Review: The Chronothon by Nathan Van Coops

Nathan Van Coops masterfully creates a universe with scientifically viable time travel in The Chronothon. Brilliantly written with a splash of humour!

Thrust into a deadly race across the ages, Ben becomes an unwilling pawn in the machinations of forces seeking to destroy parallel universes. Time travelers, a dog, an alien and an organism gun (yes, that’s spelled correctly…) play intelligently thought out roles in a “chronothon”.

The Chronothon by Nathan Van Coops

The Chronothon is an exciting time travel novel brought to us by Nathan Van Coops.

Chronothon book cover

Synopsis: Thrust into a deadly race across the ages, Ben becomes an unwilling pawn in the machinations of forces seeking to destroy parallel universes. Time travelers, a dog, an alien and an organism gun (yes, that’s spelled correctly…) play intelligently thought out roles in a chronothon – a race in which Ben and other time travelers race to different periods in history, in the future and on other worlds to collect “objectives” and go on to the next level.

As the chronothon progresses it becomes clear that winning the race itself is not the ultimate goal.

The Chronothon: a deadly race across time that sets your own heart racing!

Second Place?

The Chronothon is the second novel in a series of three written by Nathan Van Coops.

Each has been written so that it can be read independently from the others. Having not read the first (silly me…) I can safely confirm this claim is valid! (Actually there’s a glossary at the back of The Chronothon to help ‘dive in’ readers such as myself with names of organisations and instrumentation nomenclature that were presumably introduced in the first book (In Times Like These). It’s interesting to read through, but I don’t think it’s necessary).

As you’d expect in any novel which isn’t the first in a series, there are references to important events which I guess were in the previous book. They made me feel as though I had missed out on something; like coming into a conversation half way through and being brought up to date but without actually sharing and experiencing that ‘history’.

Whilst not key to The Chronothon my personal curiosity drives me to want to know more about these events in the past!

The Chronothon gets straight into things though, with no huge long-winded introduction and pages and pages of scene setting. Perhaps this was done in Book 1, but I was pleased to start reading juicy stuff from the outset. Given that we’re talking about a page count of nearly 500 pages, be assured that these pages are full of relevant writing and not tap-happy typing!

The Novel

(Jump forward to time travel)

The writing style is fluent and Nathan writes with an excellent eye for detail and consistency. Characters have depth and are well developed, and there are many insightful details on societal and cultural aspects. It’s brilliantly written, with a splash of humour.

The plot revolves around Ben who moves from one chronothon level to another, collecting objectives before moving to the next level. It would have been relatively easy to create a new chapter for each level with each chapter being a story more or less in in its own right and connected to others, perhaps like Flight of the Horse by Larry Niven…but it would have been an incredibly tedious read.

Instead I was really pleased that the novel reads fluently with chapter breaks coming at natural points in the novel, and not at each level of the chronothon race; it puts emphasis not on the race itself but on Ben and on what and who he’s dealing with, and why.

The chronothon is of course a key element of the novel, and is ultimately responsible for Ben’s travels through time which take him to geographically different places too. In this way one might confuse the chronothon with a regular race in the spatial dimension, although frequent musings from Ben bring the reader ‘back’ to temporal thinking. For example, Ben notes that he can’t leave litter for 4,000 years, or questions the paradoxes of live streaming through linear time.

Ben’s travels to periods into the past call on Nathan’s extensive research into those eras and events. It adds to the fullness of the plot and inspires a sense of realism. Equally, journeys into the future see Ben and his competitors / companions enter into times, worlds and cultures vastly different from their (our) own…and yet thanks to an incredible imagination Nathan has crafted a credible and full future with both an exciting and an ominous outlook with social and scientific ideas.

Walking (or jumping, or running and screaming…) through one time gate to another reminded me of a British children’s program from the seventies called (funnily enough…) Mr Ben. In each episode Mr Ben frequented a fancy dress shop where he tried on a costume in a dressing room in which he found a door which would lead to a different time and place commensurate with his outfit and where he would have an adventure before coming back to the dressing room, often with an object which reminded him of his travels.

The Chronothon is written in the first person through Ben’s eyes. Unlike many characters in first person novels, I really like Ben! He’s intelligent, dextrous, polite (e.g. he feels he should say “please” to a computer) and full of integrity. Ben injects a level of humour into the novel, but not in a distracting way.

I was impressed with Ben’s inquisitiveness. He stops to learn how a chronometer works, or to study the workings of a Roman aqueduct, for example. But he possess his own intellect too and is able to use time travel ‘tricks’ to help him and others, impressing even his experienced race guide. I’m not sure whether I should ascribe these imaginative uses of time travel to Ben or to Nathan!

Ben’s social skills allow him to bond easily with other competitors and characters within levels. His conversations with them, and what he discovers through his curiosity is a natural way to communicate setting details, background, or information about other characters to the reader.

Supporting characters are of course mostly seen through Ben’s eyes. They’re a well mixed group of people mostly from the future with different cultures and backgrounds, and also an alien with an inborn ability to time travel. Actually the alien had an elegant solution to preserve love between a couple at the right times – it seemed like a sideline whilst reading, but it comes back. And I should say here that I think this is typical of most things in The Chronothon – that Nathan leaves no loose ends!


This could be a romance with heavy complications, an action novel, or a science fiction / time travel novel.

The love component doesn’t dominate the story line is not handled in a cheesy or crassy way. There’s no love at first sight, no predictable arguments and make-ups, and no gratuitous sex scenes. The romance is simple, and gently weaves its way through the other story lines.

I don’t usually read ‘action novels’ so for me The Chronothon might be considered as a gentle introduction to the genre. And it’s good! As I mentioned in my review of Bonnie Rozanski’s The Mindtraveler it’s all very well and good doing a spot of time travel, but once you’re in a different time you may as well do something once you’re there and meet different people – even if they are trying to eat you…

Personally, I see The Chronothon as a science fiction / time travel novel. Whether this is really true, or if it’s because of the brilliance in how the time travel element has been integrated, or the clarity of a future time, I can’t say!

That said, the closing chapters of the novel introduce many new ideas, and bring together other ideas which have circulated in the novel. This brings a satisfying sense of completeness – the novel isn’t simply a race through time, but also something greater and encompassing.

Time travel element

It is the time travel aspect in particular which really strikes me as pure excellence and sets The Chronothon apart from many other time travel novels – it has without doubt one of the best and most self consistent systems of time travel I’ve seen in time travel fiction.

Nathan has masterfully created a universe with scientifically viable time travel and never lets go of his sight of the rules of time travel which he’s developed. There’s a history (and future) behind the development of time travel, with variations and derivations, and of its methodology as well as its use and misuse.

Method of time travel

The method of time travel is beautiful. An object is infused with gravitites – particles which “…displace matter from the flow of time by creating anchor based wormholes.” To travel in time, the traveler touches an anchor in one time and uses a chronometer to activate the gravitites (note that a “chronometer” isn’t a jumped up word for an expensive watch but a time machine!). That person then arrives at the same location of the anchor but in a time as preset on the chronometer.

The use of the anchor means that the time traveler remains fixed to the Earth as it courses through space – an aspect of time travel which is often over-looked. It also means that the time traveler can travel in the spatial dimension if the location of the anchor changes whilst the time traveler is traveling.

Development of the chronometer

The instrumentation behind time travel has developed in time – even time progresses in the timeless world of time travel!

The first chronometers were “analogue” – relatively simple devices as compared to the later digital “temprovibes” which lock into a grid system which tracks time travelers and ensures that they don’t fuse with other time travelers (including themselves) or end up in the “neverwhere” – a space outside time if a time traveler isn’t anchored properly during transit.

Analogue time travelers keep logbooks to mark their times and locations to avoid the above problems.

Time travel ‘trinkets’

The Chronothon has a myriad of wonderful time travel ‘trinkets’ – plays with time travel. Funerals for time travelers, time streams, legal issues (self love – a nod to “The Man Who Folded Himself“), naturally occurring gravitites (“gravitans”) and the moral issue this provokes (if time travel is natural, then is the founder of gravitites responsible for the multiple universes, split time streams and atrocities committed with time travel?).

There are philosophical ideas (how old is a time traveler?), time loops and ontological paradoxes – knowledge of presence in the future provides confidence of survival in the present…and another where this is turned in reverse; Ben sees himself in the future looking confident. When Ben gets there he doesn’t feel confident bit knows he needs to look it to tally with what he saw in the past.

This is a juicy, juicy time travel novel with many fascinating and thoughtfully played out applications of time travel!


The Chronothon by Nathan Van Coops is due to be released on 2 February 2015, and is currently available for pre-order on

I’ve ordered the first in the series (“In Times Like These“) and eagerly await the final installment. Maybe I should set my chronometer so I won’t need to wait…

Rating *****

5* ! 🙂

The Chronothon: An incredible science fiction / time travel novel with a brilliant and consistent system of time travel


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Disclaimer: An Advance Reader Copy of “The Chronothon” was sent to me free of charge so that I could read and write my honest thoughts and opinions. These are they!

Star ratings:
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Review: Somewhere in Time (book)

Somewhere in Time (Richard Matheson) describes the journey back in time by Richard Collier who seeks to win the love of Elise McKenna – a famous actress whose photo he saw in a hotel. The time travel method used is self hypnosis, similar to that used in Time and Again by Jack Finney. The novel brings the question of predestiny and fate to the fore, with some interesting ontological paradoxes thrown into the mix.

Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson

This review covers the book – I’ll do the movie another time!

Elise and Richard are Somewhere In Time

Somewhere in Time is “…the story of a love which transcends time” (Richard Matheson, author).

