments in my review of “Piercing the Elastic Limit“).

Naturally, the hand is connected to the rest of the body, so in which case I’m interested in what happens to the person during time travel.

Whilst biological changes are evident (she gets older / younger), her mental state is not so clear. She can remember that she needs to keep her hand on the record, for instance, but is there a more general preservation of memory? What’s the difference between living life (or a part of it) the first time round and say the fifth time? In the latter case, the memory of how to ‘play’ the record makes sense, but are there life experiences to recall? I’d guess not, but it seems inconsistent.

Several novels and movies have dealt with this issue. Memories are clearly kept in Groundhog Day allowing Phil Connors to cumulatively educate himself. And in the movie Click (where a remote control allows fast forwarding through life) Michael Newman’s mind goes into zombie mode whilst his body plays out the actions without a real mental presence. And of course I should mention Buckyball by Fabien Roy where a particular musical track brought about time travel and replays (memory preserved).

The cast of "A Single Life"
The cast of “A Single Life”

Whether memories are preserved during replays or not, or whether it’s a good idea to go forwards past seemingly dull moments in life, I think the take home message of the animation is clear:

We have one single life – live it! 🙂


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Author Interview: Howard Loring (Elastic Limit)

In this author interview we find out more about Howard Loring – creator of Epic Fables and Tales of Elastic Limits.

Howard Loring (AKA “TimeJumperA1) is the author of the “Epic Fables” Beyond the Elastic Limit and Piercing the Elastic Limit, as well as “Tales of the Elastic Limit”. In this author interview we find out a little more about the man behind these books…

Howard Loring, Epic Fables of The Elastic Limit

Douglas Adams’ Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy famously proposed an answer but the question wasn’t well-framed. Henry Kissinger asked whether anyone had any questions for his answers.

Seemingly questions are less important than answers, though the Old Man in Howard Loring’s Piercing the Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable would disagree. He was keen for his visitors to frame the ‘proper question’ and by doing so their brainwaves could be aligned in a certain way.

On one hand I feel I under pressure to ask Howard the ‘right’ questions. But if that’s the case then what will that be doing to my brain? On the other hand, Howard may already have the answers but needs the questions to present them. And in this case then this makes the task of me asking my questions a mere action of duty and fulfilment of destiny.

But only if Howard’s answer to my first question is positive. So let’s see…

Do you have any answers for my questions?

Howard: Certainly, fire away

Why are you so interested in Time?

Howard: Time defines us; it frames out reality and permeates our entire existence. So what’s not to love?

And you write books on the elusive Elastic Limit of Time; what is that exactly?

Howard: Actually it’s two things; in my Epic Fables the phrase Elastic Limit is Jargon, the term used to describe the concept that one must understand and implement in order to manipulate and maneuver within any given Timestream, but it’s also a Metaphor for the individual human imagination, so each title really has a double meaning: the novel BEYOND the ELASTIC LIMIT propels you Beyond your imagination, and the novel PIERCING the ELASTIC LIMIT blows your imagination away, while TALES of the ELASTIC LIMIT contains twelve short stories intended to feed your imagination.

That’s the one that can be read backwards?

Howard: Well, it can be read in three ways, actually: At random for each chapter is just a story about Time, or the chapters can be read in sequence for the History of Humanity but, as Time is linear, it’s the same thing from either direction, so the chapters can also be read in descending order for the story of how Human History came about. And I think that’s a nice twist on the genre.

I also see that you’ve subtitled each of your Time Travel works Epic Fables. Why, what are Epic Fables?

Howard: Well, Literature has jargon also, terms used within the discipline that have a specific meaning; for example, a Novel is not a Short Story, etc., but then again, each of these can be presented as either a Fable or an Epic, and my books are both.

How so?

Howard: Fables are usually simple stories with a moral or a moral lesson, and my books while being layered and interwoven are all simply written, and Epics hold a universal appeal, with a narrative to which anyone can relate.

So what makes your books Epic?

Howard: As I said, they are universal, or rather deal with universal human concepts: in Epics the plot is in reality secondary, it’s the changes the characters go through that’s important, so it’s not a ‘what they did’ story but rather ‘who they became’ because of what they did. This makes them relatable, for most everyone can empathize given most at some time have lost in love, been disappointed by life, hated their job, boss, co-worker, neighbor or even family, and the very same emotions and conflicts such circumstances engender have been felt to some extent by all of us. After all, universal concepts, by definition, are held by everyone.

Your books often contain real History. Is this important to you?

Howard: Write what you know, yes? And the great thing is that many people who don’t as a rule read History love the historic nature of my Epic Fables, and are surprised by it, some blown away by it, for it’s not just boring dates or overblown explanations but real life people and situations, and this fact intrigues them, a good thing, I think.

The Noble Watchman?

Shakespeare famously questioned the fragrance of a rose if it were otherwise named. You place a lot of importance on the names of your characters in your first novel “Beyond the Elastic Limit” which are descriptive and interestingly, vary in time. Google tells me that “Howard” means “Noble watchman”. Is this a reference for your affinity with time, or something else?

Howard: Duh? It’s my name, but I will gladly take the inference, thanks.

You mention in “Piercing the Elastic Limit” that music communicates more deeply and less ambiguously than speech. What would be the backing soundtrack to your novels?

Howard: Ha, I’ll leave that to the movie producer, but my books do cover how language has meaning through symbols, and in order to communicate this meaning a consensus must be reached or understanding is impossible. Music, on the other hand, is a direct connection needing no consensus, and it can touch you in ways that may never be understood: Music can make you happy or sad, create feelings of joy or sorrow, and such examples are endless, so yes, music is internal and personal and, I think that’s why it touches us as deeply as it does.

Your novels can be read independently and in any order. Did you write them / parts of them in the order that they’re printed? Is there a preferred reading order?

Howard: As each Timeline is in itself a Current Reality, I had no wish to write sequels, so yes, each book is independent in that it needs no backstory, and therefore you can read them in any order. However, I did wish them to relate and even explain each other, and for this reason how exactly they do so depends on the sequence in which they are read, another interesting twist, I believe.

Is there a difference between time jumpers (as in your novels) and time travellers?

Howard: All of the books explain that the original purpose of the machine was benign, simply to view other eras and not to physically Time Travel, as that wasn’t its intended function. Given the operator ‘jumped’ between different Timeframes to view and study them, the term was apt, and so yes, in my scheme, once the existing machine and software were altered to permit this ability, Time Travelers and Time Jumpers are indeed the same.

I love your idea of two technologies which work together to allow time travel / jumping (the elastic limit and the time fistula). I was also impressed with how you involved some biological (non) effects where time jumpers didn’t age during a jump. Do you see technology or biology as being more dominant when it comes to time travel?

Howard: I simply wished to avoid the normal pitfalls of most Time Traveling tales i.e. Paradox and so forth, and as I write Fables, I do this employing a minimalist fashion, in very much a less is more approach. Most of the particulars are simply already in place, and so I needn’t spend time introducing or explaining them, which seems to work given the feedback I receive .

I read on your Facebook page that you have an interest in astronomy. Are you a planetary observer or do you prefer the deep sky objects?

Howard: I observe everything, but it takes different instruments to view both near and far, so I’ve many telescopes of various designs and sizes, some of which I’ve reconditioned (pictures on my Facebook Fan Page) and here’s also a video that shows a few of them, in fact I’ve many videos on YouTube dealing with the Elastic Limit of Time.

Water seems to feature prominently in both “Beyond the Elastic Limit” and “Piercing the Elastic Limit” – either as a resource or as a component in a meteorological event. Would you rather have a submarine, an aircraft or a spacecraft?

Howard: Well again, water is certainly a universal thing concerning the human life experience. As such it’s been used often in Myth, and from many cultures, as bread has been, and that’s why I also use them, as well as many other ubiquitous human connections. But to answer your question, I’d have to pick spacecraft, given my Time Machine would certainly qualify.

Yes, you always employ Myth; is there a particular reason for this?

