Review: The Whatever Society by Steve Richer

A rushed short story or a drawn out advert for following books by the Steve Richer? The Whatever Society has some nice ideas at the beginning of the book, but it disintegrates pretty rapidly. Well. It was free. ..

This review of The Whatever Society by Steve Richer is a reblog from my original review over at Goodreads.com. Note that my star rating system here on time2timetravel differs from that of Goodreads (the latter is biased towards favourable ratings).

Book cover for The Whatever Society by Steve Richer

I picked up a copy of The Whatever Society in ebook format from Amazon because it was short and it was free. I thought I couldn’t go wrong – perhaps I did, because it turns out that whilst it might be a free lunch, we’re strongly recommended to make a purchase from the desert menu.

Writing style and plot

The beginning of the story starts off well; the pacing is good and it’s engaging. Sadly it disintegrates into a “tell-not-show piece” towards the end where the Steve Richer’s idea of the future is spurted out by an unlikely group with whom the main character finds himself. It comes over as very rushed.

I like the idea of how the future is going to pan out – it’s certainly interesting and gives food for thought, but the way it actually comes about is pretty lame, using specific and timely examples which draw far-fetched conclusions from mundane occurrences.

The solution to the demise of the new future had an interesting and original new angle. However, it was wildly unrealistic – not on a scientific level, but on a character basis – given the main character’s personality, he would never have been able to pull it off.

Finally, the closing sentence suggests that there was a romantic element but this had not been developed earlier in the story so it simply comes over as a cheesy ending.

A short story or a long advert?

“Ending”?

In the version of the e-book I downloaded, there was a huge (about 30%) preview section for another of his novels. Ironic really, because The Whatever Society puts me off reading anything further from Steve Richer rather than developing any further interest in his writing.

Ultimately I can’t help wondering if The Whatever Society by Steve Richer a short story or a long advert to lead the reader into getting hold of another one. Either way I guess it fails – the story comes over as rushed tell-not-show, and it’s put me off reading more from Steve Richer.

Whatever.

Overall…3 stars for blandidty and some good ideas, but it loses anything more positive for the poor delivery towards the end.

Paul

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Star ratings:

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Review: Time Bangers by Ivery Kirk and Luna Teague

Time Bangers (by Luna Teague and Ivery Kirk) is a light-hearted romp into the court of King Henry VIII. It handles time travel well, though it comes well into the second part of the novel.

Time Bangers. One does not simply walk into Tudor.

Time Bangers is not your average time travel novel – it’s an engaging and barmy mix of scifi, historical fiction, erotica and comedy!

Timebangers book cover showing main characters Tawny and Beth

How well these different aspects mix together varies through the novel – the focus changes and attention is given more to one angle than another at times, but ultimately I believe it’s the light-hearted approach which everything hangs on.

The Premise

For those of you who have read more than a couple or so of my reviews, you’ll know that I neither have a burning passion for history or know anything about it. I’ll lay blame partly on my history teacher because (and I paraphrase Tawny here) she made it sound like boring facts and not like real people.

But that’s only part of it. It seems that many of those historical people – real or otherwise – were cretins, though to be fair, maybe these were the ones that my teacher focused on.

So I like the general premise of the story line: to go back in history and get your wicked way with King Henry VIII. It’s effectively taking the mickey out of history (and admittedly probably not the right reason to like a book, but what the hell! πŸ˜‰ )

I mean, it’s just ludicrously brilliant! One of the two main characters, Tawny, is a commercially successful scientist who has conquered time travel and built her own time machine (in a shower) – and then uses it to go back in time and conduct research on sexual ability and prowess! Her friend Beth ends up following close behind and whilst trying to sort out the mess gets into troubles of her own.

It’s wonderfully and totally insane!

Historical accuracy

I’d day that Time Bangers is historically well-researched, but in truth I’ve no idea. Yep – this is a short section which will mention the following: that Beth seems to know history. As well as educating Tawny, if what Beth says is true then she educated me too.

A book of two parts

Like some famous football game or other, this is a book of two halves. The first part is character building – at least for Beth – and then finally we get to the time travel in Part 2 where the trip into history is made and its repercussions wrought.

Part 1

There’s not much to say about Part 1 in time travel terms so I’m only going to skim over it here.

The first chapters really struck a chord with me. Beth is introduced as one of the main characters. She suffers crappy child carers and general parenting difficulties. She’s frustrated because she has a brain and wants to use it. Later we meet Tawny, one of Beth’s friends from university. Tawny is a commercially successful scientist, but very socially awkward.

The writing style is witty and humourous in a subtle way and not slapstick as you might first expect.

I enjoyed Part 1, but there’s not really much else I can think of to say about it…

Part 2

Part 2 is really where the novel starts – not just because this is where time travel kicks in, but because this is where everything else kicks in too. Actually, after reading a few pages into this section I couldn’t help wondering whether Part 1 was overly drawn out; the pace really picks up in Part 2!

Time travel

I was expecting the time travel side of things to be fairly minimal but I was pleasantly surprised – Time Bangers handles time travel well and hasn’t just slipped it in as a convenient way to get modern day characters back into history.

There are continual but gentle reminders to the reader that time travel is responsible for putting Beth and Tawny where and when they are. This is done with links from the past to the present, for example, by observing that Anne Boleyn wears the same necklace in the past as she was last seen painted in (in the present).

We don’t know much about the time travel method itself other than it involves walking through a shower (“…there’s a funny thing about water and the human body”) and that the time machine is not built on wormhole technology.

The trigger for return is inserted in the time traveller’s thumb and forefinger beneath the skin; tapping activates the device and the traveller is returned to the present 5 minutes later than their time of departure.

This has always been a point of interest for me – how do the present and the past co-exist? Is there a relationship between the passage of time in each of these eras? I think the 5 minutes later thing was a device feature more than anything else, and indeed, when Beth expresses her concern in the past about leaving her daughter back in the present, Tawny explains that they’ll be returning 5 minutes later so it’s no big deal and nothing to get worried about. In other words, real time is either not concurrent – or more likely with a time machine, that time is no big deal!

One of the common ‘troubles’ with time travel is how to transport either organic matter or inanimate objects. For example, lab tests might be able to move a pen back into the past but not a mouse in the first instance. Or in the second, how does a time traveler get to keep their clothes when they travel in time?

Time Bangers deals with the latter instance through touch – anything that is in contact with the time traveller, such as clothes or even other people, will also travel in time. Or at least, so it’s initially thought.

This last point provides a bonus time travel sub plot which comes together really nicely towards the end, and also partly explains why a time traveller-touching socks-touching shoes-touching ground-touching other objects, doesn’t seem to mean anything.

I also thought it was a good call that despite being a time travel erotica novel, the authors didn’t take the potential opportunity of ‘non organic time travelling’ as an excuse for Beth and Tawny to be prematurely parted from their clothes.

Every now and then there were a few lines which hinted at much a much deeper understanding of time and time travel that Tawny at first was letting on.

For example, describing the past as being stretchy enough to accommodate some changes to it – a really nice alternative to the usual stuff about the river of time washing away small ripples in the past and historical actions having no long term effect.

Time Bangers isn’t an out and out scifi novel and only lightly touches on the mechanics of time travel – that’s its style. So it’s really extra points earned for leaving no questions open, and indeed, introducing more elements of time travel and loops and problems when such problems weren’t expected.

Erotica

I came down a little harshly in my review of D.L. Orton’s Crossing in Time because of the erotica. Not because of the content itself, but because I thought it took up a lot of the novel and took me away from the brilliant scifi which I had so far been bowled over by.

With Time Bangers the situation is almost reversed. There was a lot less erotica than I was expecting, and this kind of threw me in terms of plot angle because I thought that ultimately this was the main reason to go back in time. If this is the case, I was expecting more (numerous) steamy encounters.

But there weren’t that many, which kind of made the few that were present seem out of place, or at least, too graphic.

Then again. The light-hearted nature of Time Bangers means that just about anything goes – including erotica. And on that basis I think that grants erotica its place in the novel.

Criticism

To be wholly honest, my main negative comment about Time Bangers doesn’t really fit within the light-hearted comedy context of the novel. It would be like complaining that Superman shouldn’t be able to fly because he isn’t aerodynamic. But for the sake of completeness, here it is in two swift paragraphs so you can fly right on past it. Aerodynamically, if you wish.

It’s Tawny. Whilst Beth is well developed, and historical characters seem to be believable, Tawny is simply too unrealistic.

Like many scientists she’s socially awkward, but there are inconsistencies within her character:

She can’t say hello to a small group of people but she can get herself laid by saying (and doing) the right things. As a scientist she has time to kill whilst her computer model runs (there’s always stuff for a scientist to do in these moments) and she’s embarrassed about her work (again, unlikely for a scientist – especially one who’s made millions billions. Yes, she’s socially awkward (so she sometimes thinks out social situations in code Note: a dollar sign as used in her computer code style thinking is a special symbol on the unix command line.) but I don’t think that it can fully account for her self contradictory behaviour.

But I repeat (or at least, encourage you to briefly revisit a few seconds’ reading time ago) – I’m aware that this nerdy scientist’s eye view of Tawny shouldn’t really hold much weight for this novel.

Ending

I was relieved that Time Bangers avoids the predictable happily ever after bit and instead goes for the clear opening for the sequel (“The Golden Whored”).

I must admit that I found the last chapter overtly long with an incredible amount of inane chatter. It just went on too long for print, though I could see this part working well in a movie where the background music gets louder and the camera pulls away from the conversation, leaving Beth and Tawny to continue their mindless gassing and giggling in privacy. Cue the credits.

Perhaps it was trying to make up for their (weird) strained friendship a few pages earlier, but it was tedious and frustrating to read – the latter because it’s at the end of the novel and I felt compelled to finish it.

Rating * * * *

Time Bangers is an easy going and light-hearted novel with time travel and earns 4 stars on a time travel blog.

I’ve ‘docked’ a star for Part 1 – only because there’s no time travel in that lengthy section – but I did enjoy that part so will give the full 5 stars over on the more general Amazon and Goodreads sites.

Paul

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Review: Buckyball by Fabien Roy

Buckyball (Fabien Roy) is a brilliantly delivered take on repeatedly reliving part of your life over and over again. The attention to small time travel details and the writing style make Buckyball a superb read!

Buckyball

I must be old. Here’s me thinking a “buckyball” is a common term for “Buckminsterfullerene” – a C60 carbon molecule folded round in the shape of a football. And that a “screaming snowball” is something of a personification when someone says “there’s not a snowball’s chance in Hell” and then decides to literally make a point by lobbing said snowball into the fiery pit.

Buckyball by Fabien Roy

But it turns out that a buckyball is a recreational drug, and it also turns out that in this novel a buckyball can send you back in time (or have a “life turn”).

Beginnings

Buckyball starts with James Pesola who’s recovering from a double stapedectomy – an operation to improve hearing. He’s nervous about the outcome and is advised to write down his thoughts about his life which is the novel that we’re reading. (So I should mention that on a personal level I immediately felt heavily involved because only the day before starting this novel I was at the hospital to get the results of my MRI scan for my own ear problems!)

Things start quickly. I thought it was interesting that the first person character isn’t the first time traveller; it’s James’ friend, John. On the night of Saturday 11 June 2005 John explains to his friends that he’s already lived the following week and has now come back to be reunited with his friends. Somehow.

Over the course of the following week John’s knowledge of the future is shown to be correct so there’s no prolonged confusion or disbelief (which would be understandable since drugs are involved). Then on Sunday 19 June the same happens to James – he finds himself (with John) back on Saturday 11 June 2005, again with their friends who know no different.

Life turns

James and John find that they can act on information from the future when they return back in time and relive their lives again on a repeated week or “life turn”. For example, they’re cooks by profession and keep a burnt steak instead of chucking it out because they know it will be ordered the next day by another customer.

Not everything stays exactly the same though – there are some subtle differences between life turns. Winning lottery numbers differ, for example, and the two surmise that this is due to the small changes brought about just by their presence. Something as small as a smile in an elevator can change somebody’s mood and affect how they behave, which goes on to have subsequent ramifications, etc..

I liked this lottery number thing – not only does it do away with making easy money on each life turn (which would be a bore to read), this is an example of Fabien’s remarkable eye for detail when it comes to things surrounding time travel.

Generally speaking though, actions and (other people’s) memories are erased at the beginning of each life turn. Their friends on Saturday 11 June 2005 have no idea what’s going on, for example. Indeed, there is an incident between John and his girlfriend on one life turn where their relationship takes on a new direction. This is addressed in following life turns, even though the girlfriend is none the wiser.

This reset gives James and John almost a completely free reign over everything they do because in effect their actions don’t matter as they don’t have lasting consequences. This clearance also holds for their physical condition – a bodily injury or illness will dissolve on the next life turn.

This leaves an open question – what happens to the people (and objects) who don’t go back in time? If James is talking to Person X on 14 June then goes back to Saturday 11, what happens to Person X? Is there a 15th June?

We never know because we never read from that viewpoint – we read from James’, and James goes back so he never knows either. It’s an interesting thought though. Maybe that present (or future) disappears in the same way that our past disappears. But if it doesn’t vanish then that means that it’s recreated on the next life turn and we’ve entered the multiple universe theory…

The first few lief turns were always a week long and this fixed time length makes reading the experience seem a little like a week-long version of the Groundhog Day movie – but with the point of repetition much less laboured!

I was really pleased when the time between life turns increased to 5 months. This brings us out of the risk zone of the repetitive ‘Groundhog Day loop’ and brings about a new element of the mystery of time in the buckyball life turns. (Replay (Ken Grimwood) partly tackled the problem of repetition by the main character reliving ever decreasing portions of his life).

This prompts James and John to experiment and figure out what the catalyst is for returning to 11 June, and armed with this information they play out a number of ways in how they relive their lives. And as these two discover, if things were to remain like this it would become a dull life, and an even duller book. But it’s not to remain so!

Curve buckyballs

Fabien continually throws curve balls in Buckyball to keep James and John – and us – on our toes. For example, they’re not the only two who have taken buckyballs, meaning that they’re not the only two who relive a part of their life and have everything reset after the catalyst to return to the past is triggered.

And crucially, this means that they’re not the only two who can set off the trigger. The upshot is that every now and then they find themselves back at the beginning of their life turn – often feeling very angry about it.

This lack of control over what’s happening to them reminded me in some ways of Syncing Forward (W. Lawrence). Indeed, James even refers obliquely to the phenomenon as a disease – a real change in attitude to his initial impressions of the experience.

Writing style

I thoroughly enjoyed Fabien’s writing – he addresses my questions almost as fast as I was formulating them which certainly made me feel that he was writing on my wavelength in terms of information delivery. What I really value is his amazing eye for detail – for example, the time travel related details such as why lottery numbers differ, or specific details on how the catalyst to return to the past needs to be delivered.

Fabien uses the skills of the characters he’s written into Buckyball to ‘help him out’, most noticeably with an expert in physics and an IT girl (kudos to Fabien for using girls here in traditionally ‘male roles’). In fact, he uses a group of people as an opportunity to show further ways of living life turns which wouldn’t have been in character with either James or John who for the most part we follow (and I had a little smile in that one of them sets up a “Groundhog training school”! πŸ˜‰ )

The writing style itself is progressive, but recall that this novel is being read as a letter written by James as an old man. Fabien sort of makes it difficult for himself then, writing in first person as an old man recalling feelings from a younger man. Should he write the whole novel in “old people speak”?

I thought that at first it read like James was a teenager, even though he’s in his twenties. Perhaps this is me being so far from this age group that it all merges into one (stand by for my upcoming post “A tale of two Dutch cities”). The thoughts and dialogue come sometimes with some inappropriate or politically incorrect insensitive language. Sometimes it was funny though on one occasion I can see that it may be offensive, but at the same time this could just be James’ character.

For the immersion side of things, I think Fabien took the right road in writing in first person as a younger man when James was younger. It also makes it much clearer to see James’ development in character as time goes on and the number of life turns clocks up. We see that even though he ‘officially’ remains at the same age of 26, his mentality changes and matures as he experiences different facets of life.

Closing scenes

I really had no idea in how Buckyball was going to finish!

There’s an interesting scientific spew at the end which at first seemed disjointed to the preceding text until I realised we’re now back in current time with James writing his letter.

I have two slight issues with the final sections. The first is a heavy focus on a policeman which, though interesting, didn’t really seem to either move things forwards or tie any ends.

The other thing was – why a buckyball? It seems a grossly inefficient way to…ah. Read it yourself to find out! πŸ˜‰

Replay. What was that again?

Anyone reading Buckyball might immediately think of Replay by Ken Grimwood.

But I’ll just say it straight – Buckyball is a better version of Replay! If Ken Grimwood relived his life again and rewrote Replay, he might be tempted to write it to be something more like Buckyball!

Whereas Replay effectively resets the storyline with each ‘reincarnation’, Buckyball has more of a continuous thread which follows James through each of his turns – and there’s much more going on!

Rating * * * * *

Buckyball has the full 5 stars for a brilliantly delivered take on repeatedly reliving part of your life over and over again. The attention to small time travel details and the writing style make Buckyball a superb read!

Buckyball is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

You can read my interview with Fabien Roy over at timetravelnexus.com!

Paul

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Review: One Red Thread by Ernie Wood

One Red Thread (Ernie Wood) doesn’t set out to be a time travel or scifi novel yet it is able to circumnavigate so many time travel pitfalls – and it’s all wrapped up beautifully in a literary writing style!

One Red Thread by Ernie Wood isn’t just a novel – it’s time travel literature!

Perhaps I should mention my disclaimer first (i.e. that “I received a copy of One Red Thread free of charge in exchange for an honest review”). And when the book did make it’s way over to me I was very impressed that what I’d received was a hard back. With a dust jacket! It’s a small thing maybe, but to a simple chap such as myself who prefers reading on real paper, holding a hardback already exudes quality!