Brief synopsis

Richard Collier has a temporal tumour and has been given a short time to live. Quitting his job he flips a coin and decides to drive to the Hotel del Coronado. During his stay there he sees a picture of Elise Mckenna, an actress from the 1890s who he then falls in love with. He researches her life in detail where he discovers that Elise distanced herself from men and relationships – that is until one brief episode after which she withdrew into herself and became a ghost of the person she used to be.

Richard believes that he is the ‘episode’ and determines to travel back in time to meet the woman he loves, and when he hopes that not only will his love be reciprocated, but that he will not be the cause of Elise’s unhappiness.

Some background

Thanks to an online discussion I learned some new and interesting things about Somewhere in Time.

It is not, as I had thought, a rewrite of Bid Time Return which was published in 1975 by the same author. Rather, it is simply a republication (with a different title) which was made after the movie was released in 1980. (Incidentally, the movie was not initially well received by critics, and it wasn’t until the DVD was released that a healthy following developed.)

Time travel books are often and irritatingly first person, but in Somewhere in Time, Richard Matheson arguably is Richard Collier. According to Portland Center Stage Matheson was captivated by a photo of Maude Adams. This was the inspiration of Bid Time Return, and whilst researching Maude’s life he checked into the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego and basically wrote the novel from there from his dictated notes.

The reread

I watched the movie several years ago, and I loved it. It was natural that I then followed up with reading the book, and I loved that too. I’d have given it 5/5 stars.

Reading Somewhere in Time in my hotel room
Reading Somewhere in Time in my hotel room

I decided to read the book again thanks to an online discussion and trouble with an ebook, but the circumstances under which I came to actually (re)reading Somewhere in Time are worryingly coincidental – I found myself in a hotel room (like Collier) dictating notes (like Collier) to my phone and quenching my thirst with water in a coke bottle

Did you catch what’s written on the side of the bottle?

Elsien...close enough to Elise?
“Elsien”…close enough to “Elise”?

Writing style

Richard Collier is a writer, and as we’ve already discussed Somewhere in Time is written in the first person. It would be natural to expect a lot.


The novel begins with a prologue which takes the form of a letter from Richard’s brother which sets the scene.

This sort of approach is quite common (e.g. The Planet of the Apes, The Time Ships). I often dislike prologues because I find them a lazy approach to beginning a novel, almost as if the author doesn’t know how or where (or when) to start, and they come across as the author trying to be unduly clever (I’m thinking here of Baxter in The Time Ships, though the prologue was necessary (and very well done) in The Planet of the Apes.

I particularly dislike Matheson’s prologue. It adds nothing, save an indirect explanation to the writing style in the following pages. Additionally it ties in with the disastrous epilogue.

Main narrative

The story itself starts with disjointed sentences and paragraphs. It reads rushed, and instead of a flow of images and descriptions the reader is bombarded with fragments of ideas. The prologue describes how these are Richard’s dictated notes, so in this sense some realism is injected into the novel as a whole, but it makes getting stuck into the novel difficult.

Thankfully, once Richard has traveled back in time he no longer has his tape recorder so reverts to normal writing, and this is what we are able to read. That said, Richard mentions that he writes in shorthand. Not that I’m advocating it, but given that we’re so cruelly subjected to Richard’s dictated notes, we might expect that we’d be reading his shorthand too…


I like epilogues as they’re a gentle or thought provoking conclusion to a novel. Sadly, Matheson’s is neither. It suggests an alternate version of events which takes away the magic of Richard’s time travel romance. Actually, it read rather like forcing jelly through a keyhole and I think would have been better left out altogether and left to the reader to deduce or reject. Although cynical of Richard’s account, there is a touch of brotherly love and affection which was a welcome read.

All that said…I found that I felt more for Richard as a character after I had read the epilogue than during the reading of his own notes, so maybe the prologue and epilogue served a useful purpose after all!

Elise and Richard’s relationship

Being a romance novel, I don’t think it would be unfair of me to comment on the relationship between Richard and Elise; in a word, it’s…immature.

I read this section with extreme awkwardness…how can you fall in love with someone from looks alone, that too, from a picture first, then later from a (predatory) distance?? Is this love or lust? Indeed, this was one of the discussion points in the Goodreads time travel group book discussion.

I cant help reading this thinking how fragile and delicate this ‘relationship’ is. It feels unstable, chaotic and top heavy…that only the slightest nudge will dissolve this union and send it into oblivion. In a way, I guess this is what eventually happened.

The relationship is simply too unrealistic, let alone childish and shallow; each wanting it to work but without a firm basis or foundation, just mystery and unearned trust. Each character seems to spend most of their relationship convincing each other of their love for each other. It’s contrived at best, and focusses on physical features of the other.

Clearly this ‘love’ is more about physical attraction than anything else.

Maybe I’m over sensitive as I’m not physically attractive (ask any of the girls I went to school with). In fact, it brings to mind the teenage angst of fancying someone from a distance and hoping somehow for reciprocation. For me it never was but it was for pretty boy Collier.

Or perhaps I view this romance with scepticism because I’m older and I’m wiser – at least in the sense that I’m married and I’m intensely in love with my wife. I know what love is! 🙂

How on Earth could this relationship possibly have come into being, let alone have any future (or past)?

A gypsy woman and a fortune teller was too convenient a way to open up the idea to Elise to be open to a relationship with a man. Recall that Elise is from the 1890s and stooped in a frosty and frigid culture where women take the inferior position. The predictions for the future do strengthen idea of predestination; these things will happen. This is in opposition to Richard’s research into past…where these things had already happened. I suppose this was the most interesting aspect of the romance.

Richard’s return to the present is literally a heart breaker for him, though I don’t understand why he didn’t try going back again. (I think he did in the movie but I can’t remember.) It’s sadly timed to occur just after he and Elise slept together, so I’m sure would have had negative repercussions regarding his intentions. This was never mentioned in the novel; the primary negative motivation for Richard’s interest in Elise was thought to be to gain her wealth.

The time travel element

I’m saving the best for last – the time travel element saves the book!

Time travel method

The time travel method was through self hypnosis, a method inspired from a book by J. B. Priestley called Man and Time (which I will have to check out!). Richard read this book whilst researching how to get himself from 1972 and back to November 1896. It was interesting to read some of the practical difficulties which he faced whilst trying to immerse himself and his thoughts.

Self hypnosis is the same time travel method used in Time and Again (Jack Finney), published some 5 years before Bid Time Return. (As a point of note, Wikipedia mentions that as a nod to Finney, the movie features a time travel expert called Dr. Gerard Finney). I think it’s much better implemented in Somewhere in Time.

Whether self hypnosis is a form of quantum jumping I’m not sure, but time travel using the mind and not a machine does allow for a less scientific approach to time travel than in other novels which use time machines – explanation of the mechanics of time travel with the mind tend to be rather black box (though with the notable exception of the upcoming The Mindtraveler). Maybe this is set to change with the world’s first school in human powered time travel!

Using a coin to begin and end things was a nice touch. Although clearly not a time machine in itself, the coin served both as a symbol and as a trigger to reverse the backward time travel mechanism.


Richard sees from the old hotel guestbook that he’d signed it 76 years ago. This was the proof that his attempts at going back in time will succeed, and armed with this knowledge he continues in his endeavours to travel back in time.

This leads to the question as to whether there is any choice in our actions? He felt he was predestined to have a relationship with Elise (as opposed to Elise’s predictions that she was going to have one. She couldn’t escape her destiny; Richard couldn’t escape from his past.

This perhaps is crystallised in the signature with which Richard signs the guestbook – he’d seen that he had signed it in a different manner than he normally would have, so when he goes back in history and signs his name he makes sure that he signs in the same unorthodox way. Similarly, he ensures that he is checked into the room he had seem previously (i.e. ‘back’ in the future) in the guestbook.

This is the classic ontological paradox!


Whether it is an intended pun or not, I am unsure. But I did note that Richard was suffering from a temporal tumor! 😉

Other notes

As you can see from the top picture, the front cover is a bit ‘sissy’ with a soft focus photo of Elise. Whilst books shouldn’t really be judged by their covers, often their readers are, and as such, I was squirming a little bit when reading this copy in the train. Thankfully most of my reading was done in a hotel!

Perhaps this suggests the publisher’s target audience – fans of a romance more than time travel fans? In this sense I’m the complete opposite, being a fan of the time travel and not of (in this case) the romance!

Talking of publishers, I found the blurb on the back cover inaccurate and misleading.

Blurb for Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson, published by TOR, 2008.
Blurb for Somewhere in Time, published by TOR, 2008.

Richard’s “fascination” is not the time travel method, and the “tide of history” is not the stumbling block for the romance. Ah well. I guess this has been written to lure romantics to read about a terrible and unrealistic romance.

Memoirs of Elise

The untimely return to the present (or future, from Elise’s point of view), must have surely been problematic. Indeed, Richard noted that history recorded it as so. David L. Gurnee has written a book titled Memoirs of Elise which is a short novella (also written in diary form) which describes the life of Elise between the moment she loses Richard, and when she meets him again as an old woman.

It’s a piece of fan fiction I’d be very interested in reading for two reasons. The first is that it would provide a little bit of closure to the novel, and secondly, to see if it would provide any depth to the romance. Somewhere in Time is written from Richard’s point of view; Memoirs of Elise is written from Elise’s (of course!). Two sides to every story.

Sadly the price tag is prohibitive, at least at the moment.

Summary and availability

Somewhere in Time is a time travel romance which takes some getting into with the abrupt writing style, but about halfway it becomes more tolerable. Superficially the romance works, and the time travel aspect is simple which would make this novel an interesting read for romance and time travel fans alike.