Howard: Myth is a very ancient art form; it was honed through the ages long before written language, and for the most part it connects on a subconscious level, employing prototypes that are easily recognizable in a much broader sense. To this end, Myth can certainly be used to convey the backstory or move the action along. This literary device ensures a ‘page-turning’ read, and it’s also great fun to write.

When you’re sitting on a train trying to read, what’s your order of annoyance (most annoying => least annoying):
(a) a bunch of noisy school kids
(b) their teachers who don’t tell them to settle down and let people read in peace
(c) old ladies who put on too much perfume
(d) old men who nose whistle
(e) teenagers listening to loud music on head phones
(f) people who eat noisily / stinky food (without offering you any)
(g) realizing you’re not sitting on the train at all, but still in the platform waiting room because you were so engrossed in your book you didn’t notice the train arriving.

Howard: Well, sorry there; none of the above I’m afraid, given I no longer travel by such a conveyance: I instead use my imagination, which so far hasn’t broken down or run late, but who knows what the Future holds? Oh, wait: just read my books to find out.

Become a fan of Howard Loring!

You can follow Howard on his website, on Facebook and on Twitter (@TimeJumperA1). Howard’s novels are available on Amazon.


Review: Beyond the Elastic Limit (Howard Loring)

Review: Piercing the Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable (Howard Loring)


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Review: Piercing the Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable (Howard Loring)

Piercing the Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable (Howard Loring) is effectively a series of stories with a common thread and some common characters running through them. This novel is loaded with ideas to get the time travel enthusiast thinking!

Piercing the Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable

Having gone Beyond the Elastic Limit author Howard Loring now helps us to pierce it in the second in the series: Piercing the Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable.

Beginnings (or endings)

Piercing the Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable

Piercing the Elastic Limit by Howard Loring is effectively a series of short stories – though “series” may not be the right word given that Howard’s true book of short stories,
Tales of the Elastic Limit, can be read in any order. It sounds like an interesting idea, though not a premise I’d feel like trying out given the annoyances of e-book formats!

(Actually on that note, take a look at this screen shot – the page numbers insert themselves into the text which can sometimes make for some funny reading! See this shot on page 73!)

Piercing the Formatting Limit
Piercing the Formatting Limit

The set up reminds me of the Cloud Atlas movie which spans across a number of time eras with different characters but who seem to follow a similar ‘template’ of existence (and acted by the same actors / actresses). This is achieved in the novel through common themes and characters – but crucially it’s the differences which are central to the plot, so keep an eye out!

The time travel element

I’m going to jump straight into the time travel element, and rather fittingly, mention that we have time jumpers in place of time travellers. This already begins to give us a clue about the nature of the movement through and within time in this novel.

Actually we’ve already been introduced to the model of time and the technology behind it in Beyond the Elastic Limit; the time line is projected into the past within the bounds of the elastic limit. This is similar to the River of Time. The “time fistula” is a separate technology which opens up a window to view the past – like placing a rock in a river and seeing how the water flows differently around it.

Crucially, the future cannot be viewed, and viewing the past doesn’t modify the time line itself (which reminds of me the Deja Vu movie where Denzel Washington peers into the past through discreet time windows).

The crux is what happens when the observation window turns into a door.

Various groups of characters have access to the appropriate technology – a machine which distorts time with an electromagnetic field. Some characters can only travel in time; others are able to hold and restrain time completely.

One particular feature I liked is that the time jumpers don’t age when they’re outside of their own natural timeline. (Their metabolism doesn’t react to their surrounding – you may recall that I rather like the crossover of time travel into biology – for example, watch the Echo Back – Time Travel Virus video and read my thoughts on biological time travel underneath).

It did get me thinking again about what time is it in a time machine anyway? When the whole time machine goes, say backwards in time, do the people inside still age as the internal time still goes forward? They can’t be ageing backwards because then they may regress to child-hood – even non-existence – if they’re traveling to a time before their birth. Or is time held constant? But if this is the case then there’s no event as all events need time?

Writing style

I really like how Howard’s writing style encapsulates many epochs. For example, there’s a description of a peice of music which has just been written; in the future this would be considered to be great, but that was decades away from now and today it wasn’t recognised.

And I must quote this:

“They’re in the past,” he said to reassure her. “Once it’s done it will already be over, and long ago…”

Actually, whilst I’m busy quoting I’m going to do another one – and probably use it at several more moments along the time line of my forthcoming life. It says much more elegantly than I can my disinterest in history and would rather set my eyes on the future:

“What he wanted was insight into the future. The long dead past,no matter how glorious,would do him no good.”

As I briefly mentioned earlier, similar characters help to tie all epochs together. In particular there’s the ageless “red haired girl” with her enchanting and all-knowing smile. Other than her hair there’s very little physical description of her – but her presence is powerful!

My only negative vibe from Piercing the Elastic Limit lies with the closing section where I became quite lost. Things seemed to be coming together but there was a lot of flitting about between different characters and I couldn’t make the connection. I didn’t understand the significance of a musician with a mangled hand and / or some children for example. Given the quality of the writing beforehand it’s more than likely that this is my own failing…


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Review: Time Split – Briggs (Patricia Smith)

Patricia’s powerful writing in “Time Split – Briggs” brings us multiple time lines thanks to a time machine / teleporter backed up with experimental development from the first novel (“Time Split”). Be prepared for some blood and gore with the evil Briggs!

Time Split Briggs is the second novel by Patricia Smith in her Time Split series. The first novel of the same name operates on a single time line. Now all that changes and the title really comes into play!


Briggs himself is the ‘bad guy’ in the original novel – and I’m glad that he gets to have this sequel novel named after him.

Review of "Time Split Briggs" by Patricia Smith

Perhaps I shouldn’t feel like this, but when I watch the X-Men movies I feel sorry for the villain, Magneto. OK, he dumps Mystique quicker than a hot potato when she loses her mutancy, but other than that I think he has a fair view of the world – it’s against him, and ultimately he seeks protection for himself, and for his kind. I’ve forgotten which DVD it is, but one of them you get the option to choose your side – and yes, I chose Magneto’s.

It’s the same here. Bad guys aren’t always bad; they just have a slightly different view. Briggs wants to be someone in a messed up world rather than a nobody in a world where there’s no nuclear holocaust. Don’t we all want to be somebody?

Author Patricia Smith presents Briggs mostly as an antagonist to Jason and Sarah, but we also get an insight into his own character and motivation. We also get to see a slightly different side to him in his double from a different time line.

The bottom line is that he’s an evil character. A really horrible one. I’m reminded of one of Terry Pratchett’s phrases – that if you’re busy running away from something, then where you’re running to kind of takes care of itself. I think Jason and Sarah often operated under this regime, Sarah in particular, ensuring that their paths weren’t going to cross.

I think it was a wise decision.

Time travel

I loved the experimental introduction into how time travel was ‘discovered’ in Time Split. In Time Split – Briggs the methodology is given as a pre and the focus is more on the complexities of time travel, in particular, those which arise from introducing a new time line. (Incidentally, I thought this was a nice way to make a sequel!)

With multiple time lines there is the possibility for multiple versions of the same person. We see this with Briggs. And we also have characters performing actions across different time lines. This latter scenario plays out where Sarah keeps pointing out to Jason things that he (i.e. his double) has already done, or will do, in another time line. (Indeed, in this respect Sarah often seemed to be more of a main character than either Jason or Briggs).

Where we learn more about Briggs through his multiple ‘identities’, Jason learns more about himself through hearing about his.

Having said that the time travel methodology in Time Split – Briggs is a given, I did note a couple of oddities with the time travel machine.

The first is that a message is given that the rotation of Earth has been taken into consideration. At first glance this makes sense – but I’d have expected this to have been the default setting and that a warning message would be displayed if the user opted not to take the Earth’s rotation into account (when would that be?). And come to think of it, what about other astronomical rotations and movements?

