Review: The Paradox War by CJ Moseley

The Paradox War is a mind blowing novel. It’s not a belch which blows away the cobwebs, but an invigorating blast of adrenalised oxygen which forms intricate cranial webs of connections between neurons igniting and firing at Will to weave a web so tangled that Will Shakespeare himself would have run a mile if asked to try to get this down as a blockbuster play.

The Paradox War Omnibus has indirectly broken my phone screen, it’s made me miss a train and it’s caused me to oversleep.

Most importantly…it’s made me think (the over exertion of which may have been the primary cause of me oversleeping…)

So I’m going to open this review with two warnings.


The first is…be careful!

Whatever your preferred reading medium is, The Paradox War will have you gripped! It might force you to read an ebook version and throw your phone against the wall in frustration that it’s so difficult to swipe instead of read normally, or you might sit in the train station waiting for your train and get so engrossed that your train saunters on past without you.

(Or nearly miss getting off the train at your station for the same reason).

Or you might purely and simply stay up too late reading it and sleep past your alarm the following morning. Two and a half hours later.

The second warning is more of advice…to prepare your mind to be stretched, twisted and contorted in ways that are as yet, unknown to most mortal souls. And I mean that in a good way.

Here’s CJ’s caveat which he wrote me after he found out about my troubles. Please note that there’s no closing the door after the horse has bolted when it comes to time travel! 😉

(When time is fluid, you’re allowed to close the door before the horse bolts, and find out the next day that he’d already bolted, stopped off at a local blacksmith and got fitted out with a new pair of shoes, strutted her stuff at Ascot and sauntered off to get back home in time to watch the races on telly.)

“The author accepts no responsibility any missing time, failure to reach appointments,

diminished social interactivity, outbreaks of deep philosophical thought, or attacks of the giggles.” – Author CJ Moseley.

The Paradox War Omnibus

The Paradox War Omnibus comprises 3 books (An0ma1y, Cu1ture B0mb and Chronclysm) and two short stories between them which “…expand the universe” (First Shadow and Second Shadow).

Each book is written so that it feels like a separate book, though of course the story line is common and weaves through each of them. In fact I had a hiatus between First Shadow and Cu1ture B0mb so I think I’m a good test pilot for how the novelica individualica holds. And it does. Both Cu1ture B0mb and Chronclysm start with some form of recap over what’s preceded, but it’s done so in a way in which you don’t realise it’s been done.

The general story line is complicated, so much so that I can’t honestly say that I know what the general story line is! Take note, this is not a negative comment (well, perhaps for other novels) but a statement that The Paradox War is brimming with interwoven lines, plots and subplots that to tease any one of those out and claim it to be the main one would be a disservice to the others.

If a story line could be represented as a piece of pasta, like macaroni, or even a pasta twist (if an author is trying to be clever), The Paradox War is surely a bowlful of cooked spaghetti. And yet…I find no loose ends. Intertwined, tangled pasta hoops then. Plus pesto.

There are 3 main characters – Desi, Garner and Teucoi.

Desi is a human, rescued from a television explosion which would otherwise have killed her by beings from the future. She’s their ancestor; an anomaly.

Garner Ralliet Septimus is a pet mage of the computer god Norridi and uses magic in efforts to understand and control the universe.

Teucoi is a shape shifter who feeds on the souls of living creatures and grows stronger by doing so.

Very loosely speaking, each of the 3 books plays a slightly heavier emphasis on each of one of the above characters. Chapters tend to cycle between the characters which seems a bit disjointed, especially for the first book where there is little or no interaction between them. It isn’t until midway through Book 2 that things start interlocking and get clearer.

The Paradox War is, in a way, a description of the universe as seen through each of these character’s eyes, and how each character tries to find solutions to situations which spiral out of control.

Behind the scenes

I originally ‘found’ CJ on Goodreads, and through the time travel forum there found a link to one of his webpages on temporal paradoxes. He clearly knows his stuff, or at the least, I’m too stupid to know the difference…

There is a huge amount happening within the narrative and this also holds for the underlying background. It should be clear to any reader that a huge amount of thought underpins every idea expressed, political thought explained, futuristic object mentioned…this is a tight novel.