But enough about the book cover. We’re not meant to judge a book that way! πŸ˜‰

What’s inside?

Baseball on One Red Thread book cover

It turns out there’s a note from Ernie:

“Follow your thread!”

Oh dear. A reference that I’d contacted Ernie on the Goodreads time travel group forum and hadn’t replied? I’d like to think that that sort of rudeness / ignorance isn’t in my nature – and indeed it turns out that the mystery is much more simple – and admittedly blindingly obvious – a tie in to the book title!

The thread – oh what a tangled web we weave!

In a radio interview with WCHL-FM radio, Ernie describes One Red Thread not as a scifi or time travel novel, but as a novel which focuses more on the significance of having knowledge of the past and bringing it to the present.

The contents of the book are complex, but the premise is simple. The main character, Eddy McBride, seeks to solve the mystery of his rich family history and the impact it has on his present. It is in this way that he finds and follows his one red thread – the common thread that runs through his history.

Writing style

Initially I felt that One Red Thread didn’t have so much a story line as a general wandering along Eddy’s train of thought. It seemed to be somewhat of a ‘2 dimensional’ approach of not just moving the story forwards but one where it takes the reader on little excursions and then back again.

After a while it struck me that One Red Thread is written in the same way as painting a water colour painting – gradually adding layer upon layer, and in this way it has a ‘lateral’ level as well as a deep one.

Time travel literature

Eddy is an over-thinker. He thinks about everything in incredible detail and I think it would be fair to say that often-times it’s to the detriment of relationships around him. Sometimes I shared his wife’s feelings (Sheila) and became frustrated with Eddy in how he continually obsessed and analysed situations.

But this is his character, and in reading Eddy’s description of the world about him and his journey through his thoughts One Red Thread reminded me of reading a D. H. Lawrence book in my English Literature class way back, where a church spire wasn’t a church spire – it was a connection between Heaven and Earth. A horse in a field wasn’t a horse in a field – it was a phallic symbol. Or so said my teacher. (Or maybe he didn’t…I later went on to fail the class!)

Likewise, Eddy ties huge significances to everything he casts his eyes on and certainly does not call a spade a spade. At one point in the novel he’s offered a tomato, and he makes the comment that at last he has something “…at face value. For once.” (Was he so lucky?) I was surprised at his comment as it’s invariably his own fault that things become things which are not their face value!

Eddy is one of a handful of main characters, but this ‘literary style’ of writing continues with all of them and in these cases the power of Ernie’s writing really shines through!

Point of view

Ernie has a truly beautiful writing style. But in particular I want to highlight the impact of the shared points of view. One Red Thread sees a change in view from the vantage of a different perspective in both time and character and this is largely due to the occasional change in first person character.

One Red Thread begins through Eddy’s eyes, and occasionally we read through Sheila’s – and later through Tim’s (their business associate).

I know many readers don’t like such changes but personally I don’t understand (their view! πŸ˜‰ ) because this is pretty much what a third person narrative would do. But by deliberately turning each character involved into a pair of glasses through which we can view the events and experience and witness events and feelings first hand, this is a very powerful tool!

When you read a first person novel you get a detailed insight into characters and events as seen through that main protagonist. But what if his views are one-sided, warped or just plain wrong? In One Red Thread we see these traits through Eddy’s wife’s eyes.

Sheila provides information on thoughts, feelings and emotions whilst Eddy focuses on the physical details of things around him often ignoring people. Eddy’s more interested in the past, Sheila in the present. She’s pregnant, and considerations about the new life growing is naturally key on the future as well.

Through Eddy’s eyes Sheila is cold and distant but actually we see she’s a silent observer too – mostly of Eddy – and cares for him in a careful hands-off approach. She reminds me of a mother letting go of a child as he learns to walk but she’s close by in case there’s any trouble all the while hoping there won’t be – but still kind of expecting it.

Sheila’s a thinker too, and often overly so. In this way she’s just like Eddy by creating mountains out of molehills. At one time she throws a wobbly when she finds Eddy clutching a baseball, upset that he’s more interested in looking back in the past instead of into the future – though admittedly this is probably a fair thought given as they’re about to have a baby.

I can understand this sentiment. When I was moping about a girlfriend who’d dumped me, my mates sister told me I couldn’t have a future if I was always looking back to the past. It seems to be a bit like this with Eddy, and I think this is what Sheila was concerned about.

There’s a third person in the first person roll-up; Tim. I must confess that I didn’t fully understand Tim’s angle on things, but I think the important aspect is that he’s in love with Libby, one of Eddy’s childhood friends who comes first to Eddy then to Sheila and Tim, seeking help in procuring their architectural services in redesigning a building from their shared past.

Tim is a photographer so much of his view on the world is in capturing the moment. But his chief ‘role’ in One Red Thread is in trying to protect Libby.

Libby is the hidden star of the novel who is unable to travel in time as Eddy and Sheila are, but seeks most desperately to be able to do so. Eventually she manages to, though initially these are at the wrong times and wrong places – and wrong levels of interaction. But it’s Libby who determines that the past needs to be changed.

The Time travel element

In my review of z2 (Sherrie Cronin) I made the comment that thankfully events are ‘live’ instead of a series of flashbacks which in contrast would be dull to read.

It turns out that One Red Thread is full of memories and flashbacks – and it further turns out I really quite like it! It gives me the feeling of “eternalism” where past and present (and future) co-exist. We live in the present and remember today the events of yesterday.

Actually this is mostly true at the beginning of the novel with Eddy. At first he has recollections of the past but then he finds that he’s transported back in time when those memories seemingly trigger an actual return to the past – first in an observational capacity, then where people interact with him and then finally where real physical effects occur (for example, where a burn on his arm in the past leaves him with a scar which he takes back with him to the present).

When Eddy goes back in time he maintains his current age so it’s not a replay; it’s a new ‘addition’ – and people from the past remember him. This is important; his (new) actions in the past affect the future. And for those in the past who encounter him transpose their own thinking with their expectations. People see what they want to see kind of thing, so what starts as mental time travel turns more physical – but with a mental component at the other end.

Time travel is triggered largely by sensations such as sounds, smells or even taste. Eddy checks the theory to get a real trip back to the past. This part reminded me of Somewhere in Time where Richard Collier takes drastic measures to control his environment to facilitate his time travel venture.

Ernie has taken great care to cover many aspects of time travel which often get overlooked. For example, the passage of concurrent time in the present during a trip in the past – only moments pass in the present during a trip in the past. And there’s reference to the potential difficulty of meeting yourself in the past. But what I find spectacular is how Ernie has taken this a step further with a beautiful ‘side-effect’: an implication on the number of times you can go back in time to the same moment.

Note though that this restriction only applies to a single person which means that three people can go back to the same moment in the past, even from different times, and with naturally different viewpoints. This allows for additional views from very different perspectives. For example, Sheila sees Eddy stealing an apple (which is very unlike him) but later in the novel (chronologically) we read Eddy’s view of the event when he goes back in time and we understand why he did such a thing. Or we hear about one of Eddy trips to the past as told by Sheila and what she heard him say. Then we go back to Eddy and have it explained what he said and why.

The Ending

Ernie keeps adding layer upon layer, and just when I think there’s nothing more to add and the rest of the novel will be spent in analysing the results and wrapping things up, there’s another trip into history and yet more happens!

So when the closing chapters came I was all ears as to how things were going to wrap up – if at all!

First off, there’s a fantastic conclusion in Libby’s adventure, which I suppose would count as the action component of the novel. I especially enjoyed this ending as it involved some intricate workings of time travel (and avoidance of time travel paradoxes).

In point of fact though, the real conclusion is in the Epilogue where there’s a slight look forward, or at least a progression of the present, where Eddy and Sheila’s daughter (Lizzie) provides her view on what has happened and what she think will happen.

I’m not sure how I feel about this latter part, mostly because of Lizzie’s description of Eddy’s behaviour between the novel ending and the epilogue. It’s realistic in the sense that this is the most likely way that things will play out, but it’s not your typical happy ever after.

I suppose that’s how real life is a lot of the time.

Rating * * * * *

One Red Thread by Ernie Wood receives a full 5 stars! I was really impressed that a novel which doesn’t set out to be a time travel or scifi novel is able to circumnavigate so many time travel pitfalls – and it’s all wrapped up beautifully in a literary writing style.

Generally speaking, the plot of the novel is seen in how time travel is dealt with – a subtle shift in focus in the novel from observing the past, changing the past and finally to protecting the present (or future).

The approach in how time travel is utilised in the novel is really original, focussing on what knowledge of the past means in today’s life, and how it affects our way of living and the relationships that we have. One Red Thread gives us plenty of food for thought.

One question still remains open to me, and it goes back to my message in the inside cover – how do I follow my one red thread?

Interview with author: Ernie Wood

Ernie has very kindly agreed to provide us with an author interview at timetravelnexus.com. In this interview Ernie shares his thoughts about the time travel aspects of his novel, as well as his writing process, marketing activities and personal life. Being an author is certainly an interesting – and very busy – life!

Paul

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Star ratings:

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

Review: Beyond the Rest of Us by Andrew Man

Beyond the Rest of Us is the third in Andrew Man’s Tego Arcana Dei series and is one of the strangest books I’ve read for a long time – and yet I enjoyed it without having the blindest clue as to what is going on to whom, why, where or when!

Beyond the Rest of Us is the third in Andrew Man’s Tego Arcana Dei series and is one of the strangest books I’ve read for a long time – and yet I enjoyed it without having the blindest clue as to what is going on to whom, why, where or when!

At a wild guess, Beyond the Rest of Us may be a cross between James Bond and The Paradox War (C. J. Moseley). Both excellent!

Beyond the Rest of Us cover

The story line is certainly beyond me and I wonder if this is because I jumped in at Book 3 instead of at the beginning. Indeed, the main character, James Pollack, doesn’t seem that phased when he’s abducted, awakes in an underground cell in Geneva and has it explained to him that he’s gone back in time to 1814.

There’s talk of jumping, sliding and dreaming between dimensions (I think facilitated by a medallion) – but these are all normal ideas for James who already seems to be familiar with these things. Actually, he seems to be more concerned about the oil lamps in the underground room where he’s being held, and then goes on to ask for a helper in the form of a young Italian prostitute. Needless to say I didn’t understand James’ character or his motivations or intentions.

And this is just Chapter 1! The Introduction beforehand didn’t make it any clearer for me, indeed, I was confused as to the scene which was being set – political? IT?

As I continued reading I settled comfortably into the writing style, and whereas I couldn’t keep up with what was happening on a novel-length scale, on a page-by-page basis I was intrigued by the density of well-researched scifi ideas which permeate Beyond the Rest of Us.

For example there’s an idea where a dimension or a universe is a holographic projection from another – now I’m sure I’ve read about this somewhere fairly recently, and how scientists have been testing this idea; and the experimental details are in part in Beyond the Rest of Us. This is what I love about science fiction – taking a real scientific idea or theory and running away with it in a novel!

The ease at which characters move between dimensions and universes makes for a busy but enjoyable read. There’s one part where a character needed to take a leak, so (for some reason) jumps into another dimension to do so. But she kind of got stuck there and needed help returning. It’s rather abstract, but a wonderfully crazy idea!

Apart from the story line, what I missed was depth to the characters. There are several of them, and each seem to have a few chapters where they take the lead role – but those chapters are so busy I quite easily lost track of who was who and who did what in which dimension.

Needless to say, when the novel (and series) concluded, it probably made less of an impact on me than it had the potential of doing so. Whether there was another chapter to follow or not, I don’t think would have made a difference.

I was sad that it ended though as I was really enjoying the read!

Rating * * * *

Despite having no clue as to what the story line is, the ideas within Beyond the Rest of Us are not only brilliant, but have a sound footing in scientific research. I’d hazard a guess that the political undertones (or maybe overtones?) are similarly well thought out.

Naturally, I think more clarity on the story line would have pushed this up to the full 5 stars!

Paul

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Star ratings:

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

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!

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! πŸ˜‰ )

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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Star ratings:

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

Review: The Jericho River by David W. Tollen

The Jericho River (David Tollen) is not a great time travel novel, but its strength lies in giving YA readers an alternative to dry history text books.

The Jericho River by David W. Tollen has a brilliant concept – to use time travel to take a teenager back in time and lead him through the ages to show YA readers “the history of western civilisation”.

Jericho River

Beginnings

I must admit that the beginning had me worried. The prologue starts with a dream from the main character, Jason. (This is the second novel I’ve read within a couple of months with this name. July, August, Septemer, October, November?) Typically in a movie or a crap novel a dreamy beginning often serves as a premonitional introduction to set the scene. I hoped that this wasn’t the case here!

Then we turn in more detail to Jason. He swings from being an idiot brother to his 8 year old sister to a caring brother, then back to being a twat again. He’s set against his dad and shows him no respect. But he’s 16 and his mum isn’t around and that might explain his behaviour – but it doesn’t mean I need to like it!

David W. Tollen writes in some beautiful details which really reminded me of being Jason’s age, and in one case even made me reminisce about the ability to repeatedly call the snooze function on an alarm clock (my wife hates it when I do that!) My confidence in the novel was restored!

Time travel

Jason’s told that his Dad is in a coma but also in another world and needs rescuing. Somehow he’s transported there in an Inception-movie-like manner, being reminded that time in the world of “Fore” passes quicker than it does here in the real world, and that death in Fore means death here (like in The Matrix movies).

This idea of “Dream Voyaging” is hastily presented and all very rushed, though we come back to it in 135 pages’ time where it’s explained that the world of Fore is created from dream energy which hangs around in the ether when we dream. This dream energy takes on the form of a world – Fore.

It’s a nice idea which explains why everyone (including Jason) hears everything in their native tongue, but I thought it a little strange that Jason’s companions don’t seem to be bothered that they are little more than reconstructions of other peoples’ dreams. Should they be? It’s a question that was explored in Inevitable (Steven Cotton).

That said, later on it’s revealed that this link between worlds works in both directions – what happens in the world of Fore can shape the dreams – and therefore the reality – of our real world.

The (Jericho) River of Time

The time travel element comes in here in that the passage of time differs between Fore and the real world – but there’s another element too. As Jason and his companions travel down the Jericho River they also travel forwards in time (relative to their time of entry into Fore). The Jericho River can therefore be thought of as the river of time! πŸ™‚ )

I feel it should be mentioned here though that time travel in The Jericho River is more of a tool to introduce the reader to different eras than anything else. Indeed, it isn’t clear from the writing (aside from the footnotes – see section below) that sailing downstream signifies going into more modern times. And naturally being set in Fore, there was little (if any) reference to passing time in the real world.

Further, there’s no real feeling of passage of time within Fore itself, other than a few random sentences such as “A few weeks later…” etc.. To be fair, I think David W. Tollen here is well aware of the time it would take to travel on foot or by boat or whatever from one place to another and although it isn’t well integrated into the plot, he has duly stayed on track by stating the correct details by giving them a passing mention.

Writing style

Jason needs to travel through Fore in order to find his Dad and save him. Along the way he encounters a number of characters and places, and this is the key in educating the reader to the history of western civilisation.

The writing style is good, but I found The Jericho River difficult to really get into as it is so ‘loud’. Jason always seemed to be meeting super honourable and worthy people and beings. I’ve found that many YA books have extravagance and melodrama in them, and whilst mercifully Jason doesn’t display any of that, the general content does.

For the most part Jason doesn’t really know where to go on his search, so it’s pretty much pillar to post. Underlying the search for his Dad, Jason is wanted by “The Rector” who has plans for him. Clearly this was injected into the story to deliver some tension, but it’s seriously dragged out; by page 200 there’s still no clue as to what it’s about. Some 50 pages later it becomes clear – and it’s a huge disappointment. It reads as though there was a time deadline and the author needed to rush. It’s illogical, weak and unrealistic. πŸ™

At this stage of the novel I was becoming increasingly interested in the frequent footnotes. For the most part these are presented as excerpts from lectures given by historian Professor William Gallo (Jason’s father). These footnotes are fascinating! They are very well written and contain a wealth of information describing culture, events, or background information etc. relevant to what is occurring at that moment in the novel.

Sometimes, and especially towards the end of the novel, it seemed like everything was getting a footnote. “Jason smelled cigarette smoke” Footnote: “Tobacco comes from…” sort of thing. It’s a bit over-done. Still, they’re evidence of a phenomenal amount of research.

Explanatory footnotes in the form of notes from Jason’s Dad is a really nice idea, but on a practical note it was sometimes difficult to know when to read them when there were no natural breaks in the main text. Of course this is often true with footnotes but they are especially numerous (and integral) in The Jericho River and indeed, at times I wondered whether the novel was written not to tell a story but as padding for the footnotes – rather than those footnotes being supporting material!

Caution!

I should mention one thing here about the footnotes: many of them question the originality or authenticity of the Bible, accusing it at one time, for example, of undertaking “holy plagiarism”. I’m Christian, but I’m not against questioning the Bible. (Indeed, the Bible even encourages it!) Whether what’s presented in The Jericho River is true or not isn’t my concern here (though I will mention that there is an easy ‘explanation’ to the above crap about plagiarism), but I raise the point here on two counts.

The first is that it’s unbalanced. There aren’t any such comments about other holy books (and naturally I’d stipulate that it would be much easier to question the authenticity of those!) – Tollen / Gallo directs his attacks only towards the Bible.

My second point is probably more serious – how would the younger reader in the target audience deal with this kind of information where seeds of potential doubt are sown? Would parents approve? Indeed, if a reader is young enough to welcome the hand drawn pictures which are included amongst the text then I think that the same reader is young enough to need some form of parental guidance.