Still, this is nit-picking the nits off a nit-picker on a picnic – although possibly annoying for the user. I remember making (paper) photocopies at the Plymouth University library (it was a long time ago…). The default paper setting was A3 which meant you paid 3 times as much as for regular A4. And of course the copy never came out nicely so it was unusable and needed to be made again – with the correct setting. It was a crafty way for the university to effectively extract 4 times as much cash from us hard-up students than I think they should have. It was an annoying setting.

Thankfully Jason and Sarah didn’t seem too perturbed by their machine’s settings!

I was also surprised that this rotation consideration message came before the length of stay had been input. Wouldn’t the consideration require the length of stay? Then again, time is irrelevant with a time machine! 😉

Going back to basics though, Sarah poses the question whether the teleporter time machine can differentiate between 2 bodies which are inside it. Recalling the effects seen in The Fly movie it’s a factor well worth considering. Jason figures that since he travelled without being fused with his clothes, then things should be OK.

Now I may be remembering this incorrectly, but wasn’t the difference between animate and inanimate objects the trigger for time travel instead of teleportation? In other words, I think the comparison that Jason makes between people and clothes is like comparing apples and oranges. Or at least, Adam and fig leaves…

Writing style

In keeping with the first novel, Patricia writes with a mighty pen. The horrors of nuclear fallout are vivid – both physically, and the emotional effects. You can’t help thinking “What the b***dy hell were people thinking when they set off those nuclear bombs?

There’s an interesting observation where WW2 was instrumental in advancing technology (much like the cold war), whereas with nuclear war sets things back. Radiation knows no borders – there are really no winners. Even the kids in the War Games movies knew that. (Then again, when you look at current British politics it doesn’t take long to realise that no-one’s thinking).

Perhaps in keeping with the insanity of humankind, there’s a fair amount of blood and gore. This is inflicted by Briggs (for example, twisting knives to release the vacuum, or catching blades on a piece of back-bone) and inflicted by the pricks who pressed the red button (nuclear blast / survival in post nuclear fallout).

Worrying as it is that Patricia has a startling knowledge of such things (and for clarity – this is not the reason why I’m saying I enjoyed her novel!) – I’m pleased that although subtle, Patricia’s passion for astronomy comes into play. Whereas many authors would cast a reference to the familiarity of the night sky by blurting some speel about the North Star (which is not particularly bright), Patricia mentions Spica and Arcturus – two different stars than the standard stars that your average author would pick. These are two bright stars, one of which can be quite low on the horizon – though now I come to think of it, it would be higher in the sky up near Newcastle (UK) where this novel is set.

(Actually, now I recall, Deb mentioned the constellations of Ursa Major and Orion in Dead Time. Whilst the latter is a well known constellation, it’s situated on the other side of the night sky to Ursa Major so these two in combination would give a good idea of how Earth’s celestial settings is.)


There is good and bad news when it comes to the ending – things seem to wrap up well (I won’t mention how or for whom! 😉 ) but the bad news is that this suggests that there won’t be a sequel.

I hope I’m wrong…


PS: Why not read my interview with Patricia?

Author interview: Patricia Smith (Time Split)

Link to my review of Time Split.

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Review: Lost Time and Dead Time (D. L. Orton)

“Dead Time” and “Lost Time” are different flavours to the dish that is served in Book 1, “Crossing in Time”. Beautifully written with parallel worlds, time travel and Deb’s usual dose of good quality humour!

Lost Time and Dead Time are Books 2 and 3 of DL Orton’s Between Two Evils series.

Lost Time by DL Orton

I’ve already read and reviewed the first book (Crossing in Time) which I thought had some “juicy time travel and gadgetry”

I’m going to review Books 2 and 3 together for 2 reasons – firstly that the first (i.e. second book in the series!) is short, and second, that when it stops the next book picks right up straight where it left off (so in this respect I’d suggest that you only read Lost Time if you have Dead Time ready and waiting for your reading pleasure straight afterwards).

Initial impressions

Lost Time is only 200 pages – much shorter than its predecessor which weighed in at 385 pages. This at first struck me as a good thing – first because I’ve got an ebook (never as good as paper!), but mostly because I was disappointed with the ‘padding’ in the second half of Book 1 and a shorter novel indicates a potential stripping of the fluff. (That said, I’d encourage you to read Deb’s response in the comments in the comments under the original review.)

Dead Time (DL Orton)

I finished my review of Crossing in Time with the comment that judging it was like judging a meal by the way the waitress walks when she brings you the starter. These latter two additions to the series are like the meal which is served on the table next to you in the same high quality restaurant!

Bang bang! Straight away we’re reminded that author D. L. Orton is well read in scifi with a couple of quotes and references to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Space Odyssey – and is able to bring it even when you have a naked man stuck up a tree!

There was also some talk about a shell. I recall a little about this from the previous book, but it was a while since I read it and I wasn’t fully up to speed. I felt that I needed to go back and check, but at the same time by not doing so I was able to share in Diego’s confusion. In fact at one point he even wonders whether his ‘previous’ life in another universe (from Crossing in Time) was a figment of his imagination; a feeling which I could identify with given how long ago I read that novel. Indeed, I must admit that I had some troubles in remembering what ‘the normal’ universe constituted!

Initially I didn’t like Diego. Fair enough, he was found naked and dangling in a tree, but he wallows in self pity – a real grate on my nerves because he’s surrounded by people (at the beginning) who are so delightful. In these sections I felt much more connected to these secondary characters – and was pleased that as in Book 1, chapters are written in first person from the viewpoint not just of the main character, but also of the others (maybe that ‘upgrades’ them from “secondary” characters…?)

The angle

Where Crossing in Time deals a lot with red tape in science, Lost Time and Dead Time are more about family relationships. There are parenting issues as well relations between siblings and coming of age. At one stage there seems to be some new sort of lingo introduced where I wasn’t sure if it was from the future or teenager stuff!

The basic premise is that there has been an outbreak of a virus and we’re reading about the end of the human world scenario. What makes this series an interesting read is that it’s concerned with the bits which happen afterwards.

One of the things which happens afterwards is a love interest. Actually there are two, and in both cases it was nice to see the relationship form and grow instead of having certain bodily parts thrust in your face and invited to the resulting shag-fest afterwards (as it was in Crossing in Time. There was a nice quote which I’ll reproduce here:

“Love is telling someone to go to hell and worrying if they’ll get there safely.”

Actually on this note, there are quite a few random but beautiful quotes scattered throughout the novels – as well as subtle references to other novels and films and subtle humour.

Writing style

I love Deb’s writing style. There’s scifi and comedy there for the taking if you recognise / understand it – and Latin if you care to translate it (I did!) – but more generally, the text reads so smoothly you wonder why it didn’t write itself (and in which case why did I need to wait so long for these novels?!)

The writing is powerful – one character is effectively kidnapped, and this situation is covered in first person – and in the third where the horror extends to the worry and anxiety of those who care about her. I really liked the ‘nicknames’ given to some of the characters – “the Hulk, “Blabbermouth”, “Nurse Ratched”, etc.. It describes not only those characters, but also gives more of an insight into the character asigning those names!


Recently I started to read a novel which I had to cast aside because its characters were able to do everything and anything and all that in superlative quantities. There was no tension because there were no problems or difficulties.

With Lost Time and Dead Time it’s different. There are many different characters who have many different skills in different levels of abilities. The interaction of these characters was done beautifully, and just as I’m always surprised at how my two daughters are so different from each other despite having the same parents and upbringing, I’m in awe at how an author can create so much character variety!

Interesting twists

In continuation with character interaction and relationships, I was really impressed with some masterful originality in a couple of instances.

The first is a crossover of couples – not in a swinging way, but in the same couples but straddling universes. A James from one universe with Isabella from another. The twist is not just different experiences, but different ages. As you may recall, I wasn’t impressed with the ‘same universe’ relationship from Crossing in Time – here’s things are much more solid.

The age / experience shuffle also comes into play where James meets himself. Characters meeting themselves are often taboo in time travel circles (or lines! 😉 ) or characters do very odd things (e.g. in The Man Who Folded Himself (David Gerrold) and All You Zombies by Robert Heinlein). In this case there’s nothing bizarre going on – perhaps as realistic as you’d expect it to be – yet it’s precisely this angle which makes it so interesting!