On my second reading, I’m downgrading my rating to 4/5 stars – whilst I like the time travel element, I was cringing during the read of the romance and it simply made me feel uncomfortable.

From memory, the movie is much better – I’ll re-watch and review that later!

Somewhere in Time is available from (affiliated link).


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Star ratings:

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

My trouble with ebooks

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

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

I chose An0ma1y.

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

First musings

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new start

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

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

And so I had time to return to An0ma1y.

Life after Chapter 3

So what happens after Chapter 3?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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An An0ma1y Somewhere in Time

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

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

Somewhere in Time (Richard Matheson)

Somewhere In Time book cover

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

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

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

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

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

An0ma1y (CJ Moseley)

An0ma1y book cover

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

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

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

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

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

The problem

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

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

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

My choice

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

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


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Review: The Mindtraveler by Bonnie Rozanski

Time travel offers another chance to relive parts of your life which don’t turn out the way you’d like. Scientist Margaret Braverman discovers how to travel back in time by transporting her 60 year old mind into her 35 year old body and hopes to do things differently this time around.

But time travel is never as simple as it seems. She can only move a few fingers in her younger body and is forced to watch with fascination and horror as history repeats itself…and she has plenty of trouble in store for her when she returns to the present.

The Mindtraveler is a captivating time travel romance novel with scientific oomph! Unafraid to delve into the realms of time travel and its complications, it provokes moral and philosophical questions if we were given the chance to live our life again. Marrying romance with science and divorcing ignorance from time travel, The Mindtraveler is novel which you can’t put down!

The Mindtraveler by Bonnie Rozanski

The Mindtraveler

The Mindtraveler by Bonnie Rozanski is a captivating time travel romance with a firm footing in science. It’s unafraid to delve into the realms of time travel and its complications, provoking moral and philosophical questions if we were given the chance to live our life again.

Brief Synopsis

Margaret is a 60 year old scientist living with the regret of a failed relationship. To the annoyance of her colleagues she develops a time machine as sideline research and finds a way to transport her mind back in time into the body of her 35 year old self.

From this perspective she is able to relive her past – her affair with her colleague Frank, witness of police brutality, victim of an attack and the development of her time machine.

Unfortunately Margaret finds that she can take barely more than a passive role, able at best to move only a few fingers of her younger host body. This means that she can’t pass on or share her 25 years worth of wisdom (and hindsight foresight), and is forced to watch the same mistakes being made again.

In a wild flurry of necessity Margaret finally discovers how to move her host body and manipulates it so that a key moment in her history is changed.

She returns to an altered present where she discovers that her younger self has hitched a ride with her, and who now knows that her time machine works. The young ambitious scientist wants wants to publish the results in scientific journals of her time, but is advised against doing so by the older Margaret.

This is a sting in the tail for the elder Margaret whose present is once again altered.

But is it for the better?

The underlying science

The Mindtraveler is a centipede of a book with many feet in many camps; romance, drama and sci-fi. But what makes this novel different from many others is how it intertwines real science within the narrative.

It’s beautifully done; the story is told from the viewpoint of a lady in her sixties who’s a lecturer and researcher at a university. When she explains science to the reader it’s as though…I was never quite sure…we were either her students or her grandchildren. I was happy with either.

So the science behind her experiments, her thought processes and the methods she uses to solve them are all explained to us clearly and fluently and we get to understand the mechanics of the time machine.

Bonnie has clearly looked into underlying scientific principles and applied them well as the basis for her main character’s time machine – and explanations of it to her colleagues.

And here’s a direct example of how well Bonnie understands the subject area:

In Chapter 3 Margaret describes an experiment which shows how 2 particles are entangled in time: a laser fires a beam to a crystal where twin photons in each split beam take different paths. The photons in one beam are delayed so they arrive later than it’s entangled photon in the other beam. The setup of the cameras to detect the photons capture the image of the earlier photon, but who’s pattern was determined by the latter photon.

Let’s jump away from the novel for a moment and dive into real life.

Image: Gabriela Barreto Lemos
Image: Gabriela Barreto Lemos

The image to the right is taken from an article in New Scientist, published on 27 August 2014, and shows cats which:

“…were generated using a cat stencil and entangled photons. The really spooky part is that the photons used to generate the image never interacted with the stencil, while the photons that illuminated the stencil were never seen by the camera.” (Quoted from New Scientist article)

What I find spooky is the similarity between Margaret’s experiment and this one! Kudos!

The time travel

Time travel is an integral part of the novel – not simply because there’s a time machine, but because the story involves its development, and crucially, the scientific thinking behind it.

The time travel method is to map the quantum state of the mind, and establish its quantum connection to another point in time. The mind can then travel through time (backwards or forwards) as long as the host body is ready to receive it.

This reminds me a little of the movie “Being John Malkovich” where a puppeteer enters the mind of John Malkovich and sees and feels everything that John can, but all the while maintains his own sense of self.

Unlike the puppeteer in the movie, Margaret finds it more difficult to control her host body, and asks herself the question “what was the point in going back in time if you can do nothing to change it?”

This is a key part of the novel – can (or should) you change the past? And likewise…can you change the future?

Whilst reading The Mindtraveler I also came to think of The Mirror by Marlys Millhiser. Admittedly I found The Mirror to be a huge disappointment and non-event, but there is a similarity in the novels in that there is a transference of mind from one body to another body in another time.

In The Mirror there was an interesting point where the mind that had gone back in time ‘caught up’ with its own body in the present.

Whilst this didn’t quite happen in The Mindtraveler (though I think would have given rise to some interesting implications!) there was an interesting Looper-like argument between young and old Margaret when two minds were in the same body at the same time.

Something which I thought was particularly good was how Margaret’s memory was preserved – both in the 60 year old’s memory of the past, and when she came back to the alternate present (i.e. no new memories were instilled, or original ones taken away). Whether this was due to the ‘mind mapping’ time travel technique, or something more philosophical I’m not sure – but it’s a really nice touch!

There is also a brilliant segment on Margaret’s lab assistant Morgan – pay attention to her!

The romance

The time travel element in The Mindtraveler isn’t simply a vessel to describe things in Margaret’s past; indeed, its description is done through thoughtful contrast with the perspective of the present.

So we’ve done the time travel…now what do we do now that we’re back in the past? Instead of droning on and on about the past as Jack Finney does in the dreadful Time and Again where nothing happens, The Mindtraveler is thankfully different.

Margaret cracks time travel and tries to change things, notably, her failed relationship. Whether the relationship between Margaret and Frank is the primary or secondary plot (after the time travel – getting to be in a position (i.e. a time) when the relationship can be salvaged) is probably a matter of personal perspective.

Margaret herself of course takes two personalities – those of her younger and older self – and this makes for some pretty interesting reading when it comes to her thoughts about Frank. (It was also interesting for me as a man to read about how women (or at least, this one) feel about relationships and things.) I’m generally not into romances and stuff, but it came across nicely here.

Other thoughts

Something which immediately struck a chord with me (and perhaps this is because I’m a scientist by profession) is the accuracy of Bonnie’s insight (or research) into the negative side of academic politics – the petty mindedness and ambition of individuals, personal vendettas for selfish reasons.

You do get complete self serving and inflated s*its like Caleb, and you do get researchers on the fringe of the norm but who are academically excellent. These characters aren’t necessarily likeable, but they’re real.

However, the novel is about Margaret (and Frank), and about her research in time travel. It isn’t about her colleagues, friends or students – they feature because they make up part of her history, but they’re not the main focus. (Although as I mentioned earlier – pay attention to Morgan!)

Quite shockingly there are two violent episodes – police brutality and an attack. At first I wondered why they were included…but it was a natural read and the events didn’t appear to be contrived and added for the sake of it. Violence itself is shocking, but for me, what added to that is the fact that these events persisted to the memory of a 60 year old.

Well…understandable I think, given the circumstances.

For me the weak point in the novel is when Margaret returns to the present and hears that she’s won the Nobel Prize; I thought the timing was strange and too coincidental in that we’ve already seen that there can be an alternate history so the award of the er…award at exactly the point of her return seems too unlikely.

So is it better to have known love and lost it to a Nobel prize in physics, or to never have known [that] love at all?

When Margaret was in the ‘with-Frank’ future, she didn’t seem to take time to enjoy it fully, though I suppose the scientist side of her took control to see what had happened and how to preserve it. Her efforts are hampered, but it did leave me with an unanswered question: why didn’t Margaret go back in time again? Perhaps there is room for a sequel…I certainly hope so!


The Mindtraveler by Bonnie Rozanski is due out in February 2015 and will be published by Bitingduck Press. Unless you can get hold of a time machine, you’ll just have to wait until then! 😉

Rating * * * * *

The Mindtraveler by Bonnie Rozanski gets 5 stars for all the reasons I’ve written about above!

The Mindtraveler: A captivating time travel romance novel with scientific oomph!


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Disclaimer: A PDF copy of The Mindtraveler” 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: The Accidental Prologue

The Accidental Prologue by Andre Mazeron is an absolutely cracking time travel short story with a wonderful writing style which endears you to the first person character. The mechanics of time travel are integral within the plot which even describes experiments helping to understand how time travel paradoxes can be avoided.

Review: The Accidental Prologue by André Mazeron

Review: The Accidental Prologue

What an absolutely cracking short story!

The writing style is wonderful, immediately endearing me to the first person main character. This is even more marvelous when you consider that the author is Brazilian and is writing in English as a second language. Indeed, there are a few grammatical errors, but they really don’t detract the reader from the plot. And only a fool would let them.

(In fact, I’d say that André’s writing is on an equal footing with Felix J. Palma of The Map of Time!)