Rating * * *

3 stars (but see footnote! πŸ˜‰ ). The Jericho River has a great concept but sadly it’s not well executed. Generally speaking it has a weak story line and Jason’s quest is haphazard with key points in the plot either glossed over or rushed and spewed out. Time travel is a tool used here to bring history to life, but this is not a time travel novel per se – indeed that particular tool is not wielded well. The Jericho River might work as a novel for a young adult but I really can’t see how an adult can find the plot engaging.

Footnote: * * * * 4 stars!

The strength of the novel though lies in the factual information which the young reader will glean from reading the footnotes in the context of Jason’s adventure, and from an educational stand point The Jericho River is well worth looking into; it transforms the idea of history (and history teachers) being dry and crusty and brings it to life. And on that latter basis I’d give it 4 stars.

I’d like to stress again though, that The Jericho River needs parental guidance for some children in some cases.

Paul

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of “The Jericho River” from the Cadence Group to read and provide an honest review. This is it!

Star ratings:

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

Review: Making it Home (Suzanne Roche)

Making it Home (Suzanne Roche) is a very well written time travel novel aimed at younger readers. The time travel method is interesting and reminiscent of old style computer adventure games with a series of sub-plots which tie together under a general theme. And as you might expect, when the time travel method uses an encyclopedia, you’re bound to learn something during the adventure!

Making it Home by Suzanne Roche is Book 1 of the “Time to Time” series.

Clearly the first thing to be mentioned here is that the time2timetravel HQ heavily endorses that name! πŸ˜‰

Making it Home with an encyclopedia

Reading and reviewing this book was a new experience for me, and one which admittedly I approached with some trepidation. Making it Home is aimed at middle grade readers (8-12 years old) which is too young for me and too old for my eldest daughter. What would I want with it?

Exactly. There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to read it! And besides, we usually live our lives only once and I thought well let’s live life on the edge then. I’ll read a children’s book for myself and then see whether I’ll give it / read it to my daughter later when she’s old enough.

< sarcasm tag > Yes, sometimes I am quite the daredevil! < /sarcasm tag > – and admittedly I was also interested in the games and things included in an appendix at the back of the book! (The recipes I’m going to pass to my wife – her place is not in the kitchen, but considering that I can burn a boiled egg she usually winds up there well before I dare to make that particular expedition! πŸ˜‰ )

Brief synposis

Peri, Henry and Max find themselves transported from an antique room to a ship full of immigrants sailing to America in 1892. Whilst Henry and Max are troubled and just want to get back home, Peri is enthusiastic about witnessing events in history. They come across a number of key historical figures who have various problems which are resolved with help from the time travelling trio.

First impressions

It shouldn’t be, but I’m finding that reading a children’s book on a commuter train is quite embarrassing. Other travellers will (correctly) judge this book by its cover and reduce my reading age by a few decades. And if they’d care to look into the pages that I’m reading they’d see pictures. Ah well, let them think I’m reading a children’s book in a Dutch train to improve my English then!

A small note then about the pictures – the quality isn’t that great; they are dark and small. And actually, the font size is small too (maybe to reduce page number and cost? ) which may make it harder for a child to read. And if you’re reading to your child, then small text and small dark pictures will render the book pretty much useless other than to use as a script.

But…some of the pictures are useful and add a certain sense of weight to the text. For example, there are pictures of actual historical documents which are featured in the novel, or old photos of bustling streets and of how real children in that time dressed. In a way, they serve as ‘proof’ of some of the extensive research Suzanne must have carried out.

Perhaps it is strange, but I found that I didn’t look at all of the pictures – I forgot! Maybe it’s a good thing that I was engrossed in the text – or was I manipulated in that the pictures help to reduce the amount of text on a page which might be off-putting for a young reader? (Or for me? πŸ˜‰ ). Indeed, there are some pictures which are hand drawn and don’t seem to serve any real purpose other than give credence to my point above.

Sitting between “additional research” and “text breaker” is an image I particularly liked – an old photo of “The Brooklyn Bridge Heading into Manhattan” (on page 136) as it reminded me of a closing scene in the movie “Gangs of New York” during a fading from the past to the present:

Brooklyn Bridge
Figure of Brooklyn Bridge reproduced with kind permission.
Brooklyn Bridge in The Gangs of New York movie
Brooklyn Bridge as seen in the closing scene of Gangs of New York (Image credit: http://jackhayearts.com/styled-7/files/brooklyn-bridge.jpg)

Writing style

I don’t know how Suzanne does it, and I can’t put my finger on what it actually is, but when I read I’m almost hearing myself reading it to my own kids. The writing style is superb. There’s probably an official term for the tense used but I’d call it a lively cross between past and present.

The main characters are Peri and her two younger step brothers Henry and Max. Thankfully, aside from usual sibling rivalry they get on with each other. Troubles between step-, half- and adopted children are a bore to read. It’s an easy (lazy?) way to insert predictable tension into a book – but more importantly it’s not a good lesson for children. Many of these relationships are successful and go well. Contrast this with ideas pushed by Disney, for example, to the point that my eldest told me she no longer wanted to be a princess because “…princesses have mean step mummies”. Dream killed, ‘Well done’ Disney.

Thankfully that doesn’t happen here! πŸ™‚

Making it Home is a busy novel in itself and also with facts woven into the prose – but there’s still space found for some character development. Henry is working through his scout badges but showing nervousness when it comes to displaying skills for first aid. Max wants a pet dog but he’s not allowed one. And then there’s the star of the show – Peri.

Peri has an incredible thirst for knowledge. She’s pragmatic, solution orientated and down to business. At the same time she’s kind-hearted and simply draws readers towards her!

She’s the one who gets her idiot brothers into action. She moves them – and the plot – forwards, not in a cold and efficient manner, but in a humanitarian spirit. Actually, she’s the kind of girl who might well tell me off for saying that the pictures and font sizes are too small and difficult for young readers, although that said, I couldn’t quite work out the ages of the children. Maybe Peri is older than the target audience.

Admittedly I’m probably saying this as a proud Dad of 2 daughters, but I’m pleased that the main hero is a heroine! πŸ™‚

Time travel with an encyclopedia

I might be tempted to say that the travel method is unrealistic, but to be honest I’d be a cretin if I did. This is a children’s book not hard core science fiction, and having 2 young daughters means that I’m predisposed towards keeping magic and fantasy alive for them for as long as I can.

A bunch of keys are put on top of an encyclopedia, and the next thing they know they’re on board a boat heading for New York in 1892. To return to the present (i.e. to “Make it back home“) they need to [showhide type=”pressrelease” more_text=”Spoiler alert! Show time travel method. (%s More Words)” less_text=”Hide time travel method (%s Less Words)” hidden=”yes”] observe and hold each of the keys in their historical setting. [/showhide]

Realistic or not, I thought this was a great idea! It turns out that one of the keys belonged to Annie Moore who was a fellow passenger on the ship heading towards New York. Another key belonged to an Italian family they helped (with a minor Godfather moment when they expressed their gratitude “If we can help you someday…” πŸ˜‰ )

encylopedia and time travel
The power of books in time travel!

Where does the story line go? Exactly. Peri, Henry and Max don’t know what they need to do to get back home to their own time but there seems to be an underlying theory that they should observe and witness events. Along the way they encounter characters with various problems which they feel compelled to help resolve. This reminded me of the Quantum Leap TV show from the early 90’s, or even like one of those old adventure computer games, finding objects (keys) before progressing to the next level – usually in a different time.

This latter point is a good one – that Making it Home doesn’t obsess on one particular historical moment but introduces the reader to an array of historical periods.

I thought it unusual (or very impressive) that the youngsters could recognise the keys, but this is a minor detail in the greater scheme of things.

I’ve discussed before about the direction that a “time travel novel” takes. Making it Home seems to take on a bit of both the journey and the destination side of time travel. The time travel method is certainly touched on and questioned (by Peri); it’s central to making it [back] home, and there’s also a comment about changing history.

(Actually the children end up being responsible for Roosevelt helping Jacob Riis in cleaning up New York and making conditions better for immigrants. I suppose it could be argued that the past has already happened – even if it includes trips to that past by time travellers, as in The Time Traveller’s Wife).

Anyway. This isn’t the focus of the novel which is really more about witnessing, observing (and interacting…) with events in the past. So it has a strong ‘destination’ base, and certainly it’s this aspect which helps educate the younger reader.

A couple of nice points

I mentioned earlier that the time traveling trio don’t remain in the same time. When they first meet Riis he burns his hand quite severely. There was a nice reminder of this event when they meet him again some yeas later and note that his hand had healed.

In a similar vein, Peri arranges to meet the Italian family that they helped out earlier to call their favour. At this point the younger reader is reminded of how the help was given in the first place – the author clearly understands the needs of her readers!

Personal education

This bit will probably show my honesty (and ignorance): I had no idea who Annie Moore or Jacob Riijs or any of the other characters were. So I maybe I was like a child as I was reading – and now I’ve been educated!

Ending

The only thing I didn’t like about Making it Home is the ending. Actually, I mean the very ending – leading up to the final page was an interesting angle on the encyclopedia which was published after it was put away! I’d loved to have seen that idea developed a bit more, though I concede that it would probably have been too ‘advanced’ for the target audience.

But generally speaking the final chapter was a disappointment. Peri, Max, and Henry return to the present and there are questions if it was all a dream, and then the ‘cliff hanger’ was so lame and cheesy that I cringed when I read it. I suppose I’m going to fall back on what I’ve said a few times already – I’m not the target audience, and maybe young readers need this cheese. I can’t remember!

Rating * * * * *

I’m giving this the full 5 stars because I like the time travel method, the way the (return) method drives the plot forwards, and its appeal to younger readers. The writing style is clear and active and draws the reader into the plot. And a special thumbs up for Peri! πŸ™‚

Paul

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Review: The Windmill of Time by Jeffery Goldberg

The Windmill of Time (Jeffery Goldberg) starts as a romance novel with some time travel, then shifts to altering events to bring about a new future.

Earlier I wrote about my initial thoughts on The Windmill of Time by Jeffery Goldberg. It was more of a headsup article because I found reading an ebook too difficult. Since then, Jeff has kindly sent me a paperback to read in exchange for an honest review. This is it.

The Windmill of Time book cover

The Windmill of Time is the story of a man who can’t live with the consequences of his behaviour in the past and wants to make amends.

Although it’s officially divided into 4 sections, the writing style and content would suggest 5:

  • Time travel
  • Jeff’s love for and relationship with Laureen
  • Time travel (to go back to Laureen)
  • Messing about with altering events
  • Time travel, philosophy of life and faith
  • I’m going to write this review by focusing on Jeff’s relationship with Laureen and then his experiences when he goes back in time. Time travel gets one juicy section at the end because as you can see from the bullet points, it glues the other sections together!

    Relationship with Laureen (“First time around”)

    Call me slow, but after reading the prologue and the first couple of chapters or so, it took me around 100 pages to realise that the thrust of this section was not a continuation of the time travel but to highlight the feelings between Laureen and Jeff and the relationship they had with each other.

    They first meet when Jeff is 19. Often reading about relationships at this age makes me cringe as they can appear to be shallow and melodramatic. This is bogus of course because whilst it seems unrealistic to me it is very real for the couple involved. And besides, I’m external to it.

    But in The Windmill of Time it is much less difficult to read about this young love. Sure, Jeff does and says stupid things and Lauren likewise, but there’s very little cringe factor. I think this is because Jeff relates well his (teenage) feelings and view of reality into an account for a more mature / experienced reader.

    How does Laureen see things? We don’t know because this is first person through Jeff’s eyes and we only know what he’s told or what he thinks. And it’s not always true. So when things go pear shaped in their relationship I naturally sympathised with Jeff. But maybe Laureen had valid reasons for her words and actions, and in which case – is Jeff justified in going back to alter events?

    I remember watching Groundhog Day with disgust when Phil Connors repeatedly chats up a girl everyday memorizing the ‘correct’ answers or direction in conversation in order to fool her into thinking he was worth dating. Even though the girl was unaware of previous events and conversations and was happy enough to talk (and be with) Phil, it just seemed like immoral behaviour. And it struck me that it’s potentially a similar situation in The Windmill of Time where Jeff wants to go back in time and try things out again with a relationship when you know the fix.

    Later, it’s clear that Laureen has moved on realising that there is no future with Jeff and that their history together is dead to her. She becomes a born again Christian, quite literally finding a new life. The old life is dead and gone and she makes this clear to Jeff who understandably finds this difficult to take. So would she want to relive it?

    This first part of the novel is very powerfully written, I feel from the heart. It’s almost a diary, but I really enjoyed it – even though it’s not time travel / scifi! πŸ˜‰

    The second time around – altering events

    It’s 2043 and Jeff has the opportunity to go back in time. He’s spent a long time looking forward to this so it’s very strange that when he finally gets his chance he has a hard time deciding between changing the past with Laureen (“is that possible?”) or reliving life with his wife of 39 years to have children.

    He decides for Laureen and if doesn’t work out he’ll try to find Inez his wife earlier than their first time around. I was confused that although Jeff is made aware of the dangers of changing the past, this is the over-riding reason for his going back in time to Laureen. And his latter fall-back option of meeting his wife and having children seems to be at odds with living for only one calendar year in the past, as stipulated by the programme which sets up the time travel – but more about that in the time travel section!

    This part of the novel reads almost like a diary with entries at key dates; occasionally there’s an entry with the second time round or a memory. It adds definition to the subtitle of the novel – “A time travel memoir”.

    We go back in time to 1970 i.e. to before the time Jeff goes back to in May 1971. This part of the novel is based on memory and acts as a scene setter for when the 92 year old Jeff metamorphises into his 20 year old self in 1971. Here we read about Jeff and Laureen starting from when they meet in 1970. When may 1971 comes around I was expecting to read about the metamorphosis with the future Jeff as seen now from the view point of 20 year old Jeff (we’ve read it from the point of view of the 92 year old in the early chapters) but this didn’t happen.

    That said, the Jeff we read about now seems to be very different from the earlier section of the novel, and indeed he exhibits some spontaneous and rather strange behaviour. Bear in mind he’s now a 92 year old in a 20 year old body with memories of the past and knowledge of the future.

    Given Jeff’s advanced age it’s ironic that this part of The Windmill of Time reads like a young adult novel. Jeff is now egocentric, and the writing style differs substantially from the earlier section. There seem to be a few things which don’t sit quite right, such as Jeff wanting to stop the marriage between Laureen and Marvin but doesn’t want to marry her himself as he might prevent her from having her future children.

    The biggest thing though is the sudden switch from wanting to relive life with Laureen to trying to prevent disasters. At first he meets the mother of Barrack Obama then goes on to save an aircraft from a collision. At first I thought these things were added for the sake of it, but as the novel progresses Jeff interferes more and more with trying to change the outcome of events which he knows to have terrible consequences.

    He becomes a top secret advisor to the president which results in drastic changes to global politics – yet each of the outcomes seem to have no impact on following events. This doesn’t seem likely as I’d expect that Jeff’s knowledge of the future becomes obsolete as his current time line diverges too far away from the one he already experienced and knew (otherwise why bother making these changes? ).

    I must admit that I mostly found this part of the novel dull – but this is because I have no interest (or knowledge) in politics. Additionally, the killings which Jeff seeks to avert are quite gruesome and I’m aware that I’m probably more sensitive than most to these kinds of things.

    I lost my rag when Jeff started messing about with his wife’s future by trying to set her up with her younger sister’s husband (from the first time around) believing that the sister can find another husband for herself easy enough. I had the feeling that Jeff was playing God a little too much here.

    That said, there are a few interesting takes, for example making a phone call which had limited effect due to a difference in time zones.

    All in all, this part of the novel wasn’t about Jeff and Laureen or about time travel (although events were orchestrated thanks to knowledge of the future) and could almost be a novel in it’s own right.

    Time travel

    The theme of time travel necessarily percolates through the novel, but it has the most attention at the beginning, the middle (when Jeff goes back to 1971) and at the end.

    The time travel element comes out rushed and a little bit garbled. It’s described in a newspaper cutting which reveals the methodology and touches on paradoxes, but it also relates facts about the current economic climate and why the “Senior Citizens Time Travel Project” (SCTTP) is set up. It reads as a blurt rather than as a natural description.

    The SCTTP is set up in 2043 to send selected senior citizens (over 90’s) back to a time of their choosing in the past for one calendar year before being terminated. The idea is that by scourging the current population of the elderly there will be less of a drain on social resources for the remaining citizens.

    Of course this is politically insensitive, but that’s based on today’s standards. Sending our elderly parents into old people’s homes to be cared for by strangers is no problem for many of us now, yet this behavior would have been unthinkable a few decades ago.

    The problem with the SCTTP is that it’s rolled out barely 3 years after time travel has come out of the testing phase. Seems pretty quick. And the scheme is under threat because spouses who remain in the present whilst their partner goes back in time aren’t eligible for state benefits. This seems a very unlikely scenario that one of a couple would travel and knowingly leave their partner behind in a potentially difficult financial situation. It’s a very odd reason to give for a possible closure of the SCTTP.

    OK, so time travel has a flaky delivery but how is it integrated into the novel? Actually, quite nicely! πŸ™‚

    The 92 year old Jeff metamorphisises with and into a younger version of himself. This brings about a conflict of memory between the two versions of Jeff who are now one ‘being’. One remembers the past which is the unknown future of the other one. There’s a nice moment where the older version remembers a pair of jeans looking quite old but now he finds they are new; he’d been remembering a later version of the past. I was really impressed with this attention to detail!

    There’s also an interesting concept I’d not really thought of before although it makes a lot of sense. Time is personal and it happens once, so in 2010 the 1971 is over. That means that people and objects etc. in 1971 no longer exist if the future is ‘in play’. Juicy eh?! But what if the future has already happened? Does 1971 exist? Interesting…!

    Jeff seeks counsel from Dr Gormley who provides moral guidance every now and then, as well as insights into how some of the complexities of time travel may work through. Of course it is all theoretical and indeed he eventually has contact with Dr Arnold B Sklare who’s a protege of Michio Kaku who has a theory that if you travel in time then you travel to parallel universe.