The ending

I had a bit of a rant when it came to the ending of Crossing in Time. Lost Time doesn’t really have an ending – it pretty much just stops. Not a problem, because we go straight into Dead Time where 3 sub-plots come together and…spoilers will not be divulged! 😉

I was pleased that it didn’t stop at the easy-cheesy point but followed through naturally – avoiding the Quantum Leap “Oh Boy!” run into the next instalment.

There is an epilogue. It caught me off guard, but it’s good!

What next?

The next book in the Between Two Evils series is Out of Time. If it’s anything like its predecessors then it’s a novel worth waiting for! (But not too long, please Deb!)

Why not head over to TimeTravelNexus.com and read my interview with Deb.


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Review: Two Worlds Collided (Karen Michelle Nutt)

“Two Worlds Collided” by Karen Michelle Nutt probably doesn’t set out to be a time travel novel in itself, but rather a quirky romance novel with time travel added to make it interesting!

The ‘Pre-read’

The first thing I thought when I was offered the chance to read Two Worlds Collided was that the cover looked a bit soppy – this was going to be more of a slushy romance than time travel. But (pre)judging a book by its cover would be crazy.

"Two Worlds Collided" (Karen Michelle Nutt)

So I delved around a bit to see if this was going to be worth a read. Author Karen Michelle Nutt has a “research sites” page on her website where I was happy to see a link to time2time travel (thanks Karen! 🙂 ) and a few reposted links from my interesting links page, so of course this was looking good so far. But I was akso interested to read that Karen and her daughter Katrina Gillian create pre-made book covers (see their website at Judge Your Book by its Cover! 😉 )

Well, let’s just give a shot, shall we? Besides, with an e-book no-one can see what I’m reading!


Evie goes back in time to change history – namely to stop rock star Bellamy from killing himself. Whilst there, seeds of romance are planted.

Is it time travel?

Spend some time online and it won’t take you too long to discover that there’s a bit of a debate as to what makes a time travel novel. Does it only need to span (at least) 2 time periods? Or does it need to have a time machine (maybe with an in-depth instruction manual complete with theory)? Or some other time travel mechanism?

Shakespeare once asked “What’s in a name?”, and if I can paraphrase, he questioned whether it’s worth defining a genre within a novel because however you define it, the novel is what it is, right?

Personally I believe that simply having time travel in a novel doesn’t make it a time travel novel – just the same way that having a car in a novel doesn’t make it a travel novel.

Two Worlds Collided puts a character in the past, and this is where / when the novel takes off. Ultimately the novel is set in the past, and the present (with a rushed recount of what happened in between) is the drawn out (and perhaps contrived) happy ever after bit. For the most part the entire novel could have been written ‘conventionally” without time travel at all – although there are some interesting time travel issues introduced towards the end 🙂


Irrespective of how Shakespeare – or we – would (bother to) define this novel, I’m going to tease out the time travel aspects and separate it from the love story which motivates it.

Time travel element

I’ve never read this time travel mechanism before: since time travel needs blood (“blood is the essence of all life”) the time traveler must stand in a circle of chicken blood (human blood would of course be crazy!). Next we need an anchor which can be a physical object like a necklace (outward trip) or friends (return trip) and then some voodoo chanting which includes mumbling about “space-time and special relativity and other words she cant pronounce”. (I think that’s the science bit 😉 )

Aside: Here I need to credit Steven Burgauer (author of The Grandfather Paradox) where I learned of “Clarke’s Third Law” which I think may be applicable here:

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

As far as time travel methodologies go, I can’t help thinking this is pure nonsense, but in its defense this is fiction not science fiction so anything goes! 😉

The time traveller goes back in time and merges into the body of their previous self whilst their previous mind goes into limbo. This reminded me The Mind Traveller by Bonnie Rozanski and the movie Click with Adam Sandler.

Mention the future, and the time traveller snaps back to the present. (Although making ‘predictions’ about the future under the guise of palm reading doesn’t count). That said, Evie manages to get back to the present by getting on an aeroplane (recall Stephen King’s novella The Langoliers)- though this may have been timed with her ‘work’ being done.

A few welcome time travel issues are touched on at the close of the novel. One of them is that the changes in the past take time to ripple forwards and come into effect in the present. I love this idea! It reminds me of the Sound of Thunder movie (see this link to read my thoughts on time waves) – and it also explains nicely how, by saving Bellamy’s life, Evie has now lived a different history than previously. (In fact, a lot of history is rewritten – and written in as narrative in the closing pages.)

Actually, rewriting history isn’t strictly correct. The time travel premise works on timelines where events in the past cause a fork. This has two consequences but only the first is alluded to in the novel which is that Evie can’t go back to same event twice. It’s a self-imposed restriction – Evie can’t try again a second time if she makes a mistake. So kudos to Karen for incorporating this aspect which undoubtedly made Evie’s mission more difficult to attain!

But the second consequence is that if there’s a fork there’s a splitting of the time line. In other words it’s not a rewriting, but an additional ‘writing’ alongside the original – so there’s still a version of Bellamy kicking around destined for a short end in a universe following an alternate time line.

Or not? Is ‘forking’ more like a redirection which still maintains a single time line? But then the grandfather paradox applies – Evie’s reason for going back in time (Bellamy’s suicide) no longer holds, so she doesn’t (didn’t) go back in time, so Bellamy does die and Evie’s motivated to go back in time to remove her motivation…

These thoughts make it interesting, right?!

The romance

I’ll touch here briefly on the non-time travel aspects of Two Worlds Collided – but with the caveat that despite the time travel aspects as above I wouldn’t say that I fall in the target audience (which I’m hazarding a guess that it’s geared towards female readers.)

In many time travel romances there’s an element of attraction due to large cultural differences due to differing root times of the two parties involved. With a span of only a few years here, this doesn’t happen in Two Worlds Collided. Evie and Blellamy could be any random couple thrown together for whatever reason. For this reason I first thought that the romance side of things was weak, but in real non time travel / soap-opera / Hollywood life relationships build more slowly, so this might be spot on.

One thing which I did find missing (though I again point out that I’m not necessarily tuned into these kinds of things) is that I didn’t get the feeling that Bellamy was suicidal, other than a couple of comments that he blamed himself for his father’s death and got depressed. And this meant that I didn’t pick up how he needed rescuing by Evie. That said, this angle is probably more for the (weak) time travel motivation which could have been written out, and serves more for the back cover blurb than the main stuff, er, within the covers.

Writing style

Karen writes well – a huge relief given the subject matter!

As we’ve discussed, time travel is used pretty much as a scene setter; not much knowledge from the future is taken to the past. This is also compounded as the amount of time traveled is short so there’s little juxtapositioning of feelings or advance knowledge from another time.

There are reams of pages with nothing much in particular going on – choosing dresses, random small talk, hair cuts and styling etc.. I guess this might make it good for a holiday read as there’s not much for the brain to mull over. Personally I found it a little difficult to concentrate because the main story line was rather fuzzy – but I guess this is how life really is!

Bellamy has the pre-requisite weakness for a hero / villain; in this case he can’t smell or taste. Evie is the exception (I’ll let you read why! 😉 )


I’d imagine that readers expecting a romance novel will be surprised with the time travel.

Conversely, those expecting more heavy duty time travel will be a little frustrated with the slush – the closing text relating to events occurring after Evie’s changes and running up to the present was very much concerned with fashion from the sixties to the nineties. Indeed, one of the chief consequences of going back into the past and making changes was that Evie got to sport a new hairstyle.

But I think it’s important to remember that Two Worlds Collided probably doesn’t set out to be a time travel novel – rather a quirky romance novel with something a little different (time travel) added to make it interesting!


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Review: The Grandfather Paradox: A Time Travel Story (Steven Burgauer)

I was heavily impressed – and disappointed – with “The Grandfather Paradox” by Steven Burgauer. It has the makings of an absolutely cracking scifi novel, but somehow loses itself along the way.