The plot details the mechanics of time travel and even describes experiments which help to understand how time travel paradoxes can be avoided. This is a great inclusion by André who is clearly mindful that science in science fiction needs to be consistent.

In addition to the quality scientific content, André also shows the quality of his background reading in other areas – take for example the name of the book and why it’s so called… Ah well, “If a rose were not a rose…” 😉

Short stories often end quickly and suddenly, giving the reader a sense of “Eh?…Ah yes!”. I was pleased that that this short story continued a little further, nicely rounding things off, and yet still providing me with that “Ah yes!” feeling at the end without any perplexity beforehand.

All in all, this is a fantastic debut short story (or “novelette”) from André Mazeron with great science and its applications in time travel – it’s well worth a read!


The Accidental Prologue by André Mazeron is available on Kindle at (associate link). It was free when I downloaded it – and at only 21 pages in length you really can’t go wrong!

Rating * * * * *

5/5 stars for a short and sweet time travel short story! 🙂

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Star ratings:

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Review: The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

The Anubis Gates

In short, this is a masterpiece of literature! It mixes fantasy with science fiction and has a multitude of story lines woven together with such intricacy that the resulting tapestry is a true marvel.

The Anubis Gates had me hooked from the beginning. Time travel is introduced very early on with a mixture of gadgetary and philosophical ideas about time travel, with a motivation about as strong as you can get…albeit truly revealed quite late on in the book.

The novel opens with a prologue that reads rather like an opening sequence in a movie – a couple of mysterious characters in ancient Egypt in a fantasy setting with an odd mix of horror and magic. It is abstract and vague, but you know that in time all will become clear…

Brief synopsis

Brendan Doyle, a literary scholar, is asked by Mr Darrow to go back in time with millionaires who are paying to attend a lecture given by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Doyle’s role, given his academic knowledge, is to provide his expert opinion on the lecture.

Brendan is abducted shortly after the lecture from which moment on he’s thrust into a world where he tries to piece together who he really is, who his kidnapper was, and why he’s of interest to them. This is more complicated than you might imagine thanks to a body changing werewolf (“Dog Face Joe”) hidden identities, magic, a surprising Shakespearean style romance and of course the time travel!

The time travel element

Time travel is introduced early in the novel; there’s no hanging about waiting for it to come, and no annoying confusion from the main character about “ooh-la-di-dah everything is so 18th century, but after 4 chapters I still haven’t worked out what’s going on”. No, thankfully Doyle has his head on straight and gets straight to business and deals with events as best as he is able given his very tricky circumstances!

Doyle is sceptical of time travel so this affords Darrow the opportunity to convince him (and us, the reader) of the reality of it. Darrow describes time as a river and uses this as a really good counter argument to the butterfly effect (i.e. that a small incident in the past (e.g. the flap of a butterfly’s wing) can affect the future on a much larger scale (like causing a hurricane); small disturbances in the river effect the flow downstream (i.e. in the future)…but some ripples are so small that actually it makes no difference to the bigger picture!

The analogy of time being like a river is taken further where Darrow suggests that you can step out of the time river and re-enter it on another part of the river bank. Or that the river could be frozen but that there are holes in the ice which can be passed through.

Despite these beautiful ideas, the aspect of time travel is not the main theme of the book and it is not a vehicle to transport the reader to a different setting for the characters. Rather, it’s a subtle mechanism to move and swap characters around within the plot.

The mechanism of time travel is done so through magical means (or an effect from) which is the first time I’ve come across this method and naturally fits in well with the fantasy part of the novel.

There are many clever time loops and the ontological paradox is taken to the extreme. There are also several examples of the “Hitler paradox” where history cannot be changed, altered, or escaped from. There is a therefore a clear sense of destiny and a strong sense of curiosity, especially in the submissive yet climatic conclusion.

These time travel themes are brilliantly executed and fit well within the general story line.

Writing Style

Although there is one central character, we are also introduced into the thoughts and feelings of several other characters in the novel. This helps to paint a complete three-dimensional picture of the events taking place and creates a deeper understanding of both characters and setting.

There is naturally a lot of swapping between the plots but it is not disruptive, and neither do the shifts seem to be timed to be cliff-hangers. The changes were natural and helped with the chronological narrative – as well as it could be in a time travel novel!

The main story line which comes together at the end wasn’t the one I was expecting…what I thought was the main story turned out to be an initiator, and then as a reoccurring side plot. Very clever!

Other points

I think this is a love or hate book (I loved it!). There is a lot of chopping about which means that the main character is difficult to follow at times…in body and in time. I can see that some readers may find this frustrating, as well as the diffusion between fantasy and science fiction.

My only slightly negative point is that I found the Egyptian story line to be a little confusing but that probably reflects more of myself than of the book – I must confess that I’m not really into fantasy so I read these sections very lightly and no doubt I missed some crucial aspects.

That said, the ‘fantastic’ line (is there another adjective for a fantasy section?) played a minor role in the whole scheme of things.


The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers earns an easy 5/5 stars and is available from and

Happy reading!


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Review: The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold

The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold

Wow, wow and wow!!! This is an absolute “must have” for the time travel enthusiast! Even if I’m wrong, it’s easy reading and only some 130 pages so you may as well give it a go!


Dan inherits a time belt from his Uncle Jim. By setting the controls on the time belt Dan is able to move from one point in time to another. On his temporal travels Dan meets and interacts with himself causing countless time loops and potential for quirky paradoxes. Whilst there is no specific plot, the reader is carried along with the main character in his search for perfection in himself and in his environment.

The time travel element

The mechanics of the how the time belt works is not revealed. This is not an omission, but I think deliberately left out so that we can empathise more with Dan and his own confusion into essentially a black box time machine. How it works, or what the consequences are of its use (or misuse) is not known, and to a large extent is learnt ‘on-the-job’.

The idea of a parallel universe where time lines diverge is played through and often this leads to an alternate version of Dan coming back (or forward) to (re/post)visit himself to warn of possible dangers. This seems to be the only instruction manual.

Time loops and strange realisations of cause and effect are bountiful…but interestingly there are no paradoxes. This is because whilst there are several versions of Dan the book is written from the viewpoint of only one of them. What happens to the others is not completely known to the writing version him and so the paradoxes are not explicitly mentioned.

However, Dan does think about them and we are privy to his thoughts…which are very interesting, though by his own admission may not be correct!

Writing style

This is yet another first person time travel novel but in this case I don’t think that the book could have been written in any other way. In fact the first person narrative allows for a very clever alternative to description by relating introspective thoughts to the reader which serve as thought experiments playing through scenarios and consequences of time travel.

Naturally this brings about a feeling of loneliness – Dan primarily interacts only with himself and doesn’t seek or ask for help from friends – there are very few other characters in the novel. In a way this is a little like Audrey Niffeneger’s “The Time Traveller’s Wife” where the time traveller also suffered loneliness in that he was the only one ‘afflicted’ with time travel and was disappointed that there wasn’t an army of fellow time travelers.

Other notes

The copy of the Man who Folded Himself that I read included a foreword by Robert J. Sawyer. I feel compelled to mention that I found this is to be pretty lame and shallow, and to be honest, more self serving than anything else. Of far more interest (and of intelligent thought) is the afterword by Geoffrey Klempner and is well worth a read [caution: After reading the novel – it contains spoilers!]


The Man who Folded Himself is available from and (affiliate links) and comes with the highest of my recommendations – an easy 5/5 stars!


Live review: The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships is the authorised sequel to H. G. Well’s The Time Machine.

How does this ship fare?


The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter is pretty poor as a sequel to the original The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. This is mostly because the the Time Traveller displayed very different characteristics in each book, and the underlying messages and meanings in the original were not followed through. Indeed, the only ties between the two books were contrived references at the start of the novel and the Time Traveller’s attempt to rescue Weena at the end.


As a novel in its own right, this is brilliant! Yes, it is clearly Baxter-esque with his Baxterisms of astro-engineering and Watchers etc., but there is some great science, and of course, elements of time travel.

Whilst multiple and alternate universes are core to this novel, it didn’t strike me as an easy get out of jail free card as used in several other time travel novels (e.g. The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma). Actually, the idea was followed through really nicely and was internally logical and consistent with a brilliant ‘application’ at the time-space singularity at the beginning of time.

The main character is a complete and utter pillock which for made for me some pretty angry reading (I must admit that in the first person I was reading Baxter as the Time Traveller) but at the same time I think it helped to nurture a real fondness for Nebogipfel through whom Baxter expresses his fascinating insights.

Although this novel deserves 0/5 stars as a sequel to The Time Machine, I’m giving The Time Ships a full 5 stars as a time travel novel in its own right.

The Time Ships is available from and (affiliate links).

A new approach

The Time Ships book cover

I’m going to try something new with this review – I’m going to write it as I read…pseudo live, if you like!

Perhaps I should first confess that I’m approaching The Time Ships with a little bit of prejudice…not simply that I’ve already read The Time Machine (and The Chronic Argonauts – arguably the predecessor to The Time Machine), but also that I’ve read some of Baxter’s works before and find many of them immensely irritating.

This is because (subjectively speaking) I find much of his writing has googled science crow-barred into patronising narrative, as well as more than a few prods to NASA, which is probably related to him not being selected as an astronaut.

Anyway. Let’s see how this goes!


OK. So I’ve read The Map of Time which depicts a fictitious story around H. G. Wells, and I was moved to (re)read The Time Machine as it’s written in first person, implying, in a way, that the main character is Wells himself, and now I know a little bit more about him.

I’ve also read The Chronic Argonauts (a very short story written by Wells, and predating The Time Machine) which some argue forms the basis of the more well known novel.