    It struck me that this is an over-easy way to solve many problems, though it is certainly not limited to The Windmill of Time. It’s always easy to make up a theory that is neither provable or disprovable.

    What does come out of it though is that there is free will and no predestination because you slip into another universe where the future hasn’t happened yet. So that’s predestination taken care of and Jeff can continue changing the past without fear of paradoxes of alternate futures colliding with the one which he has already experienced.

    Flawed?

    The flaw in the implementation of the time travel seems to be such a clanger that I’m sure I must have missed something.

    The flaw (as I currently see it…) is that you can relive 1 calendar year in the past before you’re terminated. This makes sense because if you continue living then you’d end up being an old person ‘again’ and a “drain on the social benefits” etc. thus negating the point of the SCTTP. But Jeff lives on – longer than 1 year.

    He goes back in time to 21 May 1971, and on 20 May 1972 he and Laureen get married. This is understandably a key event, and perhaps your traditional “happy ever after” moment when the year’s time travel is over and you expect the final curtains to close. But the novel continues on 2 (or 3) June 1972 (there’s a typo) when Jeff has a private meeting with President Nixon. We’re clearly still in the “second time around” which is also made clear in various comments later in the novel.

    I’m guessing that this might be because he’s now in another time line or universe (according to Dr Michio Kaku), but this is tenuous because I’d expect that during the time travel process the timer for the calendar year in the past would have been implemented and would have its deadly outcome when the time was up no matter in which universe Jeff was in. If he was in another universe thanks to time travel then so too would be the timer.

    Or did the 92 year old Jeff indeed return to 2043 and get terminated but we continue reading now in the alternate past? There’s no mention of that. Either way, Jeff never seemed to worry about (or even consider) that he’d only be in the past for 1 year.

    Time travel in The Windmill of Time is a necessity but I feel that in a way it’s overdone. It tries to cover a lot of bases but instead of doing a few well we end up with a nod to many interesting ideas but with no further development. For example, the time travel method could have been left at black box, but a short description of a space / time warp begs more questions than answers. I wanted more (or nothing).

    Similarly, the injection and accepted assumption of parallel universes came out of nowhere. More (or less) information would have been nice; the current level raises too many questions.

    In short, the information relating to the time travel element sits uncomfortably between too much and too little πŸ™ A little more attention to time travel, or even a little less, would have made this a blinding time travel novel!

    Final lessons

    The last few pages of the book make a nice conclusion to all that has gone before. It’s reflective and moralistic but it’s odd that it’s largely delivered by Dr Michio Kaku – an expert in time travel. A chat with Dr Gormley, Jeff’s spiritual confidante, would have given it greater credibility, although I suspect that Jeff filters thing through with his own understanding and interpretation of events and how they fit into the bigger picture – which now involves God.

    This latter point really struck me because until now there was almost a deliberate effort by Jeff to avoid God.

    When Jeff finds out he can change the past by agreeing to go to Hana with Laureen it hit me – Laureen will have a new future (with Jeff) but one where the chances are high that she won’t become a born again Christian.

    I asked earlier would Laureen want to relive her life then. Well actually she does get to make this choice when all is explained. Of course she’s happy to give up her alternate children she doesn’t (yet) know, and it’s easy to make a commitment to someone who you still love, not believing that that things can go wrong.

    But Jeff never mentions Christian faith when explaining things to Laureen, and neither to Dr Gormley when together they question the ethics of time travel and their upcoming marriage. It seems like an unnatural omission, especially as Laureen had explained to Jeff that her Christian faith was one of the reasons why she disregarded their past together “the first time around”. Was Jeff deliberately being dishonest and concealing things?

    By the end of the novel I felt that Laureen is the loser in this saga. I started reading it hoping that she would be some sort of saving heroine instead of a prop for Jeff but admittedly, a novel which reads differently to initial expectation is not always a bad thing!

    Rating * * *

    I’m giving The Windmill of Time a subjective rating of a strong 3 stars but it’s important to note that this is largely based on the time travel element (because this is a time travel blog πŸ˜‰ ).

    I really like the idea of metamorphosis into a younger self and the mental clash between younger and older versions in the same body is thought provoking. Some of the ideas behind time travel are interesting, such as what happens to past events when the future is in play?

    Unfortunately the presentation of the time travel aspect was rushed and it took a minimal role in the overall story line.

    I’m going to head over to Amazon and Goodreads and leave an objective 4 stars there because this is a good novel which generally I enjoyed despite the young adult / political second half.

    All author profits from sales of The Windmill of Time will be donated to Breast Cancer Research and the Susan G. Komen Foundation in memory of Laureen Tanaka-Sanders. Pictures of Jeff and Laureen are available on Facebook.

    Paul

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    Review: Time Split by Patricia Smith

    Time Split by Patricia Smith is a beautifully succinct time travel novella which works on one time line. An alternate present arises when the past changes, and the main character seeks to go back in time again to rectify the trouble he’s caused. Naturally, there are complications…

    Many of my reads start on the train and Time Split by Patricia Smith was no different. With the clocks going back an hour the first part of my journey now starts just before sunrise. So here I am reading about the detonation of an atom bomb and the skies being on fire and I pause for a breather and take a look out of the window. As I type, Android spell checks that out as “wildfires”…intuitive? Maybe, because the skies did indeed look like they were on fire.

    No breather for me then, and really that reflects the tone of this book – it always kept me on my toes!

    Time Split book cover
    Time Split book cover. When the mushroom really hits the sky.

    Synopsis

    The story follows Jason, a research scientist who stumbles upon time travel whilst conducting experiments with teleportation. He decides to use his time machine to go back to the time of his grandmother and save her from a painful future. On his return back to the present Jason finds himself in the fallout of a nuclear war and seeks to put things right. But not everyone wants things to be as they were, leaving Jason facing deadly situations.

    Between the lines

    Time Split is a short novel at just under 150 pages. Whereas many short stories and novellas are very much to-the-point and leave the reader to interpolate between those points to make a story out of it (or extrapolate to get a meaningful ending), Time Split manages to make a balance between a short story and a full novel by providing enough information and narrative for a full story and yet avoiding the fluffy superfluous padding.

    For example, when Jason decides to go back in time his wife is justifiably concerned. Half a page later Jason is in the past. There are no lengthy conversions with Jessica (his wife) or self doubting with the tedious “Should I, shouldn’t I?” monologue when we already know that he’s going to do it. And there are no pages and pages of preparation because this was already taken care of when the methodology of time travel was given due attention during Jason’s experimentation). Time Split is not rushed, it’s short and very sweet. Beautiful and succinct! πŸ™‚

    Time Travel

    The first point is very easy to make. Jason is a blimming idiot! I mean, Jason!!! Change the future of your grandparent? That’s really asking for trouble! There’s even a paradox named after it!

    Admittedly Jason doesn’t seek to kill his grandfather but rather save his grandmother to protect his own mother (who was travelling with her) from a lifetime of trouble and a tortured memory, but the point remains. Don’t mess about with your ancestry! To be fair though, Jason isn’t a time travel expert but a scientist working with teleportation.

    I thought it was an interesting angle that including organic matter in experiments lead to an ‘error’ in teleportation, i.e. moving an object in time instead of in space. Quite often in time travel novels it is the transport of organic matter through time which proves to be the final hurdle to jump, but here it’s key.

    So teleporting living material causes time travel – what about the (inorganic) newspaper which Jason bought and brought back with him? Or his clothes? Yeah, it’s that old chestnut, and to be honest it’s been hacked to death in many other novels and to be honest I’m glad it wasn’t an issue here.

    Still. Jason is a scientist and he doesn’t travel in time without due testing beforehand. His first tests result in mice shifting in space as well as time, and indeed he goes on to develop a formula which takes the Earth’s spin into account. Presumably it would also account for the movement of the Earth around the sun, and the rotation of the Milky Way, etc., but lets not get too bogged down in detail!

    time travel Earth moves
    Warning! The Earth moves ‘during’ time travel! Image Courtesy of tequalstime.blogspot.com.

    Jason also postulates that meeting yourself would causes instant annihilation. Is this true? This idea is often mentioned in time travel fiction (e.g. Exploits in Time) although I don’t really see why? Other ‘objects’ can apparently meet themselves – but what is it about people that we self destruct?

    Naturally this brings me onto the atom bomb; there’s a strong human element in Time Split. (Note here that the split in time is what happened after Jason’s trip to the past; it wasn’t caused by the atomic bomb). Patricia describes with startling clarity how life during post-nuclear fallout might be. I really picked up on the forlorn sense of survival, being alone and left to fend for yourself. Lessons on the worse side of human character hadn’t been learned, and groups of self-appointed leaders made life even more miserable and desperate for those ‘lucky’ enough to survive the blast and the time afterwards. Tragic.

    Jason on the other hand appears to be largely passionless (which may explain why he didn’t bother talking much to his wife about going back in time…). Perhaps this is the stereotypical scientist who’s out of touch with emotion. He doesn’t seem that well connected with her and barely seems to miss her at all. He’s direct and pragmatic, albeit with a few crying sessions – though these are not always for her. He wished she was dead to avoid the fallout before he actually gets round to missing her.

    In this way I didn’t really connect with Jason, and whether he survives or not didn’t really matter to me; it was more whether he’d reach his goal of trying to restore things to how they were. Ironically, I guess this puts me into the same passionless boat as Jason…

    Ending / beginning

    The ending is done beautifully – reaching a climax in good time, and resolving it in a way which doesn’t beg the reader to rush out and buy Book 2 to find out what happens.

    The crux of the matter is that Time Split operates on a single time line. That already ticks boxes for me by not packaging difficulties away in a box and shoving them off into another universe.

    Despite the changes brought about by actions in the past and the nuclear bomb, the post-nuclear (alternate) present still has a time machine. I guess this makes sense because Jason was able to ‘return’ to this present after his trip to 1930 and in this way there is no threat of the grandfather paradox where his actions in the past would serve to unmake his time machine in the future thus rendering the backward trip impossible.

    Jason tries to reach his time machine so that he can go back in time again and this time around make sure that he doesn’t make the changes which lead to this post-nuclear present. It’s a nice touch that one of the characters realises the threat that an alternate or different present may be one without him in it, and he tries to thwart Jason’s efforts.

    I’ve read some reviews which mention that the ending is rushed, but here I must disagree; there’s a chase on which of course speeds things up! Actually this chase plays a crucial part of the novel as it wraps up all aspects – time travel, the relationship between Jason and other survivors, the dark side of human nature and the hope of putting things back to right. In fact what happens to Jason is a really neat way of avoiding a potential time travel paradox…

    Final thoughts

    All in all, I was really impressed with Time Split, especially as Patricia didn’t take the easy way out in creating a new time line – ‘just’ a very good novella! πŸ™‚

    There’s only one flaw with Time Split, and it’s the back cover blurb:

    “A scientist’s ‘harmless’ tinkering in Germany just before World War II causes a catastrophic change of events which lead to World War III in the present.”

    I can’t explain this without a spoiler, so you’ll just have to read the book! (Though I’ve just noticed that the description of Time Split on Patricia’s web page (see below) has it corrected!)

    Something to remember?

    remember time travellers on poppy day

    With 11 November having just passed, thoughts about those who died in the war are likely to still remain in many of our minds. It does raise the question though – are there any time travellers out there whom we should also be remembering?

    Rating * * * * *

    5 stars. Time Split covers both the journey and the destination aspect of a time travel novel, and manages to both create and avoid time travel paradoxes in only 150 pages.

    Time Split by Patricia Smith: a beautifully succinct time travel novella which works on a single time line. Change the future of your grandparent? Now that’s really asking for trouble!

    An excerpt from Time Split is available on Patricia’s web page (as well as details on her other books) and you can get hold of a copy from Amazon.co.uk. Patricia is on Facebook and Twitter.

    Upcoming sequel

    Time Split can be read independently and makes a great novella on it’s own. But I was really pleased to hear that Patricia is currently writing a sequel in response to several reader requests. With permission, I include here the blurb for the upcoming sequel.


    Sarah suddenly found herself standing near a town square, the cry still deep in her throat. Her initial shock gave way instantly to surprise when she realised everything Jason had said was true. She had wanted to believe him but, despite this, a small part of her mind had denied it could ever be possible, yet here she was in Jason’s Germany.

    A demonstration was taking place and in the commotion nobody had even noticed her unusual arrival.

    Quickly she looked around. There was no time to lose. She had to find Jason; she had to find him now. Three minutes, her mind kept screaming, only three minutes, he had said.

    She scanned the streets, her senses on high alert, but could not see him anywhere. She started towards the square, then suddenly she was bumped from behind. She glanced at the perpetrator, as they passed, and was shocked to see it was Jason.

    She tried to grab him, but missed.

    “Jason!” she yelled. “Stop! You must listen!”

    He continued through the crowd, the noise of the demonstration drowning out her cries, oblivious to her presence.

    Sarah could see the door to a building across the street open; some men in uniform were making their way down the stairs.

    As Jason crossed the road towards them, she found herself caught up in the crowd. Pushing against the mass, she forced her way through the demonstrators and was just about to break free when her right arm was abruptly grabbed from behind.

    Sarah looked back shocked, then stopped and stared, her mouth open in astonishment. For vital seconds it seemed as if time was no longer fluid, but instead was frozen like ice. The crowd around her blurred as though part of a dream and the only reality was the man who stood before her.

    “Briggs,” she said, so quietly she could barely hear her own voice. “How the hell did you get here?”


    Paul

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    Review: Hexad The Factory by Al. K. Line

    Hexad The Factory is a great comedy time travel novel with looping in time of characters, objects and a resourceful (though sometimes over-used) application of the ontological paradox. The story line is original and there’s plenty to keep the reader wondering what’s going to happen next.

    Hexad: The Factory is a delightful time travel comedy which centers around Dale and Amanda who struggle to come to terms with time travel and using time travel to save the universe.

    Book cover for Hexad: The Factory (Al K. LIne)
    Book cover for Hexad: The Factory (Al K. LIne)

    Hexad asks the question: What if everyone could time travel? It’s almost a blindingly obvious question and yet somehow I’ve read very little about it. Al K. Line takes a very interesting view on one of the possible outcomes – with lots of twists and turns along the way.

    The opening chapters really set the scene by introducing the main characters – Amanda and Dale. These two are a lovable couple who have a believable and healthy relationship. Both have strengths and weaknesses and these come into play in how they relate to each other and to the problem at hand – saving the universe.

    The first chapter in particular had me smiling at the ignorance of their cluelessness about time travel but at the same time an awareness of the paradoxes that can arise. Since they didn’t know what was going on for a long time, it likewise took me quite a while to figure out what the story line was and I suppose I felt like Amanda and Dale did – having things thrown at me and not knowing where I was going.

    This isn’t a bad thing – Hexad is for the most part very light-hearted, and written with the ease and wackyness of Douglas Adams’ Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s good stuff! πŸ™‚

    Time travel

    The time travel device is the “Hexad” which Dale digs up from his back yard. It’s a small hand held device and allows 6 jumps in time (hence, presumably, the name). How it’s invented is the ultimate causal loop; instructions being sent to the past from the future.

    A brief nod was given to the danger of travelling in time to a place below ground or to where a cat, for example, already occupies the space. Whilst novels such as Nathan Van Coops’ The Chronothon go to great lengths to deal with problem, it was shrugged off here. However, that’s in keeping with Dale’s character and in the style of the novel.

    “It’s already happened so it has to happen”

    Predestination (having no choice because the future is already determined) is the underlying motivation for much of the novel and is both a strength and a downfall for Hexad: The Factory.

    At times the theme is used cleverly to move the plot forwards or to get out of tricky situations (the future me will come back to 2 minutes from now and do something to help us out). I especially liked how Dale and Amanda make efforts to close time loops and make good in the future the actions of the past. Unfortunately the theme did start to get repetitive and conversations about the nature of time travel tended to fixate on causal loops paradoxes. After a while it simply got stale.


    Dale / Amanda: “I don’t know if we should do it…”

    Amanda / Dale: “Me neither but we do it anyway don’t we?”

    Dale / Amanda: “What do you mean?”

    Amanda / Dale: “The future us has has already done it so no matter what we do, we end up doing it.”

    Dale / Amanda: “I don’t get it. This time travel is really doing my head in.”

    Amanda / Dale: “Me too. Let’s have a drink.”


    To be fair, there are slight variations in how these situations come about. Indeed, there are many terms which relate to them; “ontological paradox”, “causal loop”, “predestination”, “bootstrap paradox” and the “self-fulfilling prophecy”. I googled each of them – and there are very subtle differences in very subtly different circumstances, but it pretty much amounts to the same thing – there’s no creative origin.

    The basis of Hexad: The Factory centres around a fantastic idea – what happened to the universe that it needed saving? Al delivers this smoothly in bite size chunks throughout the novel and lets it unfold slowly instead of spewing it out in one unrealistic go.

    However, I can’t help thinking that there’s a flaw.

    [showhide type=”pressrelease” more_text=”Spoiler alert! Show more. (%s More Words)” less_text=”Hide spoiler (%s Less Words)” hidden=”yes”]


    The universe needed to keep adjusting to accommodate millions of individual changes in time. This suggests that there is only one universe because otherwise each change would create an alternate time line or universe.

    But the fact that there are multiple versions of Amanda makes it clear that there indeed many time lines.

    Or have I missed something…?[/showhide]


    Confusion?

    Al writes clearly and in an easy to read style, whilst at the same time conveying some tricky concepts regarding time travel. But I did get a bit confused over two key points:

    The first is why hexads were manufactured with certain ingredients. This is an important point, because the way in which Dale saves the universe is related to the ingredients (I’m deliberately keeping this vague to avoid spoilers..) and it wasn’t in keeping with his character. That said, it was a ‘good’ solution to the predicament that the universe found itself in.

