Loveless and Godstone Regret by Mark Williams
Two things happened when I started reading Loveless and Godstone Regret.
The first is that it made me put down another book I’d already started reading.
The second is that I got the absolute heebie jeebies!
Twice actually. I started reading it on the train to work, and there in the opening pages was a description of commuters at a train station shortly before – and during – the end of the world.
And if that didn’t give me the crappers, what really did was when I read about a moment when everyone’s mobile phone rang at the same time on that train. Why? Because for reasons unknown to mortal man, when my own phone has a low battery, it vibrates. Presumably it does this to drain the little remaining juice the battery may hold and force me into recharging it quicker. And of course, it did this to me at precisely the same moment that I read about all the phones going off simultaneously.
Now I felt truly immersed in the book! 😉
When Jack Loveless becomes an unwilling pawn in a bank robbery he unknowingly discovers a key for a time machine held in one of the vaults. He gets caught in a seemingly unavoidable series of events when he’s rescued from an arrest for the robbery, and before long he uncovers a plot to destroy the world. Trying to understand exactly what is happening, by who, and why (and how to control the time machine!) Jack and his arresting officer (Harry Godstone) stumble from one moment in history to another only making things increasingly worse for themselves.
As for the future of the world…
The Time Travel Element
The time travel element is introduced very early on with an original idea that by including people in the past as members of the total population then the chances of DNA matches in otherwise statistically high and impossible odds are possible. So as H. G. Wells famously quoted in his “The Time Machine”, time is treated as another dimension and divisions between people, be they geographical or temporal, can be removed. Nice!
The two main characters, and later their companions, move through time with a time machine. An interesting angle is that the machine is called with a portable key which also serves as the controlling device in terms of temporal destination. The physics behind the operation of the machine – launching into a slingshot around the moon and landing back on the Earth at a different moment in time – is of course unrealistic, but perfectly fitting with the slapstick comedic style of the novel.
For the most part, characters are literally dropped into different eras and before they know it, lifted up and re-dropped somewhen else. In this respect I was reminded of The Time Machine where Wells’ time machine was only an object to change the setting of the novel for the characters. Unlike Wells’ novel, and more like Time’s Eye (Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter), tramping about time did allow for an interesting play between historical figures of different times, brought together.
(And as an aside, I must say that although I got annoyed with Time’s Eye, that feeling was not common with Loveless and Godstone Regret!)
There are some really nice time travel gems; a beautiful way that the time machine responds to and communicates with its key, a sense of inescapable destiny and keep your eye out for an interesting sidestep to the grandfather paradox! 😉
For me, the real juice of time travel comes towards the end of the novel. Unfortunately it reads a little as though it’s an explanation of what has happened earlier – which of course it is – but I think it could have flowed a little more naturally.
So what makes the final section juicy? In the entirety of the book there are lots of things happening and lots of things going on. At the time of reading not much attention is paid to a man on the roof, or a tattoo on a finger and so forth – but at the end of the novel many of these things are shown to have significance, and for me this makes Loveless and Godstone Regret a well thought out and delivered novel.
This is primarily a comedy novel, and the humour is an exotic concoction of Terry Pratchett (of Discworld fame) Douglas Adams (of galactic fame) and a hint of Red Dwarf (of extra-galactic fame). However you define it, it’s relentlessly funny on every page!
Humour is a tricky thing to nail, but Mark Williams has really hit it on the head!
The characters – what’s in a name?
The point of view during the narrative shifts a little uneasily between Loveless and Godstone. Given the comedic style of writing this isn’t really a major flaw, though I did feel that this was more because the personalities of the characters tended to merge. Actually, I wonder if the names were given to the wrong people:
Jack Loveless: the main character; basically a good guy to whom bad things happen.
Harry Godstone: Jack’s sidekick – a suicidally depressed and violent copper, bent on nicking Jack Loveless.
It is perhaps a small point, but I thought that violence would be expected from a man named “Loveless”, and “Godstone” is mildly suggestive of a moral compass, more ‘suitable’ for an unwitting hero like Jack. I was also surprised that Jack was usually referred to by his surname (again, more fitting to someone in the police force) whereas the police officer was referred to on a first name basis.
Still…I was too busy laughing at the comedy and being interested in the time travel aspect to pay much attention to the possible misnomer.
I have only one negative observation with Loveless and Godstone Regret, and I admit this is subjective; there is a lot of violence. It’s not bloody or gory, but there are lots of people dying and being killed and it seems out of place in a comedy and a lazy way to get rid of awkward or difficult secondary characters.
Anyway…as the blurb on the back cover says, this is a “…black comedy”, so I’ll hold fire! 🙂
I should also say that I was surprised to read a scene with a horse which I found to be a little offensive. Admittedly, I am a sensitive chap (perhaps too much so) but I think the nature of the scene didn’t add anything to either the comedy or the plot, and like the violence, would tend to make this novel unsuitable for sensitive and young readers. That said, it is only one paragraph, so perhaps not too much attention should be paid to this bit!
Loveless and Godstone Regret is a brilliantly funny novel with time travel thrown in for good measure. It’s well thought out with many clever applications and twists associated with romping through time. Violent at times, but hilarious all the way through!
Loveless and Godstone Regret by Mark Williams is available in print (through Amazon) and as an ebook (through ibooks) at www.markwilliamsnovels.com.
Disclaimer: A copy of Loveless and Godstone Regret was given to me free of charge for the purpose of providing this unbiased review. This review reflects my true and honest opinion of the novel.