* The Time Ships commences with an “Editors note” to introduce the novel itself as part of a bigger picture. This reminds me of The Planet of the Apes by *Pierre Boullon which also starts (and finishes) in a similar manner.

* Baxter is trying to stay close to Well’s first person style of writing and using archaic and flowery language. I’m finding it a little unnatural and it reads almost like a young child’s description of events. I went here. I did that. I then found this… and so on. Actually, it’s a bit like Fred Hoyle’s dreadful style of writing (e.g. In October the First is too Late; The Black Cloud). Nice ideas, but you get rushed through.

* Baxter clearly has a copy of The Time Machine next to him. He’s pulling out small occurrences from the Time Traveller’s dinner with his friends, and forcing them them into the narrative to give an impression of continuity. I know it’s a sequel…I don’t need to be rudely prodded as a reminder and have it spelled out.

* Ah, the mechanics of the time travel! There’s a nice idea about twisting the 4 dimensions such that the temporal dimension lies on a spatial axis, meaning that motion through time can be achieved in much the same way as motion through space. A physical twisting of time.

The Time Taveller therefore feels dizzy when he time travels because he’s being twisted and subjected to centrifugal and Coriolis forces.

At first I thought this was stupid as he’s not physically twisting, and certainly, Coriolis force in some ways is the (imaginary) force opposing centrifugal force (also imaginary)…

Centrifugal force is simply an object obeying Newton’s first law of motion and that it will move in an straight line at constant speed unless an external force (such as a twist) is applied to it. Coriolis force is the apparent force that an object seems to follow when it’s linear motion is viewed from a rotating frame. So you have one and not the other – you can’t be flung out from rotation in a straight line (centrifugal force) whilst experiencing Coriolis force which acts to give you a lateral motion (measureable from the rotating frame that you’re being flung out from!).

* Second thoughts, I might let Baxter off. Centrifugal and Coriolis forces are 2 different ways of describing the same thing, but from two different (reference) viewpoints. A bit like time and space! OK…I’m now thinking it was a clever idea!

* The time machine itself is powered by a substance called Plattnerite – a substance delivered by a mysterious visitor. Much as I don’t like the idea of a fuel cell of some description to activate time travel, I’m toying with the idea that this mysterious visitor will be seen later on in the novel!

And into the far future…

* There seems to be an over-play of how bad Morlocks are. I think this is again another reference to the original book, but here it’s not fitting, and I should think that such prejudiced feelings from the Time Traveller are not in keeping with the original character.

* And here we are…Baxter hasn’t let us down with his precious Gaijin. Page 34 (of 630) and the Time Traveller is faced with A Watcher. So the Gaijin are back.

* I’m getting quite angry. The Time Traveller is behaving like a complete and utter prick towards a Morlock who is clearly looking after him. This is not in keeping with the original character, though I should confess I’m probably most upset because I prefer to identify with characters (especially in first person novels), whereas this one is more like a stroppy teenager than the thoughtful and respectful scientist of the original book. For example, whilst there may be a hint of shame, there’s no real apology or outward show of remorse when he’s told that he’s killed children.

No wonder the Morlocks appointed him a day carer. That’s a nice touch!

Still. I’m going to make a deliberate effort to read this book as a separate piece of work, rather than as a sequel with consistent characters and characteristics. I know that’s not in the spirit of the book, but then again, this book seems to be more of a piece of dodgy fan fiction than a sequel…

“We have harnessed a star.”

* And now comes Baxter’s idea of the future – astronomical engineering, just like in his Manifold Trilogy, and Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey series (the latter having a spaceship which revolved to induce artificial and spatially gravity with distance from the hub…a theme repeated here in The Time Ships.)

* OK, I’ve just checked – the Manifold Trilogy was published after The Time Ships, so I suppose I should moan about his repetition of ideas if I was ever to re-read and review that Manifold Trilogy.)

I’ll let him off again here though, except to say that it seems that he’s to take many ideas from The Time Ships and developed them further in subsequent novels – much the same, as some believe, H.G. Wells did with taking ideas from The Chronic Argonauts, and developing them further in The Time Machine.

Which brings me nicely onto the next point:

* The Morlock’s name is Nebogipfel. i.e. the same name as the mysterious scientist in The Chronic Argonauts who later goes on to be a time taveller. Is this a coincidence, or opening the possibility of a temporal loop? I don’t think it too far to expect that many readers of The Time Ships will have also read both The Time Machine and The Chronic Argonauts!.

* There are pictures in this book!! What!! Much as I disliked Time and Again (Jack Finney), the inclusion of pictures there sort of made sense. But here? I’m no artist, but I don’t find the illustrations particularly good, neither do I think they add anything. I’d rather let narrative description and my imagination paint my pictures…

Back to the (near) present

* The Time Traveller ‘escapes’ from the future (Nebogipfel follows him into the time machine) and ends up a few years before his original time frame. He meets himself (as a slightly younger version) and this is an interesting read.

* The younger version of himself is “Moses” – his little used first name…as well as the first name of the time traveller in The Chronic Argonauts Dr Moses Nebogipfel. Another possibility of a temporal loop?

* Things are very different in 1944, thanks to war with the Germans. It’s an old and boring story line of alternate history which I find very exceedingly unoriginal.

* Introduction of the term time technology – research into time travel, time machine construction etc..

* Quantum mechanics is used to explain the idea of parallel universes and alternate histories. Even though I don’t like parallel universes and find them an easy escape from some of the complexities of time travel paradoxes, I must admit that the uncertainty and probability underlying quantum theory make it very novel and almost makes the chance of parallel universes possible!

* OK, the trouble with the Germans started on p198, and it’s taken till p314 to finally get past it. Dull dull dull. The section is full of names which I didn’t recognise (my own failing) but it turns out that these are key people in history, such as pioneers of bouncing bombs and soforth.

Into the deep past

* p323. Oh b***dy hell. The Watcher is back.

* The Time Traveller and Nebogipfel find themselves so far back in history (the Paleocene) that the climate is now tropical. The Time Traveller notes that in his own time he never ventured to tropical regions. I found this to be an interesting side nod to the connectivity between time and space!

* The possibility of causing an event in the past which will cause ripples into the future is astronomical. The Time Traveller kills an ancestor of a monkey, and Nebogipfel points out that this could significantly change the future. He then shows remorse at his action…notably more so that killing child Morlocks.

* During his stay in the deep past, the Time Traveller seems to become increasingly a pillock towards Nebogipfel, about whom I must say that I’ve developed quite a liking.

* Baxter shows a nice insight: the forest that the Time Traveller and Nebogipfel find themselves in is “self engineered” to withstand heavy flooding, by channelling water through grooves in the bark of tree trunks. This was well-written in the narrative, and not heavily levered in as in so many other cases.

* Soldiers from 1944 come back to deep history and find The Time Traveller and Nebogipfel. Again, names of characters are mentioned who are key in history. This is getting tiresome and, dare I say, unrealistic…that one character should meet so many other well-known characters.

* On the subject of names, the name of the main character in the original is not divulged, and Baxter tries hard to maintain this in his novel…but it’s done so very heavy handedly:

“Good morning, Mr ___ ” he said, calling my name.

So irritating! In the original, the name simply didn’t come up, whereas now it’s deliberately withheld. Very contrived, and weak. In one case, a character insinuates that the Time Traveller’s surname is Livingstone. That section of prose sticks out like a sore thumb!

* Other named characters are given a huge fanfare of phoney intriguing introduction, culminating in the name being given at the end of the chapter. It’s nothing more than a nod to alternate histories (of which I am no fan). Certain that the inclusion of so many names must be of some significance, I had to approach google (it’s my own failing that I have a poor knowledge of history), and indeed, most of the names were historically significant. It makes it unrealistic that so many well-known (not to me! :; ) should come together at one place, one time and be connected to the Time Traveller. It got really tiresome, and predictable.

* There’s a forest fire, and just as I’m thinking this is similar to the original, the Time Traveller ties grass to his feet and is reminded himself of his ‘earlier’ excursion. It’s a nice natural link between the books!

* It’s sad that the boring war story line extends into this portion of the novel, but I suppose that’s a bit of the point. I especially like the football match (similar to the Christmas Day match during WW1). Needless to say a well known footballer from the past was involved.

Back to the present (1891)

* The Time Traveller and Nebogipfel set the time machine to take them to the year 1891. This present is different from the present that The Time Traveller knows as it is populated by descendants of man from the Paleocene several millions of years ago. Baxter gives an account of the new ‘human’ species which has evolved, often referring to ants and ant-like motion. This reminded me of a sci fi novel I’d read but can’t for the life of me remember who wrote it (possibly John Wyndham) where ants occupy large metal structures because otherwise they are limited by their small size.

* As expected from Baxter there is plenty of astro-engineering, but by now I think I’ve got used to it and it’s par for the course.

* There is a fantastic copying of Arthur C. Clarke’s space elevator (from one of the Space Odyssey books, forget which one). Heaven knows why Baxter is called ACC’s heir – he just rewrites his ideas (with a touch more story line). Baxter’s only original contribution to the elevator is that if it’s made of glass, then it won’t be good for vertigo sufferers. Then again. Glass elevator sounds a little bit like Roald Dahl’s novel of the same name, doesn’t it…

* The new species are named The Constructors. Nebogipfel understands them better than the Time Traveller who of course is embarrassingly narrow minded and thick. Nebogipfel adapts well and is able to learn of the plans in time travel the Constructors have in mind, with help from a billiards table which serves as a demonstration of the role of time travel and multiple universes. I thought this was a very clever insight.

