Review: Timeshaft by Stewart Bint

Timeshaft (Stewart Bint) is a brilliant time travel novel which fully explores the causal loop. Time travel mechanics and paradoxes are rife in Timeshaft with intelligent characters who get us tangled in a spiderweb of predestination!

Review for Timeshaft by Stewart Bint

Timeshaft by Stewart Bint is a brilliant time travel novel which fully explores the causal loop.

Time travel mechanics, paradoxes, the journey in time – and what you do once you get there – Timeshaft has it all! It screams for every time travel fan’s bookshelf!

Cover for Timeshaft by Stewart Bint

I’m going to be singing praises here – perhaps untunefully – so I’ll get the disclosure out of the way now. Stewart contacted Time Travel Nexus asking for an honest review in exchange for a free copy of Timeshaft. This is the review, and I should also add that I’m really pleased that Stewart has agreed to give an author interview which will be (or has been – I’ll add the link when it’s ready) published over on Time Travel Nexus.

Timeshaft in context

I’ve read some absolutely crap books in the past (hopefully less in the future). More often than not I can’t bring my self to waste any further time in crafting a review unless I’ve either committed to it or need to vent. For these terrible books a 1 or 2 star review sends a clear signal.

On the much much greener side of the fence are numerable novels which are blinders! Original angles on mind blowing concepts…you know, the kind of novel which makes it stand out from the rest and leaves you gasping for more. And for these books I’ve always felt that the full 5 stars often doesn’t do those novels the full justice they deserve.

Often in review land (which incidentally is about the size of a desk chair, the desk (now a noun not an adjective) and a computer) 5 stars generally means “I love it” and nothing more, pretty much the same way as my daughter tells me she “loves” chips in the same sentence that she tells me that she “loves” me. In other words, there’s no scope for expressing – in stars – a truly outstanding novel.

Timeshaft is such a novel! It brilliantly scorches the brain and leaves it sizzling! (I think that’s a good thing…!)

Time travel in the timeshaft

I was really pleased that Timeshaft has a solid scientific mechanism for time travel. It’s not wholly transparent but we get a pretty good insight into it – and perhaps it’s even plausible!

Moreover, Stewart plays with the ideas he’s developed. For example, the time shuttle gets buffeted by temporal disturbances which ripple like waves across time. This means that not only does a time shuttle get flung in the direction of propagation of the time wave (in this case it was back into history) but also in the opposite direction (the future).

Sound odd? Actually it makes sense. Objects on the crest of a wave do indeed travel forwards. And backwards on the trough! πŸ˜‰

The time travel mechanism

Now I need to make a confession here. When I read I usually make notes as I go…except this isn’t the case here because I was too engrossed. That’s good and bad at the same time, so I’ll call Schroedinger’s bluff and from memory recount the basics:

Ley lines run across the Earth which contain kinetic energy. They form a network wherein intersection points hold particularly large amounts of this energy. A solar wind conversion plant located on one of these intersection points explodes and disperses that energy in time tearing a hole or shaft – the timeshaft.

Travelling along the timeshaft in a time shuttle that taps energy taken directly from the timeshaft, means travelling along time.

I should say that I have issue with “kinetic energy” – an object with mass and velocity has kinetic energy, so I don’t see how these ley lines contain any. Perhaps “potential energy” may have been a better term if we disassociate the mass and height terms and take “potential” more literally, but still (no pun intended there…) this is science fiction and I suppose anything goes (ditto…)!

One particular aspect of the timeshaft which I liked was the damaged or partially complete sections – in these locations the ‘lining’ was not in place so characters could see the energy fluxing as waves of light! πŸ™‚

Causal loops

One of the features which makes a time travel novel stand out from others is not only the inclusion of time travel paradoxes, but also how they’re utilised and dealt with.

Causal loops play a crucial part in Timeshaft. Indeed, they’re the backbone of the plot. The issues of predetermination, destiny, free will and choice also come into play in more philosophical contexts; this particular time travel paradox is recognised and covered fully!

Writing style

Timeshaft is an epic novel. It’s BIG! To be clear, this isn’t “big” in a shallow superficial word-county sort of a way, but big in the vastness of time, concepts and ramifications. To facilitate this there’s a requirement for breadth in content, and this comes through with rapidly changing chapter content.

When I first started reading Timeshaft I thought that I was reading a scifi novel in a particular setting. But the second chapter took on such a different direction I must admit that I wondered whether I was in fact reading a collection of short stories. Thankfully this wasn’t the case and continuity soon became clear.

This pattern set the benchmark for most of the novel; apparent hiatuses and jumps in the novel get sewn together very quickly and not right at the end which somehow I found to be a blessing!