    I also didn’t realise the full horror of the factory which manufactured the hexads until towards the end of the novel, i.e. the second time that it was written about. The first time, Amanda and Dale are shocked, but we don’t really know why. The second time it is very clear…and horrific.

    In retrospect I can see why the novel is named “The Factory”, but with that in mind I think more clarity would have been welcome. This is an important point because when further details are given over to the factory towards the end the humorous aspect vanishes and the novel takes on a very different tone which is distinctly separate from the earlier part. It was quite horrific in some places though I must admit that I am probably over-sensitive when it comes to blood and guts.

    Curve balls

    Hexad The Factory is a wacky – but structured – novel. Just when I was getting ‘settled’ into thinking “OK, I think I know what’s going to happen here…” it turns out that I didn’t. Al kept me on my toes by continually hurtling curve balls at me. This makes for a fast moving novel and one which stands out from others with insightful ideas and conclusions to “What if?” scenarios. Here’s one: Can you have an affair with a different version of your wife?

    Rating * * * * *

    Four and a half stars. That’s the first time I’ve given a non integer star value!

    I thoroughly enjoyed Hexad: The Factory – lots of thoughts about time travel and Amanda and Dale are good eggs. The story line is original and there’s plenty to keep the reader wondering what’s going to happen next. The loss of half a star is that many of the time travel discussions ended in the same way – ideas of predestination, a statement that time travel does your head in and a suggestion to get a drink. It got to be a bit too repetitive, but this is only one aspect of a multi-faceted novel

    Hexad The Factory: a great comedy time travel novel with looping in time of characters, objects and a resourceful (though sometimes over-used) application of the ontological paradox.

    You can read a Q & A with Al K. Line on his website and follow Al on Facebook.

    Paul

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    Star ratings:

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

    Review: Inevitable by Steven Cotton

    Inevitable by Steven Cotton is a superb mix of hard core science with philosophy, delicately underlined with a romantic thread. By the end I was left thinking “Blimey – this could actually happen!”

    Inevitable by Steven Cotton is a superb mix of hard core science with philosophy, delicately underlined with a romantic thread.

    Inevitable book cover

    I love Inevitable! It doesn’t dumb down* scientific ideas – it adds to them and ‘runs away’ with them to create a novel which leaves you panting at the end thinking “Blimey…this could actually happen!” Is this a huge thought experiment laid out as a novel by Steven Cotton, or is it a description of what is to come?

    (*OK, I should of course add the caveat that maybe I’m a “dumbo” and that I’m reading at my own level…but I’d like to think that isn’t the case! πŸ˜‰

    Synopsis

    Dr Jake Banner’s Egyptian friend, Dr Syed Azad, discovers an ancient stone tablet which bears Schrodinger’s equation on it. Jake enlists help from a friend and colleague, Dr Linda Cooper, and together they visit Syed in Egypt to glean more information relating to the tablet – it’s origin, and how the message came to be there. Analyses show that there is additional information to the equation, and that there are a further 2 tablets with similar mysteries surrounding them. The story is centered around both the meaning and the origin of the messages hidden within these 3 stone tablets.

    Characters

    Inevitable is written in the first person – and needs to be because much of the beauty of this novel is the thought process that Jake undertakes. This isn’t the mundane “I thought I was hungry so I ate something”, it’s on a higher intellectual level. He uses quotes from research and novels that he’s read, even imaginary conversations with eminent people inside his head(!). The follow-on thought processes and introspection are what drives the plot forwards.

    It’s important to note though that Jake isn’t a dried up crusty old scientist who sits in his ivory tower. He has an interest in many things outside the scientific realm, and the important take home message here is that the first person narrative is told in a chatty manner and not as a tedious lecture.

    Jake is friends with Egyptologist Syed. Syed speaks with very slightly incorrect English which serves as a realistic point of interest rather than as a disruption (some authors spell out accents phonetically which I find really irritating.) Although the friendship between Jake and Syed is a bit laboured, it is through Syed that Jake finds out about the tablet, and it is through Syed’s local connections that analyses on the tablet care performed to reveal hidden messages. It is also through Syed that another two tablets are recovered which also contain messages – and later a fourth, albeit written in a different ‘accent’.

    Jake bounces his ideas off friend and colleague Linda. She’s quick to latch onto the ideas behind what Jake thinks, but ultimately she’s the romantic interest rather than a real asset to the furtherment of understanding as to what’s going on with these tablets.

    Overall, it seems that Syed does the work and Jake does the thinking with a little help from Linda. It’s a bizarre form of muscle, brains and beauty.

    The Tablets

    Where “stone tablets” immediately make me think of the Biblical Moses, the extraction of information from them reminds me of the Contact movie, based on Carl Sagan’s novel of the same name. In the movie (I can’t remember if it was also in the novel) the extraction of information from a seemingly simple signal received extra-terrestrially became increasingly complex, and that’s what Jake and his crew discover with the tablets.

    Syed’s analyses don’t directly lead to understanding much of the meaning or origin of the tablet messages, but several thought experiments and theories are thrown into the mixing pot and are carried forward to varying extents to see if any hold any merit. Was Schrodinger scooped by 5 thousand years, or were the tablets transported back in time to ancient Egypt from the future? Are there multiple universes and / or time lines? To what extent do ontological paradoxes mean that our experiences are pre-programmed, and crucially – what does that mean?

    Sometimes I found that the assumptions within the logical way of thinking things through seemed a bit too abrupt; for example, the idea that future versions of “ABC” (Azad, Banner and Cooper) sent themselves these tablets. In itself, this idea reminded me of something similar though I can’t remember where (possibly Greg Bear’s Eon?), but apart from the alphabetiscism, the idea seemed to come out of nowhere and got latched on to and taken forwards without any external corroboration.

    To be fair, many of these ideas came out of deep and complex scientific principles which are only lightly touched upon. Indeed, the author (Steven Cotton) is currently working on general relativity and quantum mechanics and I’d be willing to accept that he knows what he’s on about when it comes to scientific footings.

    The glaring open question for me was: how do these guys know they have all of the tablets? Indeed, an additional fourth tablet was found, though it’s different from the first three in subtle ways. Ultimately, the (or a) complete picture could be painted from what was available – so enough is provided from which the ‘correct’ explanation could be derived. This makes sense if ABC really did send these tablets to themselves – but is this really so?

    Time travel within Inevitable

    Is Inevitable a time travel novel? I’ve discussed before whether a time travel novel ‘should’ centre on the method and intricacies of time travel, or more on the destination – what happens once the time traveller has got to their temporal destination.

    It turns out that Inevitable provides a third option: a novel where travelling through time is not necessarily central to the plot but plays a key and integral role in the scientific setting of parallel universes and cross communication.

    So as yet (this is the first book of a series) there is no explicit time machine, but there are many interesting thoughts about time, its nature and what scientists and philosophers think about it. The ideas of eternalism (that all present moments exist concurrently and can be picked and chosen at will like a card from a stack of playing cards), quantum entanglement, predestination and inevitability are integral within the plot and play a vital role along with other scientific and philosophical ideas.

    Pacing

    This isn’t a novel with the mundane bits left out; an unrealistic crystallisation of the juicy sci-fi and nothing else. Rather, this is how it might actually happen, complete with conversations in coffee bars, chats on planes and hanging around waiting for phone calls. Stuff that happens but which isn’t particularly interesting.

    Jake and Linda visit Syed in Egypt so there’s some information about the culture and the political and religious situation there. At times this seemed to be overdone and given too much attention. It’s real life and in keeping with how Jake would both act and think but is it all necessary as a scene setter? Personally I don’t really think so, but I say this with a caveat: earlier in the book Jake questions why Egypt was chosen as a place to ‘hide’ the tablets. This isn’t fully resolved by the end of the book, and I wonder whether it will be returned to in subsequent books in the series.

    There’s a long section on the developing romance between Jake and Linda. I can imagine that the romantic thread was woven into the novel after the main story line was drafted. Thankfully it’s realistic more than contrived, but like my comments above, whilst true to life it got a bit tedious to read. Ultimately, all the stuff about Egypt and the small talk chatting that romance often seems to require meant that it took some 200 pages to simply organise a scan of the tablets.

    Of course, this is realistic. In real life things take much longer than they should. Especially at work. But sometimes I like to pick up a book to escape real life.

    Ironically, I should mention that chapters have both a title and relevant quotations. I found the quotes a nice tie-in between the fictional element of the novel with our real world history where people have actually said these things.

    Next steps

    Earlier I briefly touched on that this is the first book of a series. Whilst the final explanation is not underlined and finalised (that’s the nature of this novel), there are other questions and loose ends which remain open.

    That said, Inevitable makes a good stand-alone read, and there is no cliff hanger, sudden stop, “To be continued…” or suchlike to warrant reading Book 2 a necessity.

    But…I’m glad there is one (and I should admit here that I’ve read selected sections of the opening chapters and it’s looking very promising!)

    Final thoughts

    I don’t normally comment on the art but I will here – I think it lets down the content. In retrospect after reading the novel (or even perhaps just the title and tagline Inevitable: The future has already happened) I can see the idea of “OK then, no free will, let’s just relax and be peaceful” so we have an image of a beach and birds highlighting serenity. But there’s so much more inside the covers.

    Whereas the front cover is probably a matter of taste, I’m feeling a little bit mislead by the back cover blurb.

    Inevitable book blurb
    Back cover book blurb for Inevitable (Steven Cotton)

    Here we read that Linda Cooper is a molecular biologist so I expected some molecular biology – why else would it be mentioned in the cover blurb? It turns out that she’s bright, quick and intelligent. She’s a good sounding block for Jake, and someone with whom he can share his thoughts and ideas for feedback, or just relax with.

    And the “Follow their adventure” line gave me the impression there would be some sort of Indiana Jones – type thing going on, but “adventure” here means “intellectual adventure” in pretty much the same way that a novel doesn’t actually take you off to far away places like a plane ticket would.

    Anyway. These are small points and other than marketing reasons, they’re not that important other than they give credence to the “don’t judge a book by its cover” adage.

    Rating * * * * *

    Despite the disclaimer at the end of this review – the rating is NOT inevitable. There. I’ve made the obvious pun and now I’ll give my rating out of my own free will (or at least under my own personal illusion of it).

    Full 5 stars! Inevitable makes me think under my own steam and with the protagonist. It doesn’t patronise, it just gets on with it! It shows that between the mundane events of life there can be deep scientific and philosophical thoughts which challenge the way we view the reality of the life we think we’re living.

    Paul

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    Star ratings:

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

    The Windmill of Time by Jeffrey Goldberg

    The Windmill of Time (Jeffrey Goldberg) is a time travel memoir, based on real characters and events. Time time travel elements come into play right at the outset, and against the backdrop of a love story it really is very powerful (and excellently written!)

    This is more of a ‘heads up’ post than a review because I haven’t been able to finish The Windmill of Time by Jeffrey Goldberg. I want to be clear though – this is not because it’s a terrible novel and gets the dreaded “DNF” (Did Not Finish because it’s so crap) tag, but simply because I received the ebook and I just don’t get on with that format. I got as far as the end of Chapter 2 and realised that if I continue gluing myself to a phone for some further 350 pages or so I’m going to go insane.

    The Windmill of Time book cover

    So book (or phone…) down.

    But from what I was able to read I thought it was turning out to be a great novel! The Windmill of Time is plugged as a “Time Travel Memoir” so there’s some intrigue – especially as there’s a story behind the story. Often time travel novels are written in the first person because they try to emulate Well’s The Time Machine. Other times, first person narrative really gives something extra to the novel that the usual 3rd person narrative doesn’t or can’t. A stronger feeling of empathy, for example. And in some cases, like Somewhere in Time, there’s a certain identification made by the author to the main character.

    It is this last point which is taken to a higher level in The Windmill of Time; real life events have triggered an almost auto biographical approach to writing this novel ; you can visit Jeffery’s website with more details on this aspect here.

    The difference between the “almost” and the “actual” is the fiction, and to a certain extent, the what if. (Now we’re back to The Time Machine, at least in the 2002 movie remake.)

    Take note – The Windmill of Time isn’t a non fiction essay or diary of a self proclaimed time traveler, but a novel which has been initiated, at least in part, by real life events.

    In the first two chapters we’re introduced to Jeffrey who’s traveled back in time to 1971 so that he can change past events and have a future with his first love (Laureen). We also find out what motivated this action (if not love itself); Jeffrey finds out in the present that Laureen has died and he’s thrown into emotional turmoil. He’ll do anything to change the past.

    The prologue and two chapters I read weren’t in chronological order in terms of Jeffrey’s experience, that is we first read about Jeffrey getting prepped for the time machine, going back in time and seeing Laureen again, and then in Chapter 2 we’re in the present and feel how Jeffrey feels when he discovers his college sweet heart has died.

    Personally I like this kind of jiggling around with chapter order as long as it’s clear from the outset what is going on – and it is here. I also liked being thrust into some time travel related conundrums in the first chapter; Jeffrey is back in his younger body but needs to reconcile his memories from what will become his future against what his younger self has not yet experienced.

    And following chapters? Time (and reading!) will tell, but I think the outlook is good! πŸ™‚

    All author profits from sales of The Windmill of Time will be donated to Breast Cancer Research and the Susan G. Komen Foundation in memory of Laureen Tanaka-Sanders.

    Paul

    [last call]

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    Review: The Tunnel by Josh Anderson

    Josh Anderson’s “The Tunnel” is Book 1 of the Time of Death series for young adults. Time travel is via a “silk blot” which is a really original method of time travel, providing an entrance (and exit) to a tunnel complete with ladders and rungs marking the year. Lots of interesting threads, but sadly there’s no closure, just a “To be continued…”.

    The Tunnel is Book 1 of 6 in Josh Anderson’s Time of Death series and is geared towards Young Adults.

    The Tunnel (Time of Death #1)

    The Tunnel follows Kyle, a high schooler who gets high with a friend and causes a collision with a school bus in a drink / drug road accident. All 12 children and the driver (plus his friend) are killed. Kyle’s presented with a chance to go back in time and fix things and the novel deals with how he goes about it.

    Kyle

    I have zero tolerance for drink / drug driving so I immediately disliked Kyle and his idiot friend. But I soon warmed up to him; he’s genuinely sorry for what he did and becomes obsessed with the victims of his earlier stupidity. This is an important point – I find it much easier to read first person books when I can identify with the first person. Kyle is smart and flexible, and I was happy to read about his mission to put his past mistake right.

    Kyle winds up in jail and becomes friends with his cell mate Ochoa, a guy who’s the complete opposite of Kyle. As Kyle points out, Ochoa looks after him inside; outside it’s the other way around, and this is where we see a side of Kyle who is able to think things through and give the reader a further insight into the consequences of historical actions.

    Time Travel…with a silk blot!

    Kyle is contacted and told that he can time travel if he has the genetic predisposition for it. He’s also warned about the butterfly effect (which was explained very nicely) and cautioned that time resists change. This means that the new time that he travels to is not welcoming and will seek to push him out.

    I thought that this last point was superb, reminding me a little of the Final Destination movies where nature detects ‘anomalies’ and seeks to remove them.

    Time travel is possible via a silk blot. I had no idea what a silk blot was, so I googled it and the first hit was some sort of World of Warcraft weapon called a “bolt of silk” (notice typo)! Anyway, further reading in the novel made it clear that it’s a silk scarf thing. Certainly not so deadly, but much more likely to help you against catching your death of cold. Good job Kyle knew what to expect when a silk blot turned up in his jail cell!

    Now that’s an original time machine! The silk blot serves as an entrance (or exit) to a tunnel – complete with ladder and rungs marking the year – which allows exit at a chosen temporal location. Kyle is easily able to make the trip from 2016 back to 1998, whereas Ochoa – who sees a way out of jail and follows Kyle – found it physically exhausting, the implication being that he wasn’t genetically disposed to time travel.

    Note that 1998 isn’t when the bus accident happened; it’s earlier. Kyle’s opportunity to change history is more involved than what we might initially think would be the obvious solution.

    Despite the warnings, one of them meets themselves and suffers the consequences – a nice (though graphic) nod to the biolocation paradox in time travel, where meeting yourself can cause problems.

    We don’t follow Kyle back to the present 2016 but to 2014 when the accident happened to see how the ‘new’ history plays out. At first I thought this was a a bit strange and a cheat (because it’s simply rewriting what has already happened without acknowledgment of what happened the first time around), but actually it struck me that this was really good – often we just read that history was different, but here we’re immersed in it (again).

    Back in 2016, parts where history changes are a confusion to Kyle’s eidetic memory which plays up a little and gets fuzzy in places. I thought that using eidetic memory as a tool for comparison between histories was another great idea!

    Time of Death

    What makes The Tunnel especially interesting is the number of threads and open questions which run through it. Within the novel some are addressed quite quickly, others are more long term before they get resolved. But as I could sense the end of the novel approaching I was facing a rising panic that everything would be resolved in a rushed manner and spewed out.

    Thankfully there was no spew, but in its place was the dreaded “TO BE CONTINUED…” πŸ™

    *Growl.*

    So the novel died. Completely. Time of death: Page 216. Resuscitation in Book 2.

    I really enjoyed The Tunnel – lots of threads to follow and a main character who meets and interacts with other interesting characters, so to stop and plug Book 2 is a huge let down. It drives me insane; it’s only a short novel and with no closure I feel cheated. I’d suggest it should be a Part 1 not a Book 1.

    Self incompleteness is my only negative comment – but otherwise it’s excellent!

    Rating * * * *

    If it wasn’t for the early death of the novel, The Tunnel would have got 5 stars. Indeed, perhaps I should be reviewing the book not as a stand alone novel, but indeed as a Book 1; how does it set the scene for Book 2? Am I eager enough to read the next book in the series? etc.. But I’m not sure. I suppose I could only read and review in such a way in retrospect after reading the entire series, and ultimately I guess that’s the way The Tunnel has been written.