Remember in one of the Superman movies where Superman grabs a lump of coal and crushes it with his bare hands to form a diamond? Call me fussy, but I can’t help noticing that when he opens his hand and out pops this diamond – metamorphically created by superhuman pressures – it’s perfectly cut. Surely this wouldn’t have happened! It would have been a rough diamond with all the potential of a sparkly engagement ring quality diamond – given a bit more work!

The Grandfather Paradox - a time travel story

The Grandfather Paradox by Steven Burgauer is like that rough diamond. It’s shiny and it’s sparkly and it has all the makings of an absolutely cracking scifi novel, but there’s still a lot of coal which needs some more working.

The novel comes in three parts, so I’ll go through each of them in turn.

Part 1

This is easily the strongest part of the novel! It is immediately apparent that author Steven Burgauer has carried out extensive research to support the myriad of information that’s packed into this novel. I’d dare say that some of it is not particularly necessary or relevant to the plot, but interesting enough to keep in!

However, I couldn’t help noticing that sometimes there seemed to be some misunderstanding of some of the principles. For example, the time it takes for messages to cross space takes time and introduces delays, so for this reason messages are brief and small talk and banter is kept to a minimum. But whilst this makes sense for live conversation, the point is moot for transmissions of complete messages (as they come in the novel).

Other times things didn’t quite add up. There are footprints 2 cm deep made from a human of mass 70 kg, but deeper 10 cm prints from a less massive 50 kg creature. Or there’s an explanation of how triangulation works, but the characters are confused when it doesn’t work for a signal source in deep space. From the way it reads, all 3 points in the triangulation are on Earth – comparatively short distances when compared to deep space distances, so of course this wouldn’t work. Or were the 3 points taken at 4 monthly intervals so that the earth is in 3 different parts of its orbit around the sun over a year? You’d expect so, but it’s not mentioned.

So whilst snippets and explanations of a number of things are interesting and add depth, there’s a level of credibility lost where for those I already understand I see flaws. But for the most part they’re an excellent parallel addition to the novel which really add some extra depth and make this a unique read!

Among these factoids there’s some really good stuff – triple and quad star systems which are too unstable to stay together long enough for higher life forms to evolve. Hyperspace which is curved like coils in a slinky spring – travelling down its axis is faster than along the coils. Durbinium energy sponges (which make appearances in other of Steven’s novels (e.g. The Fornax drive and The Railguns of Luna). “Durbin anomalies”, and “tachys” which have a mathematical imaginary mass. Great stuff!

Whether or not some or all of these things are true or imaginary (I should really find out…) I thought they added some good solid weight into a scifi novel! 🙂

Writing style

The writing style makes for a difficult, even predictable, read – one which reminded me of the Apollo 13 ‘novel’ by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger. What makes the Apollo 13 novel a particularly interesting read is that it’s based on fact. And because most of us aren’t familiar with spacecraft technology there’s a lot of explanation. Pretty good, except it follows a formula: this is how something works, then it stopped working, so the astronauts and ground control tried to fix it.

And it’s the same in The Grandfather Paradox. In these conditions, you can find yourself in this situation. Andu finds himself in this situation. In this situation the best thing to do is… – and this is exactly what Andu did.

In this kind of situation the suspense in a novel can evaporate. And this is what happened with me.

Another player in the loss of suspense arena is the formidable number of lucky chances which come into play. Take for example a crew who have spent weeks in space looking for a planet which is emitting a signal – and who can’t find it. They eject Andu from their space craft in a smaller hopper…which just happens to be on course to this elusive planet (which can be reached in time in terms of life support and fuel) and on landing there’s a breathable atmosphere.

I don’t buy it.

But the biggest non-sale of the day though goes to the journey out of the Ancon solar system (a half day under low acceleration) to the event horizon of a black hole (a microsecond after the power button is pushed) and then to the Earth where aerobraking is allegedly the only way to slow down from a near light speed velocity(!) The spacecraft is then in orbit at a height of “some 30,000 km” (which sings geostationary at 36,000 km) – yet the occupants are able to experience a changing view of the oceans (which confirms a (near) equatorial orbit).

Time travel

The time travel component in The Grandfather Paradox is much like the other gems of scifi in the novel – an interesting addition. That said I couldn’t quite see the need for time travel in this novel other than to save Andu’s grandmother – although this is giving the motivation a lot of credit.

As we’d expect, there’s a lot of explanation about the mechanics of the time travel which naturally I welcome! But like previous examples, it needs polishing. It’s presented in a series of slow and repetitive logical steps, and just as we start breaking into the real nitty gritty of it all a huge assumption is made – that time stops at the speed of light so it goes backwards faster than it and if we’re near a large mass. It’s frustrating because after cheesy descriptions of the grandfather and ontological paradoxes, and a gradual gearing up to the nuts and bolts of time travel, the power’s switched off and we’re left coasting.

Later there’s mention of time differential, so I’m guessing that the relative difference between the rates of the passage of time between two objects travelling close to (but not at) the speed of light means that transfer from one object to another results in a form of time travel through time dilation. It’s a nice idea!
There is another nice idea to use a pulsar to measure absolute time (although the travel time of the pulsar’s signal may take a while to reach an object moving away from it at nearly the same rate…)

But I’m not sure. I don’t like to dampen one’s imagination, but I can’t see how sling-shotting around a black hole would get an object to move above light speed, as it is suggested.

Of course, this is science fiction, so in theory anything can happen – though I’d postulate that to keep it in the realm of science fiction theory we should adhere to scientific principles. (Not that I’m an expert in this area…)

Part 2

Reading Part 1 of The Grandfather Paradox is like standing in a dark tunnel where there’s a strong glimpse of the light ahead. Then when Part 2 of the novel comes – WHAM! The oncoming train with full beam headlights smacks you senseless, pages fluttering in the tailwind.

I mentioned earlier than Part 1 is not an easy read. Part 2 is a paradoxical read, being both difficult and easy at the same time.

This part of the novel is where Andu has landed on Earth in 1861 and we’re yanked out of the realm of scifi and into the world of poker games, slavery, smoking and steam boats. I really wasn’t expecting this, and to be brutally honest, I didn’t really want to read this either. So it was a difficult read – which ended up being skim read.

And like Andu’s ship which somehow managed to accelerate to near light speeds, my skim reading ended up being so fast that I hard bounced off the back cover of the book and realised I’d come to the end. This was the easy part of the read.

Even in my limited reading of this section I found inconsistency. For example, Margaret is telepathic and there’s a really nice description of how this may work in a scientific grounding. Margaret is playing poker – and we have 2 pages to explain not only the rules but also some of the techniques involved. Isn’t this then irrelevant when it turns out that Margaret uses her telepathy to her advantage here? And why can’t she connect with Andu?

Part 3

Because I was skimming through Part 2 at high velocity I didn’t even realise there was a Part 3 until I was thumbing back through the novel to double check a few things. So no, it wasn’t read.

I’d hazard that if you’re interested in history, then Parts 2 and 3 are probably OK. The subject matter just wasn’t my cup of tea. I certainly hope that they’d put the time travel element into context!

Concluding remarks

I was heavily impressed – and disappointed – with The Grandfather Paradox!

For the most part, the ‘side’ explanations are interesting, relevant and accurate and add some depth to make Part 1 of the novel a really solid scifi novel; other times one or more of these adjectives are not so applicable.

I know we’re time travel fans here, but I think most people have heard of the grandfather paradox, or at least know that it’s related to time travel. The “a time travel story” qualifier in the title therefore seems to set the tone in the novel – to satisfy a need to explain too much.

As far as Part 1 is concerned, the content shines but reads a little rough around the edges. Where novels like Thanksgiving Eve was so polished it squeaks, some parts of The Grandfather Paradox don’t quite click into place – but I really think that it has the makings of a superb novel!

Rating ? ? ? ? ?

I’ve no idea how to give this a single star rating!