A hop into the future

* The construction of the time machine will take half a million years, so the Time Traveller and Nebogipfel time travel forwards in time by that amount when the Constructors’ own time machine is ready. During this travel, the physical space which they occupy is maintained by the Constructors, again, a brilliant insight from Baxter, from whom by now, I’m starting to forgive…whilst his ideas are repetitive (e.g. the vastness of time and space, watchers, astronomical engineering, ideas from other sci fi authors), I must admit that he’s b***dy good!

The beginning of time

* The Constructor’s plan is to go back to the beginning of time, and they take the Time Traveller and Nebognipfel with them. The descriptions from Baxter of the astronomical occurrences are really impressive, as is the final outcome – that the Constructors reach the singularity in time and space, and are able to disperse themselves in all universes of the multiplicity.

* The Time Traveller and Nebognipfel are taken into an optimal universe (for the Constructors). The Time Traveller is again visited by his Watcher which is when he realises that the Watchers have been monitoring him all along, and have been engineering the artificial universe in which they find themselves. Having waited for so long in the book for some information about the Watchers, I felt the description came over as very rushed and without much back up. It is also soaked in pre-material for the Manifold Trilogy.

* The Time Traveller at this point is experiencing total eternal infinity and is at a deep peace with himself…although there doesn’t seem to be any sense of peace conveyed – just bland, vague, and despite the overbearing brightness…dull. That said, it is interesting that after a while the Time Traveller recaptures his inquisitivity, showing that despite a change in his physical form he is still human.

* The Time Traveller and Nebognipfel are returned to human form and placed in an alternate history. I thought Nebognipfel would get reconstructed a little more human like (i.e. of the Time Traveller’s form) and go back to Wales to close the circle from The Chronic Argonauts. (Why did Baxter give him such a name?) Instead he’s simply left by the Time Traveller who with no surprise at all turns out to be the mysterious visitor who bears the initial vial of platternite at the beginning of the novel.

* The Time Traveller admits earlier that he is not one for long goodbyes, and Nebognipfel is a no nonsense kind of a guy, but I really expected something more. The paragraph really seems like an unfinished note that needs a little more expansion.

It’s a real shame that Nebognipfel leaves the novel. He gives some really interesting insights, or I should say, Baxter describes his insights through Nebognipfel) such as how the point of singularity at the beginning of the universe works, or the possibility of multiple multiplicities. Staggering stuff, actually!

The quest to save Weena

* The Time Ships now remembers its origins as a sequel, and the Time Traveller goes forward in time to rescue Weena from the Morlocks. It is another sad note that he does this alone; it would have been interesting to read how Nebognipfel would have reacted to seeing alternate versions of Morlocks; the seed, perhaps, of the Time Traveller’s deep seated aversion to him. (B***dy idiot).

* The Watchers seem to have disappeared. A hugely disappointing close to a story line…no wonder Baxter keeps returning to it in his subsequent novels.

* Anyway. The novel is now reading more like a sequel to The Time Machine the style of writing is more true (e.g. with lengthy descriptions).

* Actually the fact that the Time Traveller wants to save Weena shows the keeping of the character in the original. I think the character depicted in the Time Ships would really have preferred to go back to the Paleocene era.

The End.

[edit] I’ve started reading Tau Zero by Poul Anderson. He’s describing flight in a spaceship where centrifugal and Coriolis forces are making the passengers feel dizzy. Published in 1967, I wonder if Baxter has mastered time travel after all, or whether he’s doing the Baxter thing of taking other people’s ideas…

Although this novel deserves 0/5 stars as a sequel to The Time Machine, I’m giving The Time Ships a full 5 stars as a time travel novel in its own right.


Review: The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

Map of Time Book Cover

The first thing which needs to be said about Palma’s Map of Time is that it is a beautifully written piece of literature! This is all the more impressive in that the novel was originally written in Spanish and subsequently translated into English (by Nick Caistor) so perhaps a courteous nod to Nick is in order too!

In short, The Map of Time takes the author H. G. Wells and his novel The Time Machine and spins a romance involving time travel around it.


Distraught to the point of suicide by the murder of his girlfriend, Andrew Harrington is introduced to Gilliam Murray who runs a time travel tourism business. Andrew is informed that only forwards time travel is possible, so going back in time to prevent the murder of his loved one is impossible. A slim possibility of any hope at all in this realm in given in the advice to visit the author H. G. Wells who has published two time travel novels (The Chronic Argonauts and The Time Machine).

The thinking is that by writing such novels, Well’s has mastered time travel and indeed has a working time machine which may be able to help Andrew in revisiting and altering the past.

The theme of romance in this first section is continued in the second which focuses on characters involved in Murray’s time travel tourism business; Claire Haggerty doesn’t fit in with modern day societal conventions falls in love with a man from the future, Captain Derek Shackleton. They meet physically only once, and use letters as a means of communication.

H. G. Wells also has a role here to play in assisting with the letter writing, thus linking this section with the previous.

Wells becomes “the Hero”, i.e. the primary character, in the final section where he is visited, or has communication with, someone from the future. It is through the communication and the visitations that he faces a decision which ultimately decides the fate or future of time travel.

The time travel element.

This is inherently a tricky section to write, given that for the most part there is no actual time travel! In order to avoid spoilers I’ll refer only to the last section of the novel where time travel is more fully realised.

The method of time travel operates through a genetic ability which gets refined through time. Initially time travel occurs involuntarily, though later, as the gene is refined and the ‘user’ becomes more adept at using this skill, time travel is more controlled. These characteristics reminded me of the (non time travel) movie Jumper and Audrey Niffenegger’s time travel novel The Time Traveller’s Wife.

There are lots of time loops, and paradoxes are avoided with parallel universes. In fact, the idea of parallel universes is central to the time travel element in The Map of Time. It is consistent, well thought out and well presented in the in the novel, but personally speaking I find parallel universes an easy escape from time travel paradoxes. And it certainly brought about a very disappointing end to the novel where it served as a mechanism to bring about a happy ending. Or did it?

Writing style

A lot of the novel isn’t really connected with time travel, but at the same time there is frequent use of vocabulary related to time and time travel, and insights given into the author’s thoughts on the subject.

At times it’s like your Grampa reading you a bed time story; friendly and warm, descriptive with a personal insight to an interpretation of events, and a little bit more of a hint that the writer is an all-knowing omnipresent character. In this way, the author becomes almost a character within the novel he is writing!

The average motion through the plot of the novel is linearly forwards, but there are plenty of digressions which seem at first to take a tangent but actually gently circle back to the main story line. Sometimes these read a little discontinuously (especially between each of the 3 sections of the book) but overall it’s fluent, and probably best described as ‘flowery’!

In keeping with the flowery style of writing and story lines, the main character changes quite frequently. I can see that for some readers this might be cause for irritation, but I think it worked well as the characters who, like the tangential sub plots, had a tendency to come back.

The common thread through all of this is H. G. Wells whose role varies from stage extra to key character. I would argue then that H. G. Wells is the central character, in that he is present to some degree in all of the main story lines. Indeed, he is also present in the sequel (The Map of the Sky) which refers to his book The War of the Worlds.

Sadly I was hugely disappointed by the ending which read largely as an introduction to the next book (The Map of the Sky). As far as I can tell from the reviews, the sequel seems to follow pretty much the same pattern as The Map of Time – using H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds as a base in place of The Time Machine.

The Palma’s self publicising aside, things ended happily ever after thanks to a parallel universe, about which I have already hinted of my frustration!

Other notes

I suppose that it is inevitable that similar ideas will ripple across literary fiction, but I did find a number of similarities with ideas and events in The Map of Time with other books:

  • The futuristic idea of automatons fighting humankind ~ the Terminator movies
  • An effort to transport a ‘non time traveller’ through time through physical means (e.g. hugging) ~ Time and Again (Jack Finney)
  • Loss of a limb (or gain, depending how you look at it) ~ The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
  • The elephant in the room of course is H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, but that’s the whole premise of the book. Not quite fan fiction, not quite poetic licence and not an out and out fabrication of historical events, but a very clever clever an original idea!
  • Incidentally, the first time I read The Time Machine I didn’t really enjoy it (actually I’ve tried reading The War of the Worlds (also H.G. Wells) but got so bored with it I gave up), but I am feeling motivated to give it a reread as I feel I’ve got to know [a fictitious version of] the author (and it will prepare me for The Time Ships – the authorised sequel to The Time Machine.)


    The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma is a beautiful time travel novel with very little time travel! That said, there are plenty of methods of time travel presented, although disappointingly (from the time travel perspective) use parallel universes to explain away paradoxes.

    In essence this is a romance novel, but there’s enough science fiction in there to make The Map of Time into something much more special!

    I’m giving this 4/5 stars…which isn’t bad for a time travel novel with actually not that much time travel!

    The Map of Time is available from and Enjoy!


    Review: Time and Again by Jack Finney

    Time and Again

    By Jack Finney

    Most reviews of Time and Again by Jack Finney are glowing. About Time, a collection of short time travel stories by the same author is a fantastic piece of work. And miscellaneous short time travel stories by Finney in other compendiums are also excellent.

    I had high hopes when I ordered my copy of Time and Again.


    Simon Morley (or “Si” as he’s referred to) is an artist who is selected to take part in a government experiment with time travel. He goes back in time to New York in 1882 and is instructed to observe, and on later trips, to interact with characters who he finds there.

    His motivation is to watch an envelope being posted. The envelope contains a letter with a cryptic message, and the story line loosely revolves around the sequence of events leading up to, and immediately after the event described therein.