    Judging from this book, I’m sure that the Time of Death series will continue onwards to the full 5 stars!

    Paul

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    Star ratings:

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

    Review: The Time Jigsaw Deliverance by David Munro

    I’m angered, confused, frustrated and impressed all at the same time with The Time Jigsaw Deliverance! It’s written superbly ( David Munro) – but nothing happens!

    I’m angered, confused, frustrated and impressed all at the same time when it comes to The Time Jigsaw Deliverance!

    Deliverance is the sequel to The Time Jigsaw. I haven’t read the first book, and after reading Deliverance I’m not sure whether I wish I had spent time with the first book or not; if it’s anything like Deliverance, I’m glad I didn’t waste my time. But at the same time I wonder if it would have given me an insight into what was going on.

    If it weren’t for the fact that I’d committed to reading and reviewing Deliverance, it would have been a “Did Not Finish”, but I have finished it (thankfully quickly – it’s an easy read) and in a way the characters remain with me; the writing is that powerful.

    Time Jigsaw Deliverance

    Writing style

    The writing style is absolutely superb – it’s mostly dialogue and internal thoughts from one of three first person characters, James and Elizabeth Carsell-Brown, and James Carlisle. It’s brilliantly done, where first person thoughts help to paint both a physical picture as well as describe the mood of the time. Dialogue about seemingly mundane stuff also adds to the atmosphere.

    The novel is set in 1929, and somehow reading it feels like watching an old black and white movie; I can almost see the characters conversing with each other (and with a host of supporting actors) where the action is in the words interspersed with a few key events. It has a certain enchantment to it.

    Pacing

    Here’s the big but(t). Deliveranceis like an elephant – it’s strong, it’s powerful, but it’s incredibly slow. The difference is that an elephant packs his trunk and actually goes somewhere.

    Deliverance - Big, powerful but moves slowly.
    Big, powerful but moves slowly. (Image courtesy: Kerryn du Plessis)

    Whilst the writing style I mentioned above is excellent, I’ve got no idea what is being written about or what the central plot is. The story line (whatever it is) goes nowhere…slowly.

    It’s not until 75 pages in that a hint of a plot starts to develop with the musings of a guardian angel (reminding me of Lightning by Dean Koonst) and there’s mention of a time traveler some 20 pages later – but these events are very quickly passed over, almost ignored. The candle flame of interest is snuffed out.

    If this really was a movie, as I mentioned above, I’d have been able to safely leave the room and make a cup of tea, listening in from the kitchen with one ear, and come back to a plot which has hopefully progressed.

    But the continued dialogue with small talk with a multitude of secondary characters made me feel I was no longer watching a black and white movie but rather reading the script of a crap soap where nothing happens. But we still watch soaps, and likewise, I still ploughed on, reading in grim determination and in the hope that something would happen.

    It did, eventually. About two thirds into the book the fist person character shifts to a time traveller.

    Time Travel?

    The Amazon description for Book 1 (The Time Jigsaw) indicates that James Carsell-Brown time travels from one period to another.

    I didn’t get that idea in Deliverance, rather James is visited by Lori, a lady from the future with an Irish accent who is “…aware where and when certain incidents will happen”. James doesn’t seem that surprised about it. He mentions it to his wife (Elizabeth) in passing, and she pretty much talks over it.

    In the last third of the novel the first person transfers to James Carlisle, aka the Coachman, who saved Elizabeth several years before, and who experiences “time shifts”. There are no insights into what he’s doing, why or how. On the penultimate page it is revealed who he saved earlier in the novel, but…so what? It isn’t a great revelation or the sewing together of any loose ends. Aaargh!

    Having opted for reading Deliverance instead of watching paint dry, I was extremely disappointed that there was no elaboration on the time travel front. Actually, on any front.

    So I’m really angered and frustrated – I don’t know if anything actually happened, or whether there was a clever intricate web of characters and timing and I missed it due to having not read the first book, or having key parts of the novel wash over me as my brain was numb in waiting for something to happen. Is Lori in Book 1? Are James Carsell-Brown and James Carlisle actually one and the same?

    The author review on Goodreads mentions that there’s a “…time travel element in the form of an old friend’s appearance” – but who is this old friend? Lori? Who is she? She seems to disappear with James Carsell-Brown’s death. Or the coachman (James Carlisle)? But he wasn’t really a friend. I never understood who he was.

    Final thoughts

    Some reviewers have noted that this novel has been well researched.

    Perhaps this is the clue. My ignorance in history and historical characters is embarrassingly dismal. Laurel and Hardy make an appearance – perhaps other (famous) people do, but I just didn’t realise.

    When I read it I was waiting for something to happen, and certainly by the end I was feeling very angry and frustrated that nothing actually had. But now a few days later I find myself thinking about the characters. In this way the writing is very powerful considering it only consists of dialogue.

    To be honest I don’t know what further to add to this review. It’s powerful writing, but nothing happens.

    Rating *

    1 star. Technically it’s not “crud” – see my star rating system definition below – as it’s very well written…it’s just that I don’t get what’s being written about. Maybe reading Book 1 (The Time Jigsaw) is a strict pre-requisite, and it’s my own failing (and loss) for not having done so.

    Paul

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    Disclaimer: Although I didn’t get the story line, I did get a copy of “The Time Jigsaw Deliverance” free of charge to read and review.

    Star ratings:

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

    Review: Crossing in Time by D. L. Orton

    Crossing in Time has a foot in two camps – romance (actually, sexual attraction) and science fiction. The trouble is that almost literally the legs are split too far between these camps. The story line is strong and engaging, and there’s a wealth of juicy time travel ideas and gadgetry in there written against a very knowledgeable (and humourous) backdrop.

    Crossing in Time: The First Disaster is D. L. Orton’s first book in the Between Two Evils series.

    crossing in time

    In short, Isabelle needs to go back in time to rescue her failed relationship with Diego to save the world. It’s not difficult to see where Crossing in Time has its two focuses; a science fiction element encompassing time travel, and the relationship between Isabelle and Diego.

    Chapter page
    No, that’s not a typo!

    We’re not allowed to judge a book by its cover, but I’ll give a brief heads-up to the chapter header pages; some think the following might be a small point but I like it; they have a hand drawn picture on them which is slightly descriptive (as is the chapter title) and helps to give the book a feel of real craftsmanship.

    There’s also an indication of the subject of the first person who varies between three or four main characters. It’s sort of obvious from the reading, but the chapter heading makes it clear right from the start and you can get straight into the mindset of the first person character without that frustrating initial who is this? moment.

    Writing Style

    D. L. Orton is clearly well versed in science fiction from literature and movies, and this percolates throughout the novel. This comes in the form of various quotes and references or parallels drawn in similar circumstances, and again makes me feel that I’m reading a well crafted product.

    Woven within the plot itself is subtle humour; it’s really well done because it doesn’t negate or lower the tone which D. L. Orton has skillfully set into place, but enhances feelings and emotions felt by the characters. This isn’t a comedy novel, rather comedy is used as a tool within it.

    In addition to the scientific placing and the developed characters, there’s the shifting point of view with multiple first person characters who give differing angles and views on events (and other characters). The final concoction is a well thought out novel with interesting characters, situations and a fascinating underlying plot!

    Time travel

    There are some brilliant time travel and related science fiction ideas in Crossing in Time. At times though I felt that they could have been introduced or explained a little more instead of simply mentioned in passing. It’s not that it was too complicated; I just thought there were some missed opportunities to expand on some fantastic ideas where other areas of the novel seemed to attract a huge amount of (unnecessary) attention.

    Diego is the first to time travel. Actually this is after much testing – though some may argue not enough! πŸ˜‰ A team of scientists develops theories into the worlds of parallel universes and time lines, as well as instrumentation such as peepers to gain insights into them.

    Through these scientific tests and discussions over the results we learn more behind the mechanics of the time travel element. The ubiquitous bureaucracy, red tape and village idiots inject a certain amount of realism and credibility to the saga.

    Whereas Diego’s trip in time has huge question marks hanging over it, things are a bit clearer for Isabelle, and indeed we follow Isabelle back in time to when she was with Diego in their early years together. Isabelle now has a younger body back in this history, that is to say, a body commensurate with the date. I immediately questioned whether she’d taken her old self’s place, or whether she was a second version, and if so, where was the ‘original’? Just as I was starting to think a hole was developing, clarity came in the text!

    Actually, this happens quite frequently in Crossing in Time – I’d think there was a discrepancy or something vital missing only to read the explanation moments later. Note this is just me – it’s my own weakness that I ask too many questions, and in this case, I slowly learned that D. L. Orton would answer my questions at the proper time!

    Isabelle and Diego

    I’m giving this a separate section as it’s an important part of the novel, though I’ve only got three main things to say about it.

  • I thought that D. L. Orton captures really well an older Isabelle in a younger body meeting her boyfriend again. She retains memory and wisdom from the older self, and still has the excitement from the early days.
  • A mysterious man in a panama hat buys lunch for Diego and Isabella. I’m always suspicious of “mysterious” people in time travel novels as more often than not they turn out to be a key character from the the future. Hopefully I’m wrong here!
  • I was saddened that Isabelle thought that the best way to keep her and Diego together in the future was to teach him primarily how to respond to her sexual desires. Marriage is deeper than that.
  • Apart from these observations, I can’t think of much else to say about it. Just lovey dovey stuff and erotica.

    Erotica

    D.L. Orton ‘warned’ me beforehand that there was erotica in Crossing in Time and was curious to know what I thought about it from a male perspective. That comes as a relief, because for me to give a female perspective would be either impossible or painful. So here it is.

    I didn’t like it.

    To be honest it wasn’t as explicit as I was expecting, in fact it struck me as being done quite tastefully, but yes, it was graphic.

    I’ve nothing against erotica being in a novel – it’s what couples do. We also wait for buses and do the laundry but the point is that I’m just not interested in reading about it. Isabelle and Diego may as well have planted some grass seeds and watched them grow, or painted walls and watched them dry. So what?

    In fairness to them, sex seems to be the crux behind their relationship (see last bullet point above) and of course that’s up to them, but that’s not really my issue.

    But that’s just subjective personal preference. My main gripe in its inclusion isn’t the content. It’s how it drags on and on, adding nothing to depth of character (please don’t take that the wrong way…) or obstinately not taking the plot forwards. I simply felt awkward reading it (for the reasons I mentioned above) and I gained nothing for it πŸ™

    A volcano with no eruption

    Crossing in Time is not self complete. Perhaps this is an unfair thing to comment on in a review of a book which quite clearly says “Book 1” on the cover, but I feel especially cheated because for the last quarter of the novel I was wasting my time reading about the the physical relationship whilst the plot stagnated.

    I was reminded of a recent visit to Mount Etna.

    cable car up Etna

    Flashback: A little while ago I went on an organised tour up Mount Etna. It was a really early start (4:15 am) and on the way we stopped for a bite to eat. It took 3 hours. We also stopped off to be pressured into buying some tourist crap. For an hour.

    Eventually we got to Mount Etna and took a cable car to take us 500 m higher. Excellent stuff! At the top were off road vehicles which could take us right to the smoking rumbling crater rim; the stuff we’d come for!

    But we’d arrived at the site too late; there was only half an hour before the last cable car left to take us back down. I was gutted. The whole purpose of the trip was to get to the top of an active volcano but too much time was wasted beforehand. Instead we could only rumble around the barren rocky landscape.

    offroad

    And it’s the same with this novel. Pages and pages of leg caressing and touching inner thighs…and then…the book ends. There’s no off-roader to move the story line on.

    *Growl*

    So is this a teaser for Book 2? Maybe, but I’d fear that Book 2, and subsequent books until the last one, will end similarly.

    But the story line is strong and ultimately I’d love to read the whole series to see how it pans out.

    And Finally

    A little while ago a friend asked whether I read predominantly male written books, or female. I’d never really thought about it before; to be honest I go straight for the book descriptions and things. Judging a book by it’s cover is quoted for being bad, judging one by the sex of its author I think is insane.

    But that said…it turns out that most books on my read list are written by men. That’s not me deliberately picking out male books, and equally I hope that it’s not that I have a natural preference for male written books. Or come to think of it, I hope it’s also that there aren’t enough science fiction books out there written by women (or girls).

    So somehow that makes Crossing in Time special in that somehow it’s made its way from the mind of a female author through my eyeballs and onto my retina, tumbling into my brain and providing me with much enjoyment.

    Because it’s written by a woman?

    No. Because it’s a great novel with some brilliant science fiction written against a knowledgeable (and humourous) backdrop!

    Rating * * * *

    Crossing in Time has a foot in two camps – romance (actually, sexual attraction) and science fiction. The trouble is that almost literally the legs are split too far between these camps.

    The story line is strong and engaging, and there’s a wealth of juicy time travel ideas and gadgetry in there. I’d love to read the whole series, so for these reasons I’m giving Crossing in Time 4 stars, loosing a star due to the prolonged and unnecessary slushy stuff. I’m cautious though, because focusing on this single book is like judging a meal by the way the waitress walks when she brings you the starter.

    (And in this case, the waitress wrote the menu pretty well too! πŸ˜‰ )

    Read my interview with Deb on Time Travel Nexus where she shares her thoughts on her writing process, inspiration, relationships…and molluscs!

    Paul

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    Disclaimer: A copy of “Crossing in Time” was sent to me free of charge to read and review. This it!

    Star ratings:

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

    Review: Exploits in Time by Nicholas C. Thomas

    Exploits in Time (Nicholas C. Thomas) is a fantastic collection of 10 stories with original takes on the mysteries of time travel and other ideas in science fiction. Ultimately, it has at least something for everyone with an interest in science fiction, and if you’re lucky, it has even more!

    Exploits in Time by Nicholas C. Thomas is a fantastic collection of 10 short stories with original takes on the mysteries of time travel and other ideas in science fiction.

    Exploits in Time book cover

    Ten out of Ten!

    A possible pitfall with collections of short stories is that there may be one or two stories which just don’t cut it. Thankfully this is not the case with Exploits in Time – I found all of the shorts to be engaging, and there isn’t one (or more) which I’d single out that I wish I’d not spent my time on.

    This is a great feat when you consider the enormous scope of subjects within the collection! Actually the breadth of scope also bears testament to both the quality of the writing and the presentation of the stories themselves. For example, “Poltergeist” is about a Poltergeist (…obviously!). I’m not a fan of supernatural things so I was expecting my anomalously ‘bad’ story to be this one, but Nicholas C. Thomas puts a intriguing angle on it that it kept me engrossed all the way through!

    Simply put, it’s the story and the delivery which make these short stories entertaining – not just the subject.

    So Exploits in Time is up there with Jack Finney’s About Time which is the only other collection of short stories (to date) where I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each one. (Actually the main problem with About Time is that it inspired me to buy Time and Again which turned out to be a horrendous read *growl*.)

    Writing Style

    Generally speaking I find the length of each story to be sitting comfortably in the Goldilocks Zone – long enough to get stuck into and make it meaty, and short enough to keep it punchy.

    I particularly like the style in which Nicholas C. Thomas writes – primarily he uses dialogue to paint pictures and describes things, and leaves out much of the dry narrative that often beefs up short stories unnecessarily. The result is a beautifully succinct short story which is sweet and to the point and I think marks Nicholas C. Thomas as a remarkable and unique author.

    The other hidden gem is the scientific content. It’s not full blown and in your face, but it’s certainly there, and the ideas are presented with fascinating – yet consistent – twists and turns. For me, this is a real bonus; black box is fine, but getting into the nuts and bolts of it all (and having a good play around) is so much more fun!

    Ultimately, Exploits in Time has at least something for everyone with an interest in science fiction, and if you’re lucky, it has even more!

    Exploits in Time is published by Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd and is available from Amazon, Waterstones and Blackwell’s (see links at footer of publisher’s page).

    Paul

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    Disclaimer: A copy of “Exploits in Time” was sent to me free of charge to read and provide an honest opinion. This is it! (But of course you are more than welcome to read this book for yourself and form your own views! πŸ˜‰

    Star ratings:

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

    Review: Bridgevine by John Feldman

    Bridgevine (John Feldman) is a very easy read with a simple plot involving time travel, but obvious time travel questions are ignored rather than left open. Repetition and over explanation, plus an immature main character lead me to believe this is a novel aimed at young adults or to be taken on holiday. On the positive side there are some nice examples of how and why a time machine can be used.

    Bridgevine is a very easy read with a simple plot involving time travel; Mike’s sister is killed in a high school shooting. This motivates him to design and build a time machine with the intention to go back in time to prevent her death, but when push comes to shove Mike is wary about his capabilities in reshaping history, and he’s just received a large financial offer for his time machine…

    Bridgevine book cover

    General

    What immediately strikes me is the first person present tense writing style. It’s active and immersive and I straight away felt very involved in the plot; the equivalent of reading a book in 3D!

    The main character is Mike and the plot develops through him and how he deals with the possibilities of going back in time to ultimately save his sister, as well as living a life of luxury from an offer made to buy his time machine. Mike’s thought processes through the novel are really nicely expressed so the reader knows exactly what’s going on and why Mike behaves the way he does.

    About half way into the novel though, repetition starts to dominate clarity. I don’t think Mike comes back to rethinking various issues, but perhaps the repetition serves as a reminder for a reader on vacation who reads sections of the book in short sittings? There are also some laboured over-explanations. For example, the time machine is first referred to as “MO2Y” then later, “Molly”. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why so I felt a bit patronised when it was quite literally spelled out for me (though admittedly chronologically speaking it was actually called “Molly” before MO2Y).

    All in all though, Bridgevine is a gentle read if you can overlook the repetition.