I love the general ethos behind the writing style with the supporting facts (5*) but got annoyed where some were either wrong or inadequately explained (1*). The attention given over to explaining the time travel element is brilliant (5*) but falls short when the progression of logical steps takes wild assumptions (1*). Brilliant scifi ideas are numerous (5*), but there are bad (unworkable) ones too (2*). The plot behind Part 1 is intriguing (4*) but the random events seemed an easy way to get out of difficult situations (1*). Parts 2 and 3 are beyond my personal interest (super subjective rating: 1*).

So I’m not going to give a star rating! (An average would be meaningless (and nonsensical!) so I’m going to leave it blank.)

I should point out though, that if you really need a star rating then head over to Amazon and Goodreads where there are lots of high-ended ratings over there. I can understand why – perhaps I just misunderstood or missed something in the novel (other than Parts 2 and 3… 😉 ).


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Author Interview: Scott Eric Barrett (The Guttersnipes)

Scott Eric Barrett has published more than fifty articles for various newspapers, history magazines, and educational publications -and the author of time travel novel “The Guttersnipes”. how did he manage it?

Scott Eric Barrett is the creator behind “The Guttersnipes” – a fun and fast-paced read which has a time travel component that involves a biological and technological component.

Scott Eric Barrett
Guttersnipes author Scott Eric Barrett

The time machine is a black box mechanism – albeit one which works with a purple beam which takes Charlie and his friend Arty back to New York city in 1865. In this setting there’s a light educational element which makes The Guttersnipes an especially good novel for teenagers.

In his own words, Scott loves History, Science Fiction/Fantasy, and any work of fiction that has strong characters and a subtle message. In this author interview Scott reveals how his love of Star Wars influenced parts of The Guttersnipes – as well as laying down his limits!

The Guttersnipes by Scott Eric Barrett

The Guttersnipes is your first novel, but not your first publication. How did you find the transition from writing articles for newspapers and magazines to a full blown novel?

Scott: I stammered into the writing world in a somewhat nontraditional way. I always wanted to be a storyteller, but my first dream was to write and direct movies. I studied film production in college and went to work (and I do mean work) in the industry as a production assistant. My path from dragging cables and moving key lights to directing the next Harrison Ford blockbuster seemed daunting to say the least. I dabbled in screenwriting a bit, but found much more creative freedom in fiction. The problem was that screenwriting and fiction were extremely different disciplines so I made the painful decision to go back to school to study creative writing. That led me to working as a professional writer and editor to pay the bills. The transition from writing stories (my early screenwriting days) to nonfiction stuff like company profiles and product reviews was actually tougher than going from magazine articles to novels.

The Guttersnipes is aimed at younger readers but has some quite gruesome sections. Were these gory sections a deliberate ‘addition’ to the novel, or are they a necessary part of Charlie’s story?

Scott: I wanted to make sure the ugliness and grossness of mid-19th century America was on full display. I remember the differences between Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns and the glossy western TV shows from the same time period. The Eastwood films painted a very grim, gritty picture of 19th century life that left a lasting impression. I loved watching Eastwood’s characters do battle, but I knew even when I was 10 that I wanted no part of that sweaty, stinky world. I wanted both the character of Charlie and the reader himself/herself to realize that New York City in 1865 was a very dangerous place. It helps prepare Charlie for his future adventures/destinations and helps him appreciate home a bit like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”.

How did you find the balance between education for younger readers and progressing the story line?

Scott: When it came to the historical elements, I didn’t want to come across as too preachy or explain too much. It would sound awkward and clunky to have characters talking too much about the Civil War, Lincoln assassination, slavery, etc. I needed to trust that my readers would know some basic facts about the time period. My hope is that they will come away entertained and perhaps with a curiosity about P.T. Barnum or the American Museum or the awful plight of the 1860s street kids.

Charlie describes the story of finding Trike as “…really long”. Will we ever hear more about this story?

Scott: I don’t want to sound like I’m keeping secrets, but I will say for certain that Charlie’s experiences with dinosaurs don’t end with the death of Trike. As far as Charlie talking about Trike (and how he “found” a dinosaur in the first place), it will be a subject he bottles up for years and years. The loss was and is significant and when we meet up with Charlie again (only a few months will have passed), he is trying to cope with feelings by never talking about Trike openly. He even tries to avoid thinking about him.

Is your passion for history instrumental in incorporating time travel in The Guttersnipes?

Scott: Absolutely. I devour history books and magazines in my leisure time. I don’t think a day has passed since I was five that I didn’t imagine, at some point in each day, what it would be like to visit Egypt in 2560 BCE, Athens in 490 BCE, etc. I wanted to incorporate a time travel element to The Guttersnipes rather than simply set the story in the past because fish-out of-water type tales provide limitless opportunities for adventure.

Your time travel mechanism is black box and there’s not much in the way of time travel paradoxes. What techniques did you use to keep the reader aware that time travel is a key element of The Guttersnipes?

Scott: I wanted the technical aspects of the time travelling to be mysterious and almost magical for the first adventure. The key turns out to be the purple “energy” rather than a fancy device/gadget. I tried use Charlie’s (and Arty’s) overwhelming sense of wonder to keep the readers aware of the time travelling element. The strange sights and people, odd clothing, and even some of the words people used needed to be “out of time.” I also focused on the pace and the idea that travelling through the time isn’t simply like a road trip. Charlie and Arty have to find Trike and get back to their own time before seven days pass or they will be stuck in 1865 permanently. I think adding a physical danger element and the idea that people aren’t meant to make these kinds of journeys helped make the time travel aspect a critical part to the story.

The purple colour of the light sabres in the Star Wars follow up movies created a lot of debate regarding whether or not it carried any significance. Is there any significance to the purple light in your time travel orb and the fire at the museum?

Scott: Nice catch! The color is important for each of those elements (I don’t want to reveal its true nature yet…lol). As far as the aesthetic element. It was my mom’s favorite color and is definitely an ode to Star Wars. In Star Wars, the “good” guys have blue lightsabers and the “bad” guys have red lightsabers. A purple lightsaber represents shades of both good and bad, light and dark. It’s an important concept I plan to explore even more in the follow up adventures.

Would you rather have a piggy back on a dinosaur or ride a tauntaun?

Would Scott Eric Barrett ride a tauntaun?
Tauntaun from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Image credit: www.starwars.com/databank/tauntaun

Scott: Tough one. If I love Star Wars as a whole, then I practically worship The Empire Strikes Back. I don’t; however, worship cold weather and since riding a tauntaun would probably place me somewhere in the arctic I’m going to go with a dinosaur ride. Hook me up with a good T-Rex whisperer and I will be in Cretaceous heaven!

And a couple of questions from my daughter:

How do you know about dinosaurs?

Scott: I have a strange brain. I don’t know a ton about a lot of things (especially math…lol), but certain subjects intrigue me to such an extent that I embark on obsessive research extremes. Dinosaurs may have been my very first obsession. They are giant monsters from a bygone era that disappeared in a geological instant. The mystery, wonder, and tragedy still give me goose bumps to this day. Paleontologists teach us more every year and I still read about every new discovery with the same curiosity I had as a boy. From Tyrannosaurus Rex to the nasty raptors and, of course, triceratops, I have always dreamed about visiting the Age of Dinosaurs.

How did you think about the people in the American Museum?

Scott: The American Museum was really the spark for the whole adventure! I knew Charlie Daniels was a “different” character and I knew, as an adolescent, he was naturally very uncomfortable about his differences so I wanted him to interact with others who were as odd, and some far odder than him. My moment of inspiration came when I happened to catch a documentary on History about P.T. Barnum and the so-called “circus freaks” and “human curiosities” of the 19th century. I always assumed they were a travelling group like some of today’s carnivals. When the program showcased the American Museum smack dab in the middle of New York City, I knew I had my setting. Barnum was really an amazing historical figure. His American Museum was THE place to go for the average 1860s New Yorker. Most of the museum characters in the novel are based on real people. Their stories are sad, oftentimes tragic, and very inspiring.

