Review: z2 by Sherrie Cronin

z2 by Sherrie Cronin is a delightful science fiction novel with a delicate undertone of time manipulation running right through it. A multitude of story lines and characters blend together beautifully to create a 5 star novel with inter-related characters with depth and a poetic conclusion to top it all off!

Header image for z2 by Sherrie Cronin

z2 is one of six novels in the “46.Ascending” series written by Sherrie Cronin. Each of the novels in this series focusses on one member of the Zeitman family who each possess a special power.

z2 (Sherrie Cronin) book cover

z2 is the third book in the series and revolves around Alex. Alex Zeitman has the ability to warp time and hence experience time slower or faster than the rest of us.

Whilst not strictly time travel (as might be considered the case with his daughter, Ariel, who can see the future) I think these time dilational effects are ‘worthy’ enough to be included on a time travel web site!

Besides, Alex becomes a physics teacher and introduces a time travel module in his science class. The discussions which he has with his students bring forth some very interesting angles!

First things first: z2 – what’s in a name?

Perhaps I should admit at the outset that I spent the first half of the book miss-pronouncing the book title. I’ll blame this on me being English; indeed I literally had it spelled out to me a little over half way through the novel!

Elegant blend of story lines!

Several story lines weave and wend through z2 and characters interlace beautifully. Since this is where much of the elegance in the novel lies I’m going to go against the traditional approach of a review and leave out a synopsis – but I will mention here that the back cover blurb is perhaps a little too one-dimensional and really does not do the novel justice.

Most novels have a certain level of antagonism, and in z2 this comes in the form of a racist teacher who tries to indoctrinate some school students. I found this uncomfortable to read, but only in the sense of the subject matter. The way it was presented reminded me at times of a Christian novel “Piercing the Darkness” (Frank Peretti), a feeling enforced more strongly later on in the novel when there’s talk of evil spirits and things.

For the most part though, reading about chasing after Mayan artefacts, high school physics lessons and sports coaching was a gripping ride which left me wondering how on Earth it was all going to come together in the end! When the end did come I had mixed feelings at first. It seemed to come early, it was rushed and even predictable. However as I continued reading I realised that the real conclusion is more subtle and goes beyond the obvious ‘pseudo’ conclusion I had read moments earlier.

Writing style

I hate beginning books. I’ve just got out of my last read and now I need to forget all that and get introduced to new characters and new settings – all embedded in a new writing style. The opening chapters of z2 however made this transition process remarkably easy!

Characters are fascinating and well developed and the writing style is wonderful! What I particularly like in the beginning is how we’re swept across time. In just 17 pages we’re whisked through 1696 to 1981, 1993 and land on 2009. It’s not a nonsensical “It’s 2009 and Alex remembered 28 years ago when…” – things are actually experienced in the reading.

Actually I say “whisked” but that’s not strictly correct. We travel through time at a remarkable pace, but we pause at certain times for a snapshot of events in certain places with certain people with certain consequences. Beautiful! Actually this is also done towards the end of the novel too and reminded me of Syncing Forward (W. Lawrence).

Sherrie’s staggering writing skill naturally percolates throughout z2. For example, a conversation that Alex has with his wife has the potential to be a complete drag to read. But Sherrie provides the background thoughts and concerns that both Alex and Lola have, and this multiple character insight gives a seemingly mundane conversation a whole new level! Excellent!

There are also original angles on otherwise ‘standard’ ideas and concepts; telepathy, for example, doesn’t have the accuracy that only words can provide! (I’d have assumed that telepaths would communicate their thoughts and feelings ‘in parallel’ (like in a picture) and spoken communication is more like in series. Apparently this isn’t the case!)

On a more practical reading point, I was relieved that a new chapter didn’t begin each time there was a change in focus either from one character to another, or from one story line to another. I find having ‘clean’ breaks like this makes it more difficult to resume a read on the next sitting; there’s too much of a hiatus. (Similarly I was happy that Nathan Van Coops also resisted dividing his chapters in The Chronothon in the obvious way.)