    The Time Travel Element

    The second chapter has Mike presenting his time machine to a commercial company, so time travel makes an early appearance. Despite me ‘listening in’ on that meeting as a reader, Molly’s workings remain black box – albeit with a spattering of superficial explanation. But that’s not the point; the point is what Molly can be used for, and also what it can represent in terms of financial security for Mike and his girlfriend Rebecca. Actually there are some very nice ideas about how and what a time travel machine can be used for which I must admit I hadn’t even stopped to think about before!

    Given that Mike’s motivation to create Molly was to change history with the view to altering the present, there’s a glaring possibility of the Grandfather paradox – the design and creation of the time machine was triggered when Mike’s sister was shot. If Mike goes back to prevent her death then he has no motivation to create the time machine, and no time machine means he wouldn’t be able to go back and prevent her death…

    I probably shouldn’t get caught up in detail but a few other time travel issues hit me. Changing the past seems to have no effect on Paul (Mike’s present-bound friend) who to his knowledge didn’t know the outcomes of Mike’s practice missions once he had returned from the past to the present. So how does an altered history permeate through time and into the future – and how quickly do these changes take place?

    There’s also an issue of how much time passes in the present whilst Mike is in the past. I’d guess it’s “real time”, i.e. Mike spends 2 hours in the past so he returns to the present 2 hours later, but it wasn’t specified. Perhaps this isn’t an important point, but I gathered from the blurb that Mike’s actions in the past were immediately affecting events in the present – this is not the case. I’m not sure if this is an inaccurate blurb or my own misunderstanding.

    On a similar footing, when Mike goes back and changes the past to alter the present no account is given to the people in the ‘original’ present. For example, his mother is an unhappy wretch following the death of her daughter. When the past is changed, she’s now happy. So where is the unhappy mother? Did she ever exist? Has she been shoved off into a parallel universe or alternate time line? (Pause for thought…if it’s the latter, is changing the past really a solution?)

    This issue comes to light when Mike meets his sister’s husband who’s met Mike before – but Mike doesn’t remember it. i.e. the Mike we follow hasn’t had that experience, but clearly another version of him has. So there are two versions of him (in total, not concurrently), but who’s who and who’s where?

    To be fair, it isn’t bad that these questions don’t have answers – it’s what makes time travel interesting! But I do feel that ignoring the open questions completely in a time travel novel is a missed opportunity.

    Something I do particularly like is how multiple versions of the same person at the same time is avoided – Molly won’t allow it; Mike can’t go back to the same time (and place) that he’s already been. Mike checking his coding to see if this is a bug is a brilliant touch! πŸ˜‰

    So the solution to one of nature’s paradoxes wasn’t explicitly mentioned, but it’s there. Perhaps the same holds true for my earlier points but I’m just too dumb to realise!

    Mike

    I think the designer of a time machine needs a special section! πŸ˜‰

    Mike’s 27, but doesn’t act like it – though maybe this is the dumbing down for an easier holiday read.

    Some aspects of Mike seem to be idiotic. He lets things spiral out of control and tends to sit back and wallow and ignore (or not think about) the obvious solution. This is a huge disappointment from someone who’s bright enough to develop and build a time machine!

    Actually most of Mike’s concerns have very simple alternative solutions. For example, he plans to go back to the day of his sister’s shooting to save her life. But he’s worried that he’s going to freeze in panic in a dangerous situation so he spends ages preparing and procrastinating. So why not go to any earlier day and speak to his sister and persuade her not to go to school instead of dealing with the shooters?

    Admittedly other people’s problems often seem smaller and easier to solve than our own. But how can Mike be so intellectually bright and such a dumbo at the same time?

    From this point of view there was no tension to carry me along in the novel and my initial feelings of involvement morphed into gritting my teeth and bearing out his stupidity.

    My biggest problem with Mike is that he doesn’t seem that bothered about finding his sister on his return from saving her, and instead pursues getting his blue prints so that he can sell his time machine. This might be his idea of putting Rebecca first from now on, but it’s weak. Actually on this note, I felt that the reader is encouraged to see Mike as a hero, for example, that he saves lives on his practice missions. Indeed, Mike quite often mentions this fact to Paul, but the motivation was always saving his own sister. It’s melodramatic cart-before-the-horse stuff I’d expect from a young teenager, not a 27 year old.

    The Ending

    As I think was clear from very early on, Bridgevine is destined to have a happy ending, and it’s certainly a long and drawn out chapter which spells out the obvious.

    Again, Mike takes an eon to see his sister. Maybe the purpose behind the chapter is to highlight Mike’s solution in dealing with Paul and how he plays the bigger person. I didn’t quite understand how Mike’s solution was going to help, but of most interest is the twist that was generated. This twist had completely escaped my mind and I think could have been a really interesting sub-plot instead of an open-ended concluding twist.

    Rating * * *

    As a reader who holds a book for at least 30 minutes in a sitting I’m rating this 3 stars – I found the repetition and over-explanation exhausting at times, but maybe those traits would help to make Bridgevine a solid 4 stars for a holiday goer who reads the novel in several short sittings.

    There are some nice ideas involving time travel, especially relating to what purposes a time machine can be used, but I’d love to have read some more about the open time travel related questions; I have the feeling that there are answers to them, but they just weren’t presented here.

    Paul

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    Star ratings:

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

    Review: Epilogue by Jaime Batista

    It’s a no-brainer – for every copy of the original The Time Machine sitting on a bookshelf or in an e-reader, there should be a copy of Epilogue!

    Epilogue: Time Machine Chronicles

    (A sequel to The Time Machine by H. G. Wells)

    It’s a no-brainer – for every copy of the original The Time Machine sitting on a bookshelf or in an e-reader, there should be a copy of Epilogue!

    If you like The Time Machine, you’ll love this, and if you didn’t like the original (I found it OK but not great) – Epilogue offers originality and more.

    Meshing with The Time Machine

    Epilogue by Jaime Batista

    I’ll start off with this section because arguably the original starts things off. Actually I contacted Jaime and asked him whether he advised reading the original (again) prior to Epilogue to ensure that I didn’t miss any key continuing threads. It turns out that Jaime received emails from readers saying that they had read The Time Machine first and then, after reading Epilogue, they re-read The Time Machine and enjoyed it even more than they did the first time.

    Trust time travel enthusiasts to read the original after the sequel! πŸ˜‰ Not wanting to miss anything, I started to (re)read the original, but to be honest I was too impatient to continue for more than a few chapters in so I dived into Epilogue.

    This is an important point. Sequels are often stand-alone but use the same characters, settings and history (and future) as previous books so that they are tied in, but can also be read independently. And Epilogue is such a novel – it can be read on its own, as a continuation of the original, or – as other readers testify – an insight into the original. This latter point shows how truly interlaced and consistent Epilogue is with the original.

    Epilogue doesn’t simply pick up from where The Time Machine finishes but begins some time before the original end providing additional depth and insight into what in the original would be considered to be secondary characters and events. In this way Epilogue envelopes The Time Machine.

    The Time Machine is first introduced as a letter to the reader and a similar approach is adopted in Epilogue. This writing tool is wielded masterfully; in between journeys to the future we have narration by “Friend” or his son which serves as a third party interpretation of the events played out and witnessed by Traveler.

    Jaime has done an incredible job in adopting the same style of writing as Wells. It doesn’t come over as forced or contrived, and is very natural. Every now and then there’s a line which really stands out adding beauty to the prose; something which I thought Wells misses. Character names are excluded and given as Traveler, Writer, Friend, etc.. Whilst their personalities are expanded upon in Epilogue, Jaime ensures that the character of the time traveler remains true to the original.

    General

    Epilogue depicts a future which is realistic and not far-fetched. But whereas The Time Machine is a dry political statement, Epilogue weaves social lessons within the plot, and for me these insights are more applicable and therefore meaningful in everyday life.

    And the plot? Epilogue fills in the history between Traveler’s present and the Morlocks…it’s much fuller and richer than what Traveler had originally thought. Actually this is good continuation of the character and thought process of Traveler who within The Time Machine often readdressed his original ideas and thoughts about the things and events that he saw (like any good scientist! πŸ˜‰ ).

    Time travel

    As I alluded to in my review of The Time Machine it feel short as it was basically a drama. Epilogue picks that up, continues and refines, adding elements to what was essentially the elephant in the room which Wells didn’t acknowledge – the time travel adjective of the namesake of the book.

    Being called “The Time Machine” and not having much to say about time travel is quite an omission; there’s only so much forgiveness I can give Wells for being the first time travel author (actually, for The Chronic Argonauts, not The Time Machine! πŸ˜‰ )

    So Jaime now faces a problem – how to keep in line with The Time Machine by ignoring all of the juicy aspects of time travel, but at the same time grabbing hold of that elephant by the ears and hitching a ride to the far future.

    And here Jaime does that with splendour and elegance. Traveler and Friend have conversations about the nature and philosophy of time travel, its motivations and its ethics. The plot reveals how time travel paradoxes are resolved too, like how, for example, nature deals with two (time)Travelers at the same time.

    “The [time]machine is a mechanical incarnation of a number of theories”

    There are also interesting tangents to the plot which allow thought experiments (for us – it actually happened to Traveler); I love the idea of a faulty time machine and what that would mean for someone inside it Actually this example is done beautifully – and done so in a manner commensurate with the technology and mechanisms available at the time of its construction – no onboard computer failures or software updates as might befit a time machine from today’s technology, but mechanical.

    Or what conditions are required to step out of a time machine whilst it’s in transit? Does the time machine need to match the speed of the ambient passing of time for fear of getting sliced by the passing seconds? Brilliant stuff!

    Journey or destination?

    Epilogue is one of those rare time travel novels which deals with both the nuts and bolts of time travel as well as an engaging story line. It’s the journey and the destination.

    I was thinking that the time traveler is a man who’s in love with his machine, the journey and the destination. I remember a story Mum told where she went on a drive with Dad. Mum was destination orientated, and wanted to see places and experience them, whereas Dad was much more journey focused – the car and driving it.

    Jaime Batista
    Author, Jaime Batista with his bike!

    Traveler seems to take on both interests. Of course, he designed and built his time machine, so clearly he has an interest in it. He uses it to go forwards (and back again) in time; he enjoys the benefits of his machine. But he’s also less of a point to point traveler simply enjoying the journey because he stops every now and them to observe progress and to learn more about the roots of the future. And he develops a clear bond with the indigenous people of the time.

    I was trying to think of a parallel then I thought of a biker…out on the free road on a nice set of wheels, enjoying the view and riding though it and stopping every now and then for a while to take it in more closely.

    Brief comparison with The Time Ships.

    (Or: Is a chicken nugget really chicken?)

    At first I didn’t want to mention The Time Ships (Baxter). For those of you more familiar with my likes, dislikes and pet peeves, you’ll know that Baxter’s writing style and ‘creativity’ irritate me. But I can’t really write a review of a sequel to The Time Machine without at least a reference to Baxter’s effort since it’s the “authorized” sequel. (Note that Baxter is English and tries to emulate H. G. Wells’ (English) writing style, he uses the American spelling…) Details, mate. Details.

    My full review of The Time Ships is here, but in summary Baxter butchers and rapes the original, taking it and mashing it all up and reforms it into another one of his run-of-the-mill rehashed Baxter/Arthur C. Clarke clones. It’s just not chicken, and it doesn’t read like it.

    If you’re torn between the two, go for Epilogue, it’s genuine, it’s original and an excellent read!

    Rating * * * * *

    Easy: Full marks!

    Epilogue: An outstanding sequel to The Time Machine.

    It should be a best-seller because simply put, The Time Machine is!

    If you’d like to know more about Jaime and gain a further insight into his novel you can read an author interview with him over at Time Travel Nexus!

    Paul

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    Disclaimer: A copy of “Epilogue” was sent to me free of charge. Whilst I wasn’t asked to write a review, I chose to because I like writing about things I enjoy!

    Star ratings:

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

    Review: Replay by Ken Grimwood

    Here’s a novel where the secondary character is vastly more interesting than the main one, and thankfully with her introduction into the novel an actual plot develops. Too bad she appears quite late on, but it is worth ploughing forwards through the initial drivel!

    Replay has been read widely and heavily reviewed. On the whole, the reviews tend to be hugely positive…though for the remainder I’m sure that some have been written by a group of people who gave up after the first few chapters out of total and sheer boredom.

    Synopsis of Replay

    Replay book cover

    Jeff Winston dies at 43 and wakes up as an 18 year old. He relives his life with knowledge of what’s to come. Then dies again at 43. He wakes up as an 18 year old again, albeit a few days later than the last time. And he relives his life again. And again. And so on.

    Eventually he meets Pamela Phillips, another ‘replayer’ like himself. Their shared wisdom gleaned over each of their replays help them to hit it off with each other. Together they try to figure out what’s happening to them, and why the length of the replays are getting shorter and what the consequences of the natural extrapolation will be.

    Replay my thoughts…

    Despite the tedious first few chapters I managed to plod on…which turned out to be a good thing because Replay picks up a little around half way through. From then on it gets interesting with the introduction of Pamela.

    So…my review I guess will be like the summation of all the others – that I both liked and hated Replay.

    Like the main character at the start of the book, I’m in my roaring forties. Unlike him, I have a job I love, but even better, I have a wife and 2 kids who I’m intensely in love with.

    So if I died tonight and I got to live my life again, would I do things any differently?

    Yes.

    I wouldn’t read Replay again, at least, not the first half.

    The first half describes how some bloke lives his life for the second time. OK, he’s died and come back as an 18 year old, but there’s nothing particularly interesting to read. Then he does it again. And again, and probably again. I can’t remember now. He does it a few times anyway.

    Knowledge of the past futures doesn’t really come into play that much apart from his placing a few bets and investments to ensure financial security. He tries to stop the JFK assassination. Arghh! It’s hardly an original theme in a time travel novel.

    Well, I say “time travel” but it’s pretty shallow stuff really and it certainly doesn’t read anything like a time travel novel. Indeed Jeff doesn’t seem to display any level of wisdom beyond his apparent 18 years of age other than taking steps to avoid fathering children knowing that they would cease to exist on his next replay.

    Finally he meets Pamela, and through her an actual plot starts to form. It’s rather diluted because it’s infused with romance (actually an interesting line because of complications with wives and girlfriends from previous replays)

    I’m only giving 3 stars to Replay for its blandidity, relieved only in the second half.

    Paul

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    Star ratings:

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    Crap 'review' for Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut)

    I don’t think I’ve ever been so let down by a book than I have been with this piece of crap. It seems I can’t even give it away…

    Here’s a question: Have you ever read reviews of a book and got so excited that you rush out straight away to get a copy?

    I did that with Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, “…a work of keen literary artistry” (Joseph Heller, taken from the book cover blurb) which tells the story of Billy Pilgrim who’s a prisoner of war, and optometrist and most importantly, a time traveller.

    Question: Have you ever started a book and despite it grating on your literary nerves like salt on an open wound, plough on in the hope that you will eventually see what the positive reviewers saw in a book?

    I did that with Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. At least for the first few chapters. Then I put it down.

    Question: Have you ever thought you’d give a book a second chance, that maybe you were too hasty in casting it off as a “Did Not Finish”?

    I did that with Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. But I still couldn’t finish it, and this time I threw it down.

    Best use?
    Best use?

    Question: Have you ever felt like doing a Fahrenheit 451 on a book and burning it out of existence?

    I want to do that with Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.

    Having wasted too much time in trying to push forwards with this piece of total crap, I don’t want to spend any more of my time in reviewing it.

    Obviously I can’t recommend reading Slaughterhouse Five, and I can’t be bothered to write a review so negative that all the anti-matter in this known universe would look like a drop in the ethereal ocean, but I’ve listed it in a Goodreads “Treasure and Trash” scheme where interested members collaborate to give away or swap books which aren’t their cup of tea.

    To date, no one has yet expressed an interest in Slaughterhouse Five and of course I understand that view.

    Telling, isn’t it? !

    Seriously though…this book needs a new home. It’s not welcome in the time2timetravel HQ!

    Paul

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    Review: Return to Sender by Fred H. Holmes

    Return to Sender by Fred H. Holmes is a time travel novel with a solid method of time travel and a plot which is firmly rooted in historical accuracy. Carleton goes back in time to change key moments in the American Civil War to set America back on track. But there are problems…

    Return to Sender by Fred H. Holmes

    I recently read an interesting discussion on the Goodreads time travel forum about the Do’s and Don’t’s of time travel novels. There seemed to be two overriding concerns: (well researched) historical accuracy and an interesting time travel component (i.e. the method of time travel, time loops, paradoxes etc.).

    Return to Sender by Fred H. Holmes has the lot! πŸ™‚

    Book cover for Return to Sender by Fred H. Holmes

    Brief synopsis

    Carleton Venable is recruited by Rumfeld Dixon of Dyna-Tyme Genetics to go back to the American Civil War and carry out two tasks to change the course of history; to lose Special Order 191, and to save Stonewall Jackson. As you’d expect, getting thrust into a civil war is clearly not without danger, but returning to the present sees unexpected events unfold with unforeseen hazards.

    General thoughts

    The first paragraph of Return to Sender mentions RNA. Whereas most people have heard of DNA (and so come across it in sci-fi) RNA (RiboNucleic Acid) is often overlooked despite it being involved in a multitude of important biological processes. I’m no biologist, but when I read the first paragraph I realised that Fred has done his ground-work.

    And quite literally that’s a good start!

    I’d describe Return to Sender as a novel with three parts – time travel, historical detail and character interaction. The first and second components are strong and mighty elements…though I should say upfront that I didn’t understand the history; but that’s my failing.

    Time travel

    Time travel is introduced right in the first chapter. How it works, how it’s achieved and the experimentation carried out to test it are described in delicate but complete and logical layers which build upon previously introduced foundations, culminating in a first class method of time travel.