Everything holds. Actually this should come as no surprise if you’ve read CJ’s website. He’s an keen role payer with a series on world building. I was blown over by the detail that goes into world building (but I suppose it’s obvious really) though at the same time a part of me is sad that not every piece of preparation is used directly in a novel (or game or whatever).

That said, maybe it is used because it’s clearly given a solid feel to The Paradox War.


“High octane”, when used as an adjective, usually refers to insane “action” books and movies with “action” being adults running around trying to kill each other, or not being killed themselves. The Paradox War certainly has a high level of energy but without any of that superficial Hollywood cheese.

Besides, this science fiction is much more energetic than an eight covalently bonded carbon molecule can provide. This is diamond lightning .

With an occasional deep-throated rumble of thunder.

It’s like Newton getting hit on the head with an apple, suffering with a splitting headache from the concussion, so inflicting calculus on the rest of us for basically the same effect.

Or you can have your mind blown away with the Paradox War.

It’s a mind blowing novel. It’s not a belch which blows away the cobwebs, but an invigorating blast of adrenalised oxygen which forms intricate cranial webs of connections between neurons igniting and firing at Will to weave a web so tangled that Will Shakespeare himself would have run a mile if asked to try to get this down as a blockbuster play.

Every paragraph stretches the mind with new ideas which have been clearly thought out to great extent, and knits together differing facets of science from many disciplines. There’s an immense amount of ideas to take in, just not in science fiction with solid physics, not just fantasy with a creative yet steady footing in mythology and legend, but pure and sheer imagination.

I initially wanted to pull out some of the ideas CJ incorporates into The Paradox War, but it turns out it’s like trying to strain out egg yolk from albumen. They look separate, but they’re tangled together in some underlying inseparable sense. Try it, and it gets messy.

Time Travel

That said, I obviously need to try to make an exception for time and time travel!

In some ways The Paradox War is a bit like a Tarantino movie in that bits later on make earlier scenes clearer to understand. Except Tarantino just chops his movie tape up and glues it back together in the wrong order. CJ on the other hand, employs time travel. I read a section and then think…ah, so that’s what happened earlier! It’s a eureka moment, except I’ve still got my clothes on and I’m not having a bath.

Several time and time travel ideas are presented and explained, like how remembering the future is possible.

Time travel within The Paradox War is called a “then-there transit vector”. “Never time” is a time stasis where for example there is no momentum and effects of gravity are cancelled out. People can ‘hang’ in mid air.

In the opening pages Desi experiences time stasis…or at least other people around her do whereas she is still moving through time. She hits her foot on a mug which doesn’t move afterwards…after all how can things move in a moment with no time (speed is distance divided by time) and with no movement there is no give or texture.

Brilliant, brilliant stuff.

Time travel presents no problems. Characters move through time as easily as they do through space. How? We don’t know exactly, but then again…do we always specify the mode of transport we use or how it works when we say we go to the shops?

But actually time travel isn’t the main feature of The Paradox War. It is just there, like parallel universes are (which form and merge back together). It’s all part and parcel of the world universe multiverse that CJ has created.

Reading experience

Often I have a heading titled “Writing Style”. It’s an important aspect of a book, but so is Reader Experience. And the Reader Experience with The Paradox War is something not to be taken lightly.

The Paradox War is one of the few novels which hangs around after it’s been finished and put down. It stays in my mind; this is a book which makes you think…it provides a different reader experience than your Waterstones 3-for-2 bargain bucket grab-n-go paperbacks.

It’s written in present tense which heightens the sense of involvement, and in the case of Desi (note – a female main character) written in the first person. Kudos to CJ (male) for writing through a woman’s eyes. And me (male) for reading it through those eyes.

There are a few comedy moments, like a reference to Mork and Mindy, a song title or a cynical thought etc.. These are woven seamlessly into the narrative; they’re there for the understanding of the reader if they get it and if not it’s no problem.

Take it, leave it, understand it, or not. It’s up to you, dear Reader!

At times The Paradox War struck me as a supercharged version of the Matrix Trilogy (especially the last 2 movies) with a deadly touch of Terminator. But a key difference is that in the movie a special effect will just happen. You see it and it looks great. In The Paradox War CJ describes what exactly is happening and (sometimes) how. We’re kept in the loop. The reader is a key part of this novel!