Author bio:

Scott Eric Barrett is an award-winning freelance writer and full-time editor from Glendale, Arizona. Scott has published more than fifty articles for various newspapers, history magazines, and educational publications. He completed his first novel, The Guttersnipes, in early 2015, and recently finished his second book, A Christmas Wish. Both fantasy adventures are fast-paced rides with twists and turns galore aimed at young and middle-grade readers. Scott’s wife and daughter inspire him to work hard every day and stay resilient in a fiercely competitive industry that often forces young writers to give up on their dreams.

You can follow Scott on his website, on Facebook and on Goodreads).

The Guttersnipes is available from Amazon.com in both paperback and kindle format.

Review: The Guttersnipes by Scott Eric Barrett

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Review: Thanksgiving Eve by Jay Brandon

Thanksgiving Eve fails as a time travel novel but other aspects of this novel make it a compelling tale of how a father tries to improve relations with his family.

The Premise

A lot of time travel novels ask the question how would you relive part of your life again? Thanksgiving Eve by Jay Brandon recounts the story of Ray who dies on Christmas Eve and gets to relive the 5 days leading up to his death. At first – and then earlier portions of his life.

Thanksgiving Eve by Jay Brandon

During these relived periods Ray tries to improve relationships with his family members. This is clearly reminiscent of some aspects of A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens) around Christmas eve.

So I’ll call this out now: Thanksgiving Eve? What’s wrong with Christmas?

Writing style

Jay’s writing is extremely polished which is hardly surprising when we see how much training he’s had! Right from the outset, for example, Jay hones right in on the dark mood and thoughts of the unfairness of life; thoughts which I’m sure many people have but don’t outwardly express because of social norm.

On a similar footing there are astute observations in many aspects of life which range from parenting to how we answer a phone. In some ways this is a pitfall of Thanksgiving Eve because a quarter of the way through the novel there was no clear story line and I was still reading about mundane events in life like going shopping or eating round the table.

Indeed, some might argue that there is no story line; even by the end of the novel I’m not sure what the thread is – and I’m not convinced that the main character would know either.

On the flip side, this highlights the strength of Thanksgiving Eve in that it complelled me to read on despite the lack of a clear story line!

Time travel

One of my pet peeves in time travel novels is the length of time that it takes a character to realise that he’s travelled in time. It seems that in Thanksgiving Eve we have the complete opposite where Ray barely bats an eyelid when he finds himself back 5 days in time as if time travel is an every day experience. Or is that Groundhog day?! 😉

Actually Ray’s transition into the past was so smooth that I wondered whether there was any time travel at all and that Ray was seeing portions of his life flash before his eyes prior to death; perhaps something similar to The I Inside movie.

That said Ray doesn’t know why he’s gone back in time, but after a couple of trips he seems to see the benefit in having a better relationship with his family and somehow decides that this is why he’s being offered a second chance to make amends.

There’s a clear similarity with other novels such as Ken Grimwood’s Replay, or (the much better) Buckyball by Fabien Roy. In these two novels the time travel element is not necessarily well understood by the characters, but it is fully utilised and incorporated within the plots of the respective novels. I didn’t get the same feeling with Thanksgiving Eve.

In fact I can almost see a reworking in the manuscript where the idea of time travel has been added as an after-thought. Was this a ‘regular’ drama novel where nothing much happens, so sliced into segments and rearranged under the name of time travel to make it more interesting? I wouldn’t be surprised.

It’s clear to any time travel enthusiast that Thanksgiving Eve has only a very weak sniff of time travel. When my wife makes juice from concentrate she makes it so weak that the resulting beverage is terrible. It would be better to simply have water. And I think it’s the same here – it would have much better to leave out the weak time travel instead of adding a couple of drops of it into a watery novel.

This is especially true because there is potential for much more than what’s included. For example, Ray goes further back in time for each of his successive revisits to his own life. This means that we never find out whether his actions hold any consequences for the future. So what’s the point? The obvious twist to the Grandfather paradox (i.e. will any of his (re)actions in the past affect his own existence to the point that his death won’t occur and hence he won’t be able to go back in time and make those changes…) was totally side-stepped.

It was never completely clear regarding the amount of free will that Ray had when he went back in time. His appearance was commensurate with the period he was in (friends and family didn’t realise he was a time traveller); he seemed able to instantly recall events leading up to where he was, but he was able to do things differently. Could he though? When he really wanted to do something different he was drunk so couldn’t control his body. Another side-step.

Just as Buckyball introduces some time travel vocabulary, Ray’s relived days are vaguely referred to as “Dayovers”. But surely if Ray (or the author) is naming these experiences then it should be more prominent?

Other aspects of the Dayovers had some interesting aspects – Ray’s neighbour, Kevin, gets pulled back in time each time Ray goes back. Again, this reminded me of Buckyball which involved a group of inter-related time travellers. The first time that it was mentioned that Kevin was going back in time too it seemed out of place and I took it whimsically. Then later it became clearer when Kevin confronts Ray about it directly. But nothing came of it. Similarly there’s the beggar. Corny and cheesy to have such a character play a potentially important / revealing role, but again, nothing comes of it.

It’s hugely frustrating that the time travel seems to be part of something bigger than something which just affects Ray but pretty much gets ignored.

Closing thoughts, open questions

Undoubtedly there are open questions. One argument is that Ray doesn’t understand what happened, so why should we? At the same time we’re a curious species – we ask questions and we want answers. But none came. And the fish taco at the end? Definitely a ball was dropped here 🙁

Rating * *

This is a time travel blog, and as a time travel novel Thanksgiving Eve falls short, hence 2 stars. But where the time travel side of things is lacking, the other side of the novel – Ray’s life and his relationships – is very well written; a compelling tale of how a father tries to improve relations with his family which I found to be a very enjoyable read!


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Star ratings:
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Review: The Guttersnipes by Scott Eric Barrett

The Guttersnipes by Scott Eric Barrett is a fun and fast-paced read which has a time travel component that involves a biological and technological component.

Review: The Guttersnipes by Scott Eric Barrett

My Our Approach

The Guttersnipes by Scott Eric Barrett

I was very interested when I received a request to read and review The Guttersnipes. It’s aimed at children so I had big plans to read this to my 7 year old daughter. I’m sick to death of Roald Dahl with his “Charlie and the Chocolate factory” and the “BFG”. Read: Big Freakin’ Grammar problems, more like – made up words and disordered sentences. In a galaxy far far away, maybe Yoda learnt his English from reading a few Roald Dahl novels.

I wasn’t up for reading this nonsense to my daughter in Holland, where English is a second language for her. So a happy cue to The Guttersnipes where Scott uses English words with the right spelling and in the right order. What a relief!

To balance first impressions up a bit, I should mention that at first I didn’t like the title – though this is out of my own ignorance because I was afraid it was a made up word. Not something nonsensical like Dahl’s snozcumbers etc., but more along the lines of Stephen Kings “Langoliers” (a novella in “Four Past Midnight” – which incidentally has a time related theme).

By the time page 70 came around I learned that a “guttersnipe” is actually a noun and means something! OK, so I learn something, and where younger readers learn this word early in their life, I’m learning it now at the ripe old age of 45. This old dog is learning new tricks! (Well,words!)

Our My Approach

Two things happened when we started reading this. The first is that time dilated to the point that the further we progressed, the slower it took. Mass increases as we approach the speed of light; estimation of time required to complete this novel increases exponentially with the time we spent reading together. Two pages took two weeks. No, don’t ask how, because I don’t know.

So with this in mind the “we” became “I” and I read the remaining pages on my own – but admittedly still from from the perspective of a (slightly over-) protective father (albeit with the caveat that if you’ve seen the movie “Finding Nemo”, Nemo’s neurotic father actually had a good point.)