    Junk DNA contains both temporal and spatial mapping information which can be reprogrammed to initiate time travel. Reprogramming is done so via injection of a fluid which is able to completely permeate the host body within 20 seconds. There is a question of how all of the DNA within the body is reprogrammed simultaneously to prevent different parts of the body zooming off in time at different moments but I assume that this is take care of in the intricate cell programming.

    No machines, mechanics, trinketry or black box stuff; just pure biology. Brilliant!

    To return to the present the time traveler undergoes the same procedure, although with no medical staff to administer the reprogram fluid, capsules containing the compound are inserted into the body. As these capsules are made from bone tissue they incorporate the DNA of the bearer so are able to travel in time. I’d guess that this would effectively make them non-transferable as they are configured to individual host bodies but it turns out that this is not the case, I guess because the DNA is being reprogrammed it can be made to ‘look like’ the new bearer.

    A really neat thing about how this method of time travel works is that time travel occurs in ‘real time’, that is to say, when Carleton goes back in history for 1 day, 1 day will have passed in the present. I like this idea because it accounts for the body ageing at a consistent rate…time travellers will display an age in their ‘own’ time commensurate with the duration of their life experience. Increased wisdom and experience comes with age! πŸ˜‰

    It also provides a nice way for those remaining in the present to ‘see’ whether changes in the past were having any effect.

    Actually this is an important point. When Carleton comes back to a changed present he remembers the original history (and present) whereas those around him don’t because they’ve experienced a different version of history. Carleton’s memories remain intact; I don’t know how memory is ‘stored’ in the brain, but it’s certainly at the cellular level which is consistent with the method of time travel.

    In this sense I don’t know how the present is played out in real time when history changes. The usual explanation is a divergence of a (or multiple) time line(s), but here the case is different because of the real time element. Then again, I don’t like the time line model (more specifically the creation of multiple time lines) so having something to think about on the back burner makes for some interesting reading!

    The plot revolves around making changes in the past and seeing their effects in the future. It’s explicitly stated that some changes are small enough that they don’t affect the future at all. This reminds me of the river of time as presented in The Anubis Gates (Tim Powers). It’s only when a number of small changes accumulate that things can go chaotic and we get the well-known butterfly effect.

    I think the time travel paradox is clear – a less violent version of the grandfather paradox. Present day is seen to be bad enough that the past needs to be changed (parallel: grandson goes back in time). History is changed (grandfather is killed) thus leading to a new future (no more grandson in present). The need to alter history no longer exists so no there’s no requirement to back to the past (grandson can’t / doesn’t go back as he doesn’t exist), so there’s no time travel…which means that history wasn’t changed for a better future (grandfather wasn’t killed).

    Historical aspect

    Return to Sender is heavy on the history.

    Carleton has 2 missions to complete back in the time of the American Civil War, namely to lose a letter containing “Special Order 191” and to save Stonewall Jackson. The latter mission had a nice unexpected approach (though with a hint of embarrassment I must admit that I thought at first that Stonewall Jackson was a place and not a person, but yeah. That’s his photo on the front cover of the book, and I now know that he died 152 years and 9 days ago…)

    OK, so clearly I’m not a history buff and I admit that understanding how and why intricate changes in the American civil war would affect present day America is well beyond me. That aside I did at first question why the CEO of Dyna-Tyme Genetics felt he was able or qualified to make decisions about the course of present day America, but this became clear towards the end of the novel. Besides, if you think something needs changing and you are able to change it…why not?

    I have the feeling that I missed a lot and this aspect of the novel was wasted on me; the novel contains a map and Fred mentioned to me that it is important to the plot…which again I must admit was completely lost on me. It is more than likely I looked at the map in the same way that my ageing and stubborn mother-in-law clutches a mouse in her hand and stares gormlessly at the computer monitor and wonders what it’s all about.

    In this sense I’m sad. Not because my mother-in-law is lost in an ethereal cyber space but because I’m missing out. A phenomenal amount of research has gone into not only setting the historical scene, but also in thinking about possible outcomes of alterable events. Whilst I can’t vouch for historical accuracy I can however tell you that the phases of the moon as described in the text tally with online resources. Yes, I checked. (Just as I had to check who Stonewall Jackson was… πŸ˜‰ )

    Character interaction

    The underlying plot and the characters within it are essentially the glue which binds the novel together. A book about just time travel is either a (wishful) reference book, and likewise, so too is a book about history. It’s what people do with time travel (and how and why) and what they do once they’re in a new temporal setting that make a story.

    Return to Sender has a number of minor characters and sub-plots which help to fill out an otherwise fairly simple mission. I say “simple” because the time travel method for the most part takes care of the when and where, so there’s little else for Carleton to do unless he’s been tasked with some additional activities and gets to interact with local folk.

    The strength of this novel lies in the time travel and history, so these areas tend to overshadow the plot’s twists and character interactions. For example, as a parent I found Bertha’s behaviour difficult to buy into; perhaps more description into her thought processes may have helped me. Likewise, I was surprised at Dyna-Tyme Genetics’ limited medical capabilities towards the end of the novel when they were able to achieve so much at the beginning. Like with Bertha I’m sure that a little more description over this aspect will have nullified my observation.

    These are minor observations though, and generally speaking the writing style is strong enough to carry it through.

    Writing style

    A few final thoughts about the writing style.

    The writing is fast paced and weaves between the areas of time travel, history and moving the plot forwards. For example, Carleton requires training so that he not only blends in with the locals of the time but also in cultural and military training so that he has a chance of survival in the midst of a war.

    Whereas the training / aclimatisation in Finney’s Time and Again was a stagnant and festering quagmire of viscous lethargic non-eventful mind numbingly sluggish words on a page (I hope that gets the point across…) Fred H. Holmes takes on a different approach in Return to Sender. By describing the strategy of winning the war Fred covers the historical aspect (what had happened previously), the time travel element (what the hoped outcome will be) and the character interaction (Carleton and his trainers). It’s really well done and moves the plot forwards nicely.

    Whilst I’m throwing compliments around I’m also going to give a thumbs up to a final section towards the end of the novel which describes a history by using newspaper cuttings. Although I found it quite long, it was a refreshing alternative to the more traditional dry epilogue-style narrative.

    Rating * * * *

    I’m rating this 4 stars – ‘losing’ a star only due to my own lack of historical knowledge which meant that I didn’t glean as much from this novel as most others would.

    Return to Sender: A time travel novel with a solid method of time travel and a plot which is firmly rooted in historical accuracy.

    Return to Sender by Fred H. Holmes is published by Kamel Press, LLC and is available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

    Paul

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    Disclaimer: A copy of “Return to Sender” was sent to me free of charge so that I could read and write my honest thoughts and opinions. These are they!

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    Review: Trapped in Time by Clay Brandenburg

    Trapped in Time by Clay Brandenburg is more of a romance set in World War 2 than a science fiction novel…but it does have an element of time travel! No time travel…no romance!

    Trapped in Time by Clay Brandenburg is more of a romance set in World War 2 than a science fiction novel…but it does have an element of time travel! No time travel…no romance!

    Trapped in Time
    Trapped in Time book cover.

    The plot is sweet and simple. John gets transported back in time to 1944 in Germany where (when) he’s injured but nursed back to health by a local girl (Klara). Knowing about the upcoming Dresden bombing, the couple head to Dresden to warn the Klara’s parents of its impending destruction and to hopefully secure their escape.

    Trapped in Time strikes me as a Young Adult novel – quite a lot is spelled out with some sensational and superlative language. The writing is fluent though, and many short chapters make it an easy read.

    My main gripe would be that the dialogue between the characters is too ‘perfect’…though perhaps this is a good thing so that young adults learn how to speak properly, you know, like, yeah…well whatever man! πŸ˜‰

    I think it’s fairly clear that time travel is primarily used in Trapped in Time as a means to place the characters from different times into a common setting; the mechanics of time travel are not given, and indeed they would have seemed out of place here. That said, I thought that the chances of a repeat meteorological phenomenon occurring to be quite slim – there’s even an expression for it!

    Anyway, this isn’t a time travel novel as such; more of a romance between 2 characters each of whom have had a troubled past and manage to find each other. But (thankfully) this isn’t an out and out slushy romance novel. The relation between John and Klara grows by them sharing a growing history with each other, and this develops with their common goal of rescuing Klara’s parents on the back of John’s knowledge of the future.

    Although I don’t have a strong interest in history, this novel shows that it can be handy to have some knowledge of it! That’s a lesson for me!

    The closing chapters (including the epilogue) are the most interesting part of the novel for me, where some aspects of time travel come into play. This is the area where the reader is allowed to think and guess what the outcomes might be, and the complexity of the consequences of time travel. Does time pass concurrently in the past and in the present, and if so is it at the same rate? What are the conditions for time travel, and are they reproducible? The questions are there, and Clay addresses them in a gentle and accessible way.

    I’d recommend Trapped in Time as an introduction to the time travel genre for a young adult (but with the warning that there is an attack scene which maybe unsuitable for some young adults) and for those who are interested in historical fiction.

    It’s available from Amazon.com and you can follow / like the Facebook Trapped in Time page here.

    I’m giving Trapped in Time 4 stars because the sci-fi time travel fan version of me who’s no longer a young adult and who’s reading it now gives it 3 but I’m pretty sure that the 18 year old me would have given it 5!

    Paul

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    Review: Syncing Forward by W. Lawrence

    Syncing Forward is a time travel novel which describes the human element of the experience. This is set against a backdrop of a world which is becoming increasingly technologically advanced…which is not necessarily for its own good.

    It is one of the novels which I’m sure will stay with me for a long time; it touches me most as a protective father of 2 young daughters but also as someone who’s nervous of all things medical. And naturally, as a time travel fan!

    Syncing Forward (W. Lawrence) is one of the novels which I’m sure will stay with me for a long time. It touches me most as a protective father of 2 young daughters but also as someone who’s nervous of all things medical. And naturally, as a time travel fan!

    Book cover for Syncing Forward by W. Lawrence

    What makes this time travel novel stand out from many others is that it addresses the human aspect of time travel – the emotional effects which are enhanced when the time travel is done so unwillingly.

    Syncing Forward won Gold in the Feathered Quill Awards and is a finalist in the Book Pipeline contest. Now that’s not bad, is it?!

    Brief Synopsis

    The main character (Martin) is injected with a drug which slows his metabolic rate to such an extent that a few moments for him are several days for everyone else. During his ‘syncing forward’ phases time marches on, carrying his family and world with it. Whilst his family grows up around him, society also moves on; there is political and technological development and the world he once knew passes.

    For limited periods he is occasionally able to temporarily ‘sync back’ into normal time and is able to live and experience normal every day events. But it’s not time which is slipping away, it’s the people he loves.

    Slowed / suspended animation – is this time travel?

    I’ll address the obvious question first – is Martin a time traveller? (And is this is “time travel” novel?)

    Actually this question is answered in the novel. Society thinks Yes; but Martin has reservations about the ‘label’ but doesn’t particularly care – he just wants his life back.

    On a bottom line basis though, I’d call Martin a time traveller; time passes for him at a different rate than it does for everyone else. In a way it’s a form of time dilation achieved without speeds approaching the speed of light or differing gravitational potential.

    Image credit: My daughter! :)
    Image credit: My daughter! πŸ™‚

    In Martin’s perception, his children grow up into adulthood in a matter of (his) days. They have children – who grow up into adults and have children. And so on. Cultural norms and politics change. Even geography. Technology advances. The effect of travelling into the future is the same for Martin as it would be for the ‘traditional’ time traveller.

    But I think there is a key difference – interaction during transit. He watches time pass quickly around him, but unlike transport in the traditional time machine, he is able to interact or be interacted with…albeit on a level much much reduced than what he’d like.

    For example, he can move his arm in what he appears to be normal speed. But actually in ‘real’ time it takes several weeks. And since his arm is raised for several weeks, his arm gets tired. He takes days to blink so his eyes dry and need to be irrigated. His youngest daughter sat still with him for days so that Martin could experience a few seconds of his hand being held. Messages can be written and read between Martin and ‘real timers’.

    In other words, there is a direct connection between him and his surroundings.

    Everything about him appears to be slow to the ‘normal’world. He moves in extreme slow motion. His body doesn’t age. He thinks in slow ‘motion’ (which gives the question: can naturally slow thinkers be considered to be time travellers if it takes them an extra 30 minutes to catch up with the rest of us?)

    In the light of the interaction between Martin and the normal world, and especially given the levels of agony of his emotional strain, I’d consider Syncing Forward to be a novel which examines the human side of time travel.

    My take on the story line

    The blurb on the back cover asks: “Would you ever travel forward in time if you knew it would be a one-way trip?”

    In hindsight (perhaps hindsight is the closest form of time travel in the real world!) I think this is a little misleading as Martin certainly didn’t make the choice. It was imposed on him, and whereas some may choose it and be happy, Martin was forcefully thrust into a future without a shared history with the people he loved and who loved him.

    He had something to live for in the present and that’s what makes his experience so horrific. So for me the main story line is how Martin deals with going on without growing up with his children and family.

    But there is also a subplot or at least a background of both terrorism and technological advances against which Martin’s terror is set. This aspect, at the start of the novel, didn’t really speak to me. At the time I was more interested in Martin and what he was feeling; my empathy with him was strong, and the descriptions of technological advances at those early stages of the novel seemed in comparison rather dry. I guess in some ways this might be how Martin was feeling although of course it affected him much more than me; I can close the pages of his dreaded nightmare.

    The reading experience

    book mark made by daughter

    I wrote in this post about how reading Syncing Forward freaked me out. Reading further than page 156 didn’t really ‘help’!

    You think children grow up fast. But how about a toddler growing to old age in less than 2 weeks? This is the reality that Martin faces. He misses growing up and sharing the lives of his wife and daughters. Daughters who have boyfriends, get jobs, get married, have (grand)children. Have bio-modifications.

    The pain of missing his children grow up is intense. It’s not the same as being away on business for a week and missing a birthday…it’s living a few hours and missing 18 birthdays. It’s puking up over your son-in-law’s shoes, blinking your eyes and seeing him again a decade later. It’s looking into the eyes of your daughter and realising that she’s older than you are.

    book mark from daughter
    To Daddy,
    I love you, you love me
    So quickly put that book aside…

    Martin deals with a lot of crap and by the time his second grandchild comes (this is the son of his daughter who was for him 3 years old ‘last week’) he’s pretty much numbed out. A few more times he finds himself in a future where technology and even geography is different. He feels dissociated, and in this way I felt I kind of grew up with Martin; my empathic ‘pain’ was maxing out and I was just wanting to know how this was going to conclude.

    And this is where W. Lawrence knows his reader; the writing style changes subtly and the plot twists slightly to move away from Martin and his personal problems and more to the societal changes and the terrorist attacks opposing them. What was once for Martin (and for me) not so interesting or perhaps relevant, now becomes key. Indeed, understandably Martin changes and this helps the story switch. Well perhaps not so much a switch as the underlying plot is the same but more of a change of emphasis.

    This is a huge credit to W. Lawrence who pushes the novel along by changing its tone where I think many other novels would have just ended.

    The ending(s)

    I noticed a few comments on the Good Reads reviews about an unclear ending. I can see where these thoughts may have arisen, but ultimately I think the ending is clear…and beautiful.

    In the pages leading up to it I must admit that I was filled with reader’s fear – that the conclusion was going to be a huge anti-climax. Indeed, there are several predictable endings…which thankfully don’t surface!

    Actually, I thought I was reading an ending and I must admit to being quite disappointed…until I turned the page and found an epilogue. Phew! But then…but…but…it wasn’t the ending I wanted. It was a cop out. A cheat. A reason to have not bothered to reading the book. Hang on…aaahhh! That’s better! That’s beautiful!


    SPOILER ALERT: If you’re interested, I’ve hidden the endings I thought might happen (but didn’t) as well as the actual ending. Click “show” below.

    [showhide]

    1. History and characters from Martin’s history are recreated using Conference and synthetic multiform companions.

    2. Martin blasts off into space to escape everything and to pick up his missed chance (the Shenzhou mission) from earlier.

    3. Thought this was the end: Martin sits and waits for Amara. The reader is left feeling as lost and impatient as Martin.

    4. Thought I read in beginning of Epilogue – Martin dies and meets his Dad in Heaven.

    5. Actual end: First person character is now Amara. She wakes up to her Dad (Martin) who is looking after her. How beautiful is that?! πŸ™‚

    [/showhide]


    The Christian touch

    One of the things I like – and this is a subtle point (hence the section at the end of this review) – is the inclusion of God and faith. There’s nothing heavy handed; there’s no ‘Bible-thumping’ or evangelical mission, but God is just there.

    Is this important or relevant? Ellie asked the same question in Carl Sagan’s Contact. (At least in the movie I watched a few weeks ago; it’s been too long since I read the book). Ellie was one of 5 candidates from which one would be chosen to effectively represent the human race on a mission to meet extra-terrestrial intelligent life. When she was asked about her belief in God she squirmed and answered that she “…didn’t understand the relevance of the question”.

    “Dr. Arroway, 95% of the worldÒ€ℒs population believes in a supreme being in one form or another. I believe that makes the question more than relevant.”

    So similarly, I find the references to faith in Syncing Forward both relevant and a bonus Christian message which underlies the main plot. I think it’s there to be ‘read’ if you see it, otherwise it takes enough of a back-burner not to ‘intrude’ upon those readers without a wish to see God at work in Martin’s life.

    Final words and availability

    Like The Paradox War (C. J. Moseley), this novel makes me think. The Paradox War made me think about the smallness of present day humankind and the vastness of the future space and time. Syncing Forward makes me think about the importance of the here and now…and the people we share it with.

    Syncing Forward is available from Amazon as paperback or as kindle.

    You can read more about Syncing Forward on the Syncing Forward website, and follow W Lawrence on Twitter @syncingforward or on his Facebook Page.

    Paul

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    Star ratings:

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