The thread which sews the chapters and sections together is one of environmentalism – this is the reason behind time travel; to avert disasters or to change the course of the world’s history so that it can have a longer future.

The Time Store has miriad reasons to time travel – each of which means the world to the Time Store’s client, and in that novel we see how people react. In Timeshaft it’s literally how the world reacts!

Characters

I don’t think I’ve ever commented on this before in a review, but somehow I’m aware of it in Timeshaft: there is an optimum number of characters – which turns out to be 6 (although two of those are more of one couple than 2 people).

Some novels have just a single main character, leaving the reader screwed if there’s dislike or lack of empathy. Other novels have too many characters all fighting for reader attention and spoiling the broth that the author is desperately trying to cook up.

Stewart handles his 6 characters well. There is clearly one main character but he’s supported by the others who also have their own important roles to play. They are thrust into different times and settings which is reflected in differences in writing style as well as changes in the character point of view.

My only criticism is the characters are clearly intelligent but at times they ‘feign’ ignorance. I suspect that they do this to allow a narrative explanation to the reader; in other words, we the readers aren’t as intelligent as the characters and need to be brought up to speed (usually regarding issues surrounding causal loops).

No pun intended, but having the same principle explained again and again got quite repetitive at times, and I think that certainly by the end of the novel we’re more than well versed in casual loops. If you don’t understand them by then you may as well stick to banging a couple of rocks together – and let the characters do their thing.

Specific sections

Two sections in particular stand out to me. The first is truly horrific, and comes about a third of the way into the novel where Phillip and Nadia (“the pioneers of time travel”) find themselves in the midst of a witch hunt. I won’t say more to avoid a spoiler, but I will mention that as a father of daughters I was very happy that it was Nadia who, in this case, seemed to be the stronger of the pair.

Actually on this note, I was also pleased that the main character, Ashday’s Child, has a female helper (Caitlin) who is certainly more than up to the task.

The second section is where Ashday’s Child meets his parents in the past and explains that they’ll never see him again (till now). The combination of his own internal thoughts and his parents non-understanding – but complete trust and acceptance – is absolutely heart wrenching. Wonderfully written.

(So it seems that I have a thing about parents!)

Confusion

One issue has me stumped – though I’m sure there must be a simple explanation because everything else is so tight. Perhaps you can enlighten me if you are lucky enough to read Timeshaft and can figure it out!

The power plant at the beginning of the novel harnesses solar wind and channels and converts it into cheap energy. My confusion arises because it’s located on the top of a mountain – underneath the magnetosphere which deflects the solar wind away from the Earth.

So how is the solar wind collected and channeled from an Earth bound installation? It’s true that during solar storms the solar wind can be strong enough to penetrate the magnetosphere, but I was under the impression that the plant harnesses the solar wind all of the time.

I think it’s an important point because this features at the start of the novel, and effectively marks the start of the timeshaft itself – although not chronologically! πŸ˜‰

Random other points

I’m not sure if this point shows that I’m old, or that I’m young enough to be embracing new technology (in which I mean, an ereader) but it is this: chapters and sections are long. Am I too young and that my concentration limit is set to “low” and need a break every few page turns (or swipes)? Or am I finishing a chapter / section on the train and wondering whether I have time enough to wolf down another before my station comes?

Finally, I like the ending, specifically that it doesn’t stop at the Hollywood moment when people and events seem to have been sorted, leaving open and loose scientific loop holes. Nope – Timeshaft finishes when the science is sorted. Perfect! πŸ™‚

Rating * * * * *

Comments like “Wish I could give it 11 stars out of 10 have more cheese than my local market in Holland. And what would prerequisite a desired 12 stars? Or 15 or 20? I suspect it would be an inverted law of diminishing returns.

And the suggested solution of rescaling to the Spinal Tap approach wouldn’t seem fair for all those other good novels who would now get a less than the “full” 10 stars. (OK, actually 5 for blog reviews!)

But yeah. Full 5 stars – I loved it! πŸ™‚ Wish I could give it more… etc. πŸ˜‰

Read my interview with Stewart Bint over on Time Travel Nexus!

Time travel mechanics, paradoxes, the journey in time – and what you do once you get there – Timeshaft has it all! It screams for every time travel fan’s bookshelf!

Timeshaft is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Paul

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Disclaimer: Stewart kindly sent me a free copy of “Timeshaft” to read in exchange for honest review. This is it!

Star ratings:

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Summary
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Reviewed Item
Timeshaft by Stewart Bint
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Author: Paul Wandason

I love astronomy and science fiction, but I love my family more. So I love time travel too!

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