I’m acutely aware that I’m clever enough to know that I’m not intelligent enough to fully understand and appreciate the full juice that’s behind and within The Paradox War. At the same time there is simply so much happening that it’s highly probably that I’ll have missed something.

That’s a good thing – not my inability to take everything in in one go, but that one can get a whole new experience from a second sitting from the same book; either that or you need to focus your mind on a tight mental beam of concentration, expand your mind then prepare to have it blown away!

I certainly need to go back and reread this or at least reread it again in the future to pick up more details and see more connections.

Then again, I may have done that already…somewhen.

The Paradox of The Paradox War

Here’s the paradox with The Paradox War:

1. I wanted to race to the end to find out what happens but I was sad when I got there as the book ends.

2. There’s so much that I wasn’t able to keep up with it all of the time…and yet afterwards it stayed with me when it (or I) finish.

Rating and Availability

The Paradox War by CJ Moseley gets 5 stars for all the reasons I’ve written about above and is available in paperback from

Interview with CJ and Time Travel Nexus

You can read my interview with CJ over on Time Travel Nexus. And excitingly…CJ has actually joined the Time Travel Nexus team and will shortly be writing a series of posts there entitled “Popcorn Paradoxes”. Intrigued? Stay tuned!


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Disclaimer: Although I purchased the Kindle version of An0ma1y, CJ kindly sent me a paperback copy of The Paradox War Omnibus free of charge. Not for an unbiased review, or even through non-deserved guilt for my damaged phone, but well…I think he’s just generally a nice bloke! So the disclaimer is that I got a free book, but this review is, as all of mine are, representative of my true and honest opinion.

Star ratings:

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

My trouble with ebooks

I must admit I’ve never even held an e-reader, but I guess at heart I’m just an old fashioned tree chopping dinosaur who prefers paperbacks over ebooks! I tried reading An0ma1y by C. J. Moseley in ebook format. It has a fantastic first chapter with an incredible amount of thought behind it, but I’m having troubles reading in electronic format.

In a recent post I described my anxiety in deciding what to read next: Somewhere in Time with an irritating writing style but a nice plot and a discussion in the Goodreads time travel group, or An0ma1y with a fantastic promotional video, promise of solid time travel intricacies and a gripping start…but in e-book format which I don’t get on well with.

I chose An0ma1y.

I do most of my reading on my daily commute on the train so in the past few weeks week I’ve joined the fast majority of other passengers in gormlessly staring downwards at a phone screen.

First musings

The first chapter is fantastic! A superb blend of aliens, time stasis and a fascinating main character. I feel that every sentence has an incredible amount of thought behind it – there is real depth to what I’m reading which makes it feel solid; definitely not a superficial smearing of words to beef up a page count.

It’s written in the present tense – a style I’ve never read before. It took me some getting used to and at first I felt a little disconnected, but now I’m well settled in and find that it adds to the eeriness of the alien encounter.

The reason why I chose An0ma1y over Somewhere in Time is that after reading just the first couple of pages I wanted to know more.

But finding out more is taking too long! Chapters 2 and 3 are additional settings with additional character introductions which no doubt will tie together at some point. This is a bit of a distraction when I’m so eager to read the alien / time travel line, but I know it will make later stages of the novel a really good read when it all comes together.

The problem is the dratted e-book format, or at least, reading it on my phone. I’m somewhere in Chapter 3 with no idea when the chapter will end, or indeed, if the end of the chapter will return back to the alien plot. I can flick through easily with a paperback, but swiping one page at a time is…a snore chore.

But maybe I should be patient and wait it through. Everything in its own time, right?

A new start

Last week saw me attending a conference away from home. The funny thing about conferences is that despite the overall high level idea that they are a good place to mix and mingle with other like-minded professionals in your area of expertise, there is a significant underground sub-layer of introverted geeks such as myself who are most comfortable to simply be left alone.

So in the evenings after the talks, posters, discussions, etc. whilst some 25% of the attendees go on to visit the sights and sounds of the city, the rest of us retire to our hotels rooms and work on our papers, and after sobbing a little bit because we miss our family at home (the dust in the hotel rooms really gets in your eyes) we settle down with a good book.

And so I had time to return to An0ma1y.

Life after Chapter 3

So what happens after Chapter 3?