    The Time Travel Element

    Si is able to use self hypnosis to transport himself back to a predefined date and time. To achieve this he needed coaching and practice – not just in the technique of the self hypnosis itself, but also in the lifestyles and culture of the New Yorkers of 1882 to facilitate his own belief in being in the new time (a method adopted in the movie Somewhere in Time based on Richard Matheson’s book Bid Time Return)>

    At one point in the novel Si is able to wrap his arms around another character and take her on his travel in time too. The method of her solitary return to her own time is not revealed, though by the time that this point in the novel is reached the time travel method doesn’t see to be of much significance.

    There doesn’t seem to be ‘fine control’ in the sense of a specific moment in time for arrival. Again, this doesn’t really seem to be an important point within the context of the novel.

    Under his self hypnosis, Si is aware of his journey into the past, and is able to return to the present at will. Upon return he relays a stream of general information to the experiment leaders.

    The idea is that if there is an inconsistency between his version of facts and the version that the non time travellers know, then this signifies a different – i.e. altered – history. In one case, another time traveller recalls a character who now no longer exists in the present. This indicates the importance of historical events and their impact on the future.

    That said, a nice idea is presented where time flows as a turbulent river. In a similar way that small disturbances in a large river peter out into nothing, small events in the past won’t affect the future. In effect, nature snaps back to its normal position.

    This is diametrically opposed to the idea of the butterfly effect where small events in a chaotic system (such as the flap of a butterfly’s wings in the atmosphere) can cause large events (such as a hurricane).

    The case of the now-non-existent-character is therefore in disagreement to this premise, as is the paradox presented at the end of the novel…maybe…the question is left open.

    Writing style and content

    Like many time travel stories and novels, Time and Again is written in the first person. A writing style adopted often as a nod to H. G. Wells and The Time Machine, as nearly as often not adding much to the novel, the first person style in this case does give depth. This is because the novel is written as a journal, coming complete with pictures which are presented as sketches and photos that the main character has sketched or taken.

    (On a very personal note I disliked the pictures; I prefer to use character descriptions and my imagination to visualise people and places. It also read rather childishly…Here is a sketch I made of the building etc..)

    To the Finney’s credit, this substantiates the incredible amount of research that has gone into reproducing New York in that era, though almost to his own admission in an afterword this became quite overdone.

    I never fully realised what the story line in this novel was. Si latched onto a character in 1882 new York, Julia, and this is probably the strongest case of a plot, turning a description of a historical New York into a disjointed and uneventful time travel romance.

    But Si’s affair with Julia seems to be pointless – I didn’t find Julia a particularly deep character, and the fact that Si becomes attracted to her to the point of ditching his current girlfriend I think shows his own shallow and superficial nature. On reflection, I must have missed something because such a person wouldn’t have been selected to take part in this government experiment in the first place.

    Having finally got to the end of the book I realised the thinking behind Time and Again – it’s a story woven around a number of known (researched) descriptions and events. Very clever. I loved the idea of the enormous river of time smoothing out earlier changes and I’m sure that this also has a founding somewhere, just as the detailed descriptions of places and signs and billboards in other parts of the novel.

    That said, I found Time and Again to be a novel with a drawn out beginning, no middle and an end where things begin to happen.

    The beginning

    The beginning is where ideas behind time travel are presented. But it takes a lot of dreary reading and it really is spoon fed to the reader. It’s like pushing jelly through a keyhole.

    The middle

    Nothing much actually happens in the central part of the novel. Just pages and pages of description of a 1882 New York. Events are non eventful and descriptions of the area are overtly lengthy with no real significance. Very little actually happens. Page after page. Time and again.

    For those living in New York or those who have a good knowledge of it, I think this might be a fascinating read. For myself, I found it tedious. I was waiting for the story to start, but the end came before I knew it, and by then, it was only just beginning.

    The end

    I’m not sure that there was a definite ‘end’!

    The beginning of the novel starts near the end. By “beginning” I mean actions of note. These actions were full of suspense, though by now the dry style of writing had somewhat numbed the brain.

    A key point is that things tend to be a little coarser in the past than in modern life (for example, less civil liberties and rights) and there’s a certain amount of sympathy for Si. But his hindsight of events never comes into play. This is faithful to the role of observer-only, but I think it would have made for some interesting angles.

    There is very little to tell the (late and non exciting) action sequence in this book apart from an action sequence in a non time travel novel…except for Si’s disappointingly weak escape by travelling out of the time period.

    To its credit there are two highlights to the final section of Time and Again.

    The first is not just seeing a modern day New York through the eyes of a 1882 citizen, but how a modern day person would explain those things to a character from 1882. For example, how is it best to explain the world wars, or aeroplane contrails seen for the first time, etc.. It was during these scenes that I started to a deeper side to Si’s character.

    The second point of interest is the final conclusion. The premise of the time travel element seems to be that events in history don’t effect the outcome in the future to a great degree, and yet…this is turned on it’s head. In order to avoid a spoiler I won’t divulge in this further. But it takes place only in the last 2 pages of the novel.

    The future

    I was expecting a lot from Time and Again but was bitterly disappointed. I’ve seen reviews on Amazon which indicate that the sequel isn’t up to much and doesn’t measure against Time and Again. I don’t think I’ll be giving any time to that novel.


    Review: Loveless and Godstone Regret

    Loveless and Godstone Regret by Mark Williams

    Two things happened when I started reading Loveless and Godstone Regret.

    Loveless and Godstone Regret book cover
    Loveless and Godstone Regret by Mark Williams

    The first is that it made me put down another book I’d already started reading.

    The second is that I got the absolute heebie jeebies!

    Twice actually. I started reading it on the train to work, and there in the opening pages was a description of commuters at a train station shortly before – and during – the end of the world.

    And if that didn’t give me the crappers, what really did was when I read about a moment when everyone’s mobile phone rang at the same time on that train. Why? Because for reasons unknown to mortal man, when my own phone has a low battery, it vibrates. Presumably it does this to drain the little remaining juice the battery may hold and force me into recharging it quicker. And of course, it did this to me at precisely the same moment that I read about all the phones going off simultaneously.

    Now I felt truly immersed in the book! 😉

    Brief Synopsis

    When Jack Loveless becomes an unwilling pawn in a bank robbery he unknowingly discovers a key for a time machine held in one of the vaults. He gets caught in a seemingly unavoidable series of events when he’s rescued from an arrest for the robbery, and before long he uncovers a plot to destroy the world. Trying to understand exactly what is happening, by who, and why (and how to control the time machine!) Jack and his arresting officer (Harry Godstone) stumble from one moment in history to another only making things increasingly worse for themselves.

    As for the future of the world…

    Promotional video

    The Time Travel Element

    The time travel element is introduced very early on with an original idea that by including people in the past as members of the total population then the chances of DNA matches in otherwise statistically high and impossible odds are possible. So as H. G. Wells famously quoted in his “The Time Machine”, time is treated as another dimension and divisions between people, be they geographical or temporal, can be removed. Nice!

    The two main characters, and later their companions, move through time with a time machine. An interesting angle is that the machine is called with a portable key which also serves as the controlling device in terms of temporal destination. The physics behind the operation of the machine – launching into a slingshot around the moon and landing back on the Earth at a different moment in time – is of course unrealistic, but perfectly fitting with the slapstick comedic style of the novel.

    For the most part, characters are literally dropped into different eras and before they know it, lifted up and re-dropped somewhen else. In this respect I was reminded of The Time Machine where Wells’ time machine was only an object to change the setting of the novel for the characters. Unlike Wells’ novel, and more like Time’s Eye (Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter), tramping about time did allow for an interesting play between historical figures of different times, brought together.

    (And as an aside, I must say that although I got annoyed with Time’s Eye, that feeling was not common with Loveless and Godstone Regret!)

    There are some really nice time travel gems; a beautiful way that the time machine responds to and communicates with its key, a sense of inescapable destiny and keep your eye out for an interesting sidestep to the grandfather paradox! 😉

    For me, the real juice of time travel comes towards the end of the novel. Unfortunately it reads a little as though it’s an explanation of what has happened earlier – which of course it is – but I think it could have flowed a little more naturally.

    So what makes the final section juicy? In the entirety of the book there are lots of things happening and lots of things going on. At the time of reading not much attention is paid to a man on the roof, or a tattoo on a finger and so forth – but at the end of the novel many of these things are shown to have significance, and for me this makes Loveless and Godstone Regret a well thought out and delivered novel.

    Writing style

    This is primarily a comedy novel, and the humour is an exotic concoction of Terry Pratchett (of Discworld fame) Douglas Adams (of galactic fame) and a hint of Red Dwarf (of extra-galactic fame). However you define it, it’s relentlessly funny on every page!

    Humour is a tricky thing to nail, but Mark Williams has really hit it on the head!

    The characters – what’s in a name?

    The point of view during the narrative shifts a little uneasily between Loveless and Godstone. Given the comedic style of writing this isn’t really a major flaw, though I did feel that this was more because the personalities of the characters tended to merge. Actually, I wonder if the names were given to the wrong people:

    Jack Loveless: the main character; basically a good guy to whom bad things happen.
    Harry Godstone: Jack’s sidekick – a suicidally depressed and violent copper, bent on nicking Jack Loveless.

    It is perhaps a small point, but I thought that violence would be expected from a man named “Loveless”, and “Godstone” is mildly suggestive of a moral compass, more ‘suitable’ for an unwitting hero like Jack. I was also surprised that Jack was usually referred to by his surname (again, more fitting to someone in the police force) whereas the police officer was referred to on a first name basis.

    Still…I was too busy laughing at the comedy and being interested in the time travel aspect to pay much attention to the possible misnomer.

    Other notes

    I have only one negative observation with Loveless and Godstone Regret, and I admit this is subjective; there is a lot of violence. It’s not bloody or gory, but there are lots of people dying and being killed and it seems out of place in a comedy and a lazy way to get rid of awkward or difficult secondary characters.