Time for Alex

The main character is Alex Zeitman, and ultimately all story lines involve him to some extent. Indeed, the final conclusion is arguably about him more than about anything else.

Alex experiences the passage of time at different speeds. The first time this happens is when he’s on a basket ball court. When it happens again on a river he begins to wonder more deeply about the nature of it. This isn’t just just a metaphorical extension of Einstein’s pretty girl scenario, or even of the river of time, but an actual slowing down of time so that he’s able to appear to move at fast speeds, or to complete more actions in a given period than your normal time bound citizen, much like Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

We’re first introduced to Alex when he’s a young basketball player. I’m immediately thinking of my own lacking of sporting ability and how all the kids of my school reminded me of it – especially the ones with an above average ability. Like Alex. So I thought I wasn’t going to like him. And then he becomes a school teacher and I remembered the teachers of my school who never seemed to like me much either (not just the sports teacher) and who pretty much encouraged the feeling to be reciprocated.

So poor Alex wasn’t standing much of a chance with me. But it turns out he’s a really nice bloke!!! He’s a loving husband and father first and foremost, and the bond that he has with his family is strong. When he learns that his wife is telepathic and can read his thoughts, he’s phased that his thoughts are no longer private.

That’s natural, but what struck me most is that he was worried about the privacy, not about the nature of his thoughts that his wife now had access to. Surely we all have thoughts that we wouldn’t want other people to know about? For me, it showed not only the deep love between Alex and Lola, but the purity of his own thoughts.

Alex’s good nature extends to his high school students. He shares in their hopes and dreams and genuinely wants the best for them. When he discusses time travel with his class some really interesting points come out and it’s fascinating to read these from a teenager’s point of view as well as from Alex’s.

The multi-universe theory is the only thing I don’t like but this is subjective and you’ll have read me moaning about it before. However, Alex does deliver the concept very well and uses it as moral compass in his later life as well as teaching those around him to adopt the same principles.

Alex – a dreamy guy?

A nice touch is where Alex has a recurring dream where he has conversations with some sort of light beings. The passage of time is questioned in these conversations and this serves to inject a bit of focus into the overall novel as regards time warping. I wondered whether these dreams were simply that – dreams where Alex’s sub-concious allows him some free-thinking, or whether he really was visited by these light beings.

It’s a family thing

Given Alex’s good relationship with his family it’s clear that we’re going to meet them and witness some of their own powers.

Most prominent in z2 is Lola who has telepathic abilities, but we also see Zane, Alex’s son, who is able to morph his body into other shapes. In fact Zane expresses a wish to set up a school for children who are different, again reminding me of the X-Men movies.

Daughters Teddie and Ariel also have powers, though we don’t see those at work in z2 and would need to read c3 and d4 respectively to see how Teddie has out of body experiences and Ariel is able to see into the future.

(Incidentally, x0 centers around Lola, and y1 around Zane. The sixth book in the 46.Ascending series is in preparation.)

Although z2 is the third in a series written by Sherrie, it is stand-alone. Perhaps there are cross-overs between segments of the plot in z2 and the other novels, but of course at this stage I’d be unaware of those. There was one moment where Ariel seemingly gives Alex some advice about the future and I thought that I may have missed something in an earlier novel, but a few pages later it’s explained (although we should note that Sherrie’s d4 focuses on Ariel and her ability to see the future – which comes after z2! 😉 )

z2 Other formats

I was interested to read that z2 was originally written as an ebook with links to photos, news reports, opinion pieces and songs to enhance the read. Of course these aren’t available in the paperback, but can be accessed on Sherrie’s website.

Rating * * * * *

z2 by Sherrie Cronin is a delightful science fiction novel with a delicate undertone of time manipulation running right through it. A multitude of story lines and characters blend together beautifully to create a 5 star novel with inter-related characters with depth and a poetic conclusion to top it all off!

Read my interview with Sherrie over on Time Travel Nexus where she reveals some amazing insights and behind the scenes information!

Paul

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Disclaimer: Sherrie kindly sent me a free copy of “z2” to read in exchange for honest review. This is it!

Star ratings:

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z2 by Sherrie Cronin
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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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