I can report that…I never got that far. The kindle app had updated and my place was lost. I swiped a gazillion pages to where I thought I was, read a couple more pages and hurled my phone on the chair on the other side of the hotel room in total and sheer frustration.

To be clear…not because of the book, but from reading on a phone.

I was never picked for sports at school. Here’s an example why: from 2 meters I missed the chair.

The phone sailed past the chair, and into the wall. And when I say “into” I mean “against and along”. The screen now has a crack. I thought with present tense reading I was disconnected…now the same was happening to my family too during my skype connection.

The author of An0ma1y, C. J. Moseley, mentioned in a tweet that phones aren’t the way to read ebooks. And I believe him.

Would a proper e-reader be better? Or would they, as I suspect, repeat the same kind of problems by providing a series rather than parallel reading experience, limiting the reader to swiping a single page at a time rather than flicking through whole sections in one go?

I must admit, I’ve never even held an e-reader, but I guess at heart I’m just an old fashioned tree chopping dinosaur who prefers paperbacks which give me a better overall view.


Edit: I’ve just read that C.J. Moseley has published an Omnibus edition in paperback; I’ve updated my Christmas wishlist!

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An An0ma1y Somewhere in Time

So what do I read first? Somewhere in Time: a rehashed novel, poorly written but with a good plot and a lively Goodreads discussion, or An0ma1y: a cracker of a novel with promises of well researched time travel intricacies but on a medium which will drive me nuts?

I’m torn between which of 2 books I should read first: Somewhere in Time, or An0ma1y?

Somewhere in Time (Richard Matheson)

Somewhere In Time book cover

On one side I have Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson – a book I’ve already read after seeing the movie, but it comes to my attention now as it will be read as a group read by the Goodreads time travel group and I’d like to take part.

Against it though is my memory of the writing style. My recollection is that it is written in a rushed and lazy way, perhaps what you’d expect from a teenager rehashing a piece of work his heart’s not in.

Why do I say that? Because Somewhere is Time is a rewrite of Bid Time Return written by the same author. The latter is not readily available, and it’s very expensive.

Whilst I might be able to put poor writing style aside, Somewhere in Time has another nail in its coffin. It simply didn’t make an impact on me. I saw the movie first which I loved, and in fact this is what brought me to reading the book (after I couldn’t get hold of Bid Time Return). That’s personal…I usually prefer originals (i.e. the version I’ve come across first).

But the story line is great…and I’m keenly waiting an interesting discussion on Goodreads.

An0ma1y (CJ Moseley)

An0ma1y book cover

On the other side is An0ma1y by CJ Moseley. CJ has written a fantastic page on time travel paradoxes so I know that the time travel element is going to be executed well.

Actually, CJ’s web page lead me to subscribe to his website and the next thing I know I’m watching a fantastic promotional video clip for An0ma1y. Time travel, science fiction, fantasy, paradoxes, excellent Amazon reviews…and before I know it I’m clicking through to make a purchase –

– of a paper back. Whoa! $8.75 sounds a bit steep for me as I usually buy paperbacks second hand. I read my own paperbacks several times over…I try to do the same with other people’s!

So now I have the Kindle version. A snap at less than $2 and I can’t wait to get started. So I do.

I swipe and I read and I swipe and … it turns out I hate ebooks! I’ve read a few short stories and that seems to go OK on my phone, but I’ve only read one full length novel (The Mindtraveler). The reading experience was terrible but the story pulled me through the ordeal.

The problem

So. I don’t know what to read! A rehashed novel, poorly written but with a good plot and a lively discussion, or a cracker of a novel with promises of well researched time travel intricacies but on a medium which will drive me nuts?

Maybe the proof is in the pudding. I’ve started both! I’m further in Somewhere in Time than in An0ma1y but that’s because I’m skim-reading the crap. And the discussion doesn’t start till tomorrow.

With An0ma1y I’m only on page…actually, I’ve no idea. Apparently I’m on “location 82 out of 4524” whatever the hell that means, but despite considerable swiping I’m certainly not yet 82 pages in. But the opening pages are gripping and I want more!

My choice

That’s it then. If I want more, then surely An0ma1y it is! Maybe I’ll be able to dip into the Goodreads discussion from memory. Or recommend An0ma1y for the next group read!

It will be slow reading on my phone…but stand by for the review!


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