Children or teenager?
“Children’s / Teenage” on back cover

I think the “Children’s / Teenage” ‘rating’ here is confusing. I’d come in at the children angle. I don’t think it would be fair to call a teenager a child in this sense, but I do think it would be unfair to let a child (here I’m talking about my 7 year old – though this is subjective to any child) near this novel. There are some pretty gruesome parts – plucking eyes out, pulling teeth out (not in a dentist – as a means of roughing a child up), boys being paralysed from being kicked by horses…

I’m glad I stopped with my daughter when I did – this is an education that think she can wait with. But yeah, every child (and parent) is different, so ultimately this decision will be up to you.

On the educational note, The Guttersnipes does have a few snippets of relevant and contextual information. It’s not as full on as Making it Home and Stumbling on a Tale by Suzanne Roche, though at times I wondered whether the background research had got a little over enthusiastic!

The characters

The main character is Charlie. Thankfully Charlie has no chocolate factory, but what he does have is a pet dinosaur. Specifically, Trike – a dwarf triceratops. The story behind how Charlie finds Trike is “…really long” and I wonder if there’s a novel in the making here!

Triceratops toothbrush
My youngest daughter’s toothbrush – with a triceratops!

Trike is a silent but important part of The Guttersnipes because essentially he’s the trigger for Charlie and his friend Arty to go back in time. But Trike doesn’t really get much of a mention, and certainly the relationship that Charlie has with him is barely touched so personally I didn’t empathise with the mission to rescue the poor dwarf triceratops.

The beginning of the the novel shows Charlie to be a crap friend to Arty who seems to bend over backwards to help Charlie. I think Arty is the unsung hero of this novel. He suffers the most, receives minimal support but does what he can to help Charlie and Trike.

I don’t really know who Charlie is. Indeed, at times he almost becomes a minor character in comparison to many other stronger characters which Scott has written into the novel. The blurb states that Charlie is “…more than six feet tall” and “…allergic to almost everything” though neither of these ‘attributes’ come into play. Conversely it’s Arty who seems to have a history behind him. He’s the guy who I’m rooting to get back home!

Writing style

The Guttersnipes is most definitely a very fun read! It’s fast paced with interesting characters and cross links between them and it’s easy to see how this will appeal to the YA audience. That said, whether it was the writing style or the historical setting, I was reminded at times of the more adult level The Anubis Gates (Tim Powers) and The Map of Time (Felix J. Palma), two novels which I also thought were very good!

There’s only one thing which wound me up about The Guttersnipes, and that was the overuse of a couple of phrases – Charlie repeatedly “Chomped down on his bottom lip”, and other characters “gimped off”. Perhaps it’s not that bad, but you know how it is once you notice something…

The time travel element

The time travel mechanism is black box – albeit with a purple beam which takes Charlie and Arty back to New York city in 1865.

I was interested to note that the trip back in time also involved a change in location – Charlie and Arty were no longer in the same location as the house in which they’d left. Because there’s no repeated time travel I wasn’t able to see whether this was a specific feature of this method.

Towards the end of the novel Charlie and Arty meet another time traveller who reveals something more about the time travel ‘process’ – the body of the time traveller reconstitutes itself to adapt to the new time to which it’s transported. This can only be done once – so after 7 days the time traveller is stuck in his new temporal destination (because presumably that’s how long reconstitution takes).

I think there’s something missing here, because if a return time travel trip is possible within 7 days then it’s possible with a partially reconstituted body. On day 7 the body reconstruction reaches 100% and time travel at that point becomes impossible. I struggle to accept that a biological mechanism / limitation would have such a clear threshold.

Still. I welcome biological aspects of time travel (I suspect that this is how it’s going to be done if time travel ever becomes a reality) so I was very happy to read this, especially as it worked in combination with a more traditional technological transportation mechanism –
though painted black with purple light! 😉

Rating * * * *

The Guttersnipes by Scott Eric Barrett is a fun and fast-paced read! Whilst the main character (and his pet triceratops) is weak, a raft of other well developed characters and multiple plot lines more than compensate.

I’d caution parents of younger and / or sensitive children as there are some gruesome sections which may be unsuitable.


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Star ratings:
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Portugal – land of time travel?

Reverse archaeology where we’ve dug up a piece of ceramic from the Portuguese future?

I’ve noticed on several occasions that Holland has a bizarre relation with time. It’s featured in one of the first time travel pieces of fiction, there are the time travel trains, and don’t forget the extra day in June.

Now it seems that Portugal is putting in a bid to be the land of time travel. Here’s a discovery I found: one of my baking dishes…

Made in Portugal 18944

In case you missed it, here’s a zoom:

In case you missed it: MADE IN PORTUGAL 18944
In case you missed it: MADE IN PORTUGAL 18944

It seems to me like this is reverse archaeology where we’ve dug up a piece of ceramic from the future!


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Review: Beyond the Elastic Limit (Howard Loring)

Beyond the Elastic Limit (Howard Loring) is fantastic time travel nuts and bolts stuff with a time travel methodology built around an interesting model of time!

Beyond the Elastic Limit had me confused and impressed at the same time. I suppose this is suitably paradoxical given the nature of time travel!

Beyond the Elastic Limit (Howard Loring)

The novel is centred around a solid model of time; something happens to disrupt it and characters scuttle about to make amends.

The details of this latter aspect are largely given in conversation and need a lot of attention – by the time I got to page 200 I realised that I had a good handle on the time travel element but not the plot or the character stuff around it!

Writing style

I found it difficult to keep track of the plot – though I hastily add that I don’t think this is due to bad writing. (And at the risk of sounding conceited I’m going to point the blame away from myself as a dumbo reader too). It seemed that during the week that I was reading Beyond the Elastic Limit all external factors contributing to a displeasurable reading experience came into play.

My commuter train, home of my reading pleasure, was plagued by noisy school kids. Dodgy formatting from PDF to ePub format meant that my ereader had a nasty time, and a nosey cold (probably caught from one of those pesky school kids) had me reaching for my tissue every 20 seconds to avoid dripping on said ereader and creating an electrical shortcut 🙁 .

About three quarters of the way through I thought to be fair I should go back and start again in a more healthy and child free environment. But I ended up skim reading out of familiarity, so I jumped back forwards (I think I’m allowed to say that…) to where I was before.

So to reiterate here: the writing is good quality!

One aspect I particularly like is Howard’s eye to detail when it comes to body language. I think many of us have probably heard of the idea where body language accounts for 55% of all communication. It turns out that this is slightly misleading but the point remains that it’s hugely important – not just in communication, but also in providing insights into thoughts, feelings, mood and atmosphere. It’s done superbly!

Time travel

Beyond the Elastic Limit is in some ways an elegant version of Time’s Eye by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter. In this latter novel there are segments of non-sequential time which for some reason are now adjacent to each other. It’s pretty much a writer’s playground where they ask “wouldn’t it be fun if we could write about astronauts meeting Genghis Khan”, and other such scenarios. It’s a transparent set up which goes nowhere. Slowly.

Howard’s offering is much better! There’s brilliant imagery of throwing rocks into the river of time to create splashes and drops which explains how time blows up (and comes back together). And there’s a reason why different segments of time have come apart in the first place, and why they are now stitched together in the way that they are with all its ramifications – including cultural – that go with it.

There’s also time travel technology that’s been built on the model of time as a function of the harmonic frequency that a particle resonates or vibrates. The “Fistula” is a hole in time through which the past can be seen, and is held in check by the “Containment”. Basically, there’s a two part time machine, of sorts.

It’s fantastic time travel nuts and bolts stuff!

Rating * * * *

I wish could keep the time travel element and throw out the complex character development and relationships etc. from the novel. Come to think of it, I wish I could throw out those school kids from the train.

Perhaps it’s a sign in itself that it only took a bunch of school kids to set me off my reading rails, though that said, the time travel component was easily uptaken! If anything, I’d like to leave a highly negative review for the school teachers and parents of the little s**ts hopes of our future on my train.

Howard Loring’s next novel in the series is Piercing the Elastic Limit, and there’s also Tales of the Elastic Limit which “…can be read backwards as well as forwards”. Stand by for an interview with Howard – I’ll keep you posted!


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Star ratings:
| 5* Excellent! | 4* Good | 3* OK | 2* Not good | 1* Crud |