    Anyway…as the blurb on the back cover says, this is a “…black comedy”, so I’ll hold fire! 🙂

    I should also say that I was surprised to read a scene with a horse which I found to be a little offensive. Admittedly, I am a sensitive chap (perhaps too much so) but I think the nature of the scene didn’t add anything to either the comedy or the plot, and like the violence, would tend to make this novel unsuitable for sensitive and young readers. That said, it is only one paragraph, so perhaps not too much attention should be paid to this bit!


    Loveless and Godstone Regret is a brilliantly funny novel with time travel thrown in for good measure. It’s well thought out with many clever applications and twists associated with romping through time. Violent at times, but hilarious all the way through!


    Loveless and Godstone Regret by Mark Williams is available in print (through Amazon) and as an ebook (through ibooks) at

    Disclaimer: A copy of Loveless and Godstone Regret was given to me free of charge for the purpose of providing this unbiased review. This review reflects my true and honest opinion of the novel.


    Review: The Photo Traveler by Arthur J. Gonzalez

    The Photo Traveler by Arthur J. Gonzalez

    I won a PDF copy of The Photo Traveler from Arthur J. Gonzalo as part of a giveaway. This review, as with all my others (past and those to come) is my honest opinion.


    Gavin is a 17 year old boy who seems to have had more than his fair share of suffering in his early life. He leaves his abusive adoptive parents and finds his grandparents who tell him that he can travel back in time by reciting a chant when looking at a photo.

    Gavin learns that whilst this hereditary ability can be fun, there are rules which must be followed. He’s also warned of a danger in the form of other families who wish to harm him.

    The Time Travel Element

    Gavin is able to travel back in time by vocalising a chant when looking at a photo. As a photo traveler he is taken back to the moment in time when the photo was taken. He returns to the present when he recites another chant.

    This method of time travel is beautifully illustrated when Gavin meets his parents ‘in’ a photo. When he asks how long they’d been there, they reply (along the lines of) “Same as you – we can’t have arrived before the moment that the photo was taken.” It is a simple restatement of the method of time travel, but I thought it was elegantly expressed in application.

    Time experienced in the past occurs in real time – if one hour is experienced in the past, then the photo traveler will have been missed in the present for one hour. Gavin nearly always returned back to the present because he considered he’d be missed.

    A single photo can be used more than once, though this never occurred in the novel. It seemed to be a strange oversight, especially given that Gavin had specifically asked the question of whether it was possible to his grandparents.

    That said, there was a nice touch was where Gavin and Yogi agreed to meet each other at a location in a photo each of then had access to over the internet.

    Given the ease at which a single defined moment in time could be traveled to I felt that a lot of opportunities for time loops were missed. In fairness I suppose time loops aren’t a compulsory requirement in time travel novels (but they do make great reads!)

    Writing Style

    The Photo Traveler is written in the first person from Gavin’s viewpoint. This makes the novel easy to read and quickly engages the reader with Gavin. Unfortunately, I found that this style of writing became inherently irritating in that it reads as account by a teenager who’s out to impress his mates with a story – a lot of telling not showing, superlatives and over dramatisation.

    Even the dialogue from his grand parents was very childish, but I’d like to think that this was Gavin’s ‘translation’ of what they really said into his own vernacular in the narrative.

    Maybe this style of writing would be more welcomed by young adults in the target audience…it’s just me that’s too old! 😉


    Gavin’s character is key to the novel, given that it is through his eyes and interpretation of events that The Photo Traveler is written.

    The references to Gavin’s troubled early years reminded me a little of the Butterfly Effect movie where similarly, the main character had a dark childhood. The events subsequently became hook points in the movie (and indeed, the sequel to the first movie used pictures and not text to time travel), so I was wondering whether there was a purpose to Gavin’s difficult childhood. Gavin’s history, I think, provided a little bit of depth to his character.

    I started out liking Gavin who generally sees things in a positive light and tends to put other people first. Or so our melodramatic teenager would have you think of him. It becomes clear later that Gavin’s actions are in juxta-position to his self inflating words and thoughts.

    For example, he finds the love of his life in Allana, the sister of one of his college mates. The complication is that Allana was killed in a car crash several years ago, and the only way they can meet is by Gavin’s photo traveling. Gavin has only 3 photos of Allana and therefore feels restricted in that he can only see her during those 3 moments when the photos were taken. He takes no effort to get more photos of her, or indeed, to revisit her by ‘reusing’ any of his 3 photos.

    No, he wallows in his own self pity and goes on to have tantrums and fights. My enthusiasm and empathy for him as a young adult fighting to overcome his history evaporated.

    His interactions with other characters at times seemed a little overdone. Whereas in a movie these encounters, be they conversations or fights, might last a few seconds, I felt that reading through a couple of pages didn’t add anything to the plot. Then again, this again might have been Gavin’s exaggerated interpretation of events given in hindsight.

    The Plot

    I found this a little vague…

    At first I thought it may be Gavin’s quest to find his parents, but he finds them very quickly.

    Then there was a lot of harping on about vials and being in danger. But there was no real evidence of a continued threat to Gavin. Indeed, I found the whole vial thing and fluid from a purple underground river a little contrived and underdeveloped. Maybe this will turn into something more substantial in subsequent books.

    And there was Gavin’s love interest with Allana – his ‘dead’ ‘older’ girlfriend who was living in the past but dead in the present. I found this the most interesting aspect of the Photo Traveler. Gavin had found lots of photos of Allana but had taken only 3. They had a baby. They shared a link through her brother and his mate. This was bursting with time travel opportunities, paradoxes and conundrums, but sadly nothing much seemed to come of that.

    Lacking a clear plot, I found myself reading on a chapter by chapter basis, rather than as an entire novel with a clear theme running through those chapters.

    Other Points

    A nice touch in the novel was that photo travelers are drawn to photography. Perhaps this would make sense, or be expected, but I thought that this added some depth to an entanglement of hereditary nature and personal interests.

    Sadly, aspects of some events within the novel came a little too easily. For example Gavin was able to find his parents within just a couple of days where his grandparents had been unsuccessful; I questioned Gavin’s grandparents’ motivation for not engaging in time travel which came across as a weak get out clause for sitting back and doing nothing.

    Gavin’s own motivations and thoughts at times were quite fluffy and lacked solidity. Again, perhaps this age related, but it made things unrealistically too easy. He just knows this is the right photo, and he just feels this connection with this character, and so forth. Typical mysterious lexicon from a teenager? I can’t remember(!) but a little more substance would have firmed it up nicely.

    The end of the novel came so abruptly that I re-downloaded my PDF file to ensure that it wasn’t corrupted. It wasn’t. The novel ends in much the same way as most of the chapters – with a melodramatically played out cliff-hanger. Cliff hanger? More like a gentle grassy slope.

    By the end of the novel I really couldn’t care less for Gavin, his friends, or family or whatever, so cliff-hangers tended to play very little significance. I was hoping for a conclusion to something or other (to whatever the story line was about…) but there was nothing save for a suggestion to keep my eye out for Part II, the Peace Hunter.


    The Photo Traveler is an easy to read novel aimed towards young adults. It has a very interesting method of time travel, and one which has the possibility to open many avenues for time loops and rewritten histories.

    Like H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, this novel is written in the first person. It describes events as seen through Gavin’s eyes, a troubled 17 year old who’s had a tough childhood. Unfortunately he’s a bit of a pleb and empathy with him soon deteriorates – his melodramatic self serving viewpoint spoils the novel as the first person style of writing becomes inherently irritating.

    Whilst I found the main story line unclear there are several small scale incidents which make the Photo Traveler an easy page turner and a good book to take on a holiday.

    There are some very nice applications and expressions of the method of time travel in the Photo Traveler and I’d recommend this novel to any young adult looking for an introduction to the time travel genre.


    Review: The Mirror by Marlys Millhiser

    The Mirror by Marlys Millhiser



    Many reviews describe The Mirror as a horror book. I must admit that I can’t see it as such, though do concede that some of the events therein are certainly not desirable. I suspect that the horror label is more to do with previous books the author has written.

    The premise of The Mirror is simple – a mirror acts as a time portal and selectively throws people, not of their own choosing, into the past or future. The book revolves around two such affected characters, Brandy and Shay, who are grandmother and granddaughter respectively and who swap temporal positions on the eve of their weddings. This calls to mind the grandfather paradox…

    Writing Style

    The Mirror is written in three sections, each told, allegedly, from the perspective of the grandchild (Shay), the mother (Rachael) and then the grandmother (Brandy). However, there is very little interplay between the characters and / or events which I felt to be a hugely missed opportunity.

    Indeed, the sectioning of the characters was somewhat moot as the novel was written more or less in chronological order and showed no overlaps or time loops.

    The author kept alive the idea that the person who had travelled through time was trapped in the body of someone else. This was done by describing the body as a third person, for example, “Shay gave Brandy an apple to eat.” This was a very powerful technique, and one which helped to see events through not only the eyes, but also the feelings of the main character.

    I found the novel quite a ‘feminine’ book with a lot of detail regarding period pains and discomfort etc.. It was certainly a heads-up to me of how few books I’ve read by female authors (not of deliberate choosing, but just the way it’s turned out!).

    The Time Travel Element

    The time travel machine is a mirror, and there is no indication of how it works – it is black box…albeit very reflective! 😉

    Although how the mirror functions remains a mystery, it was a nice touch that there were symptomatic descriptions given, for example, electric tingling, etc.. There were also references, though brief, of momentary glimpses of the past or future in the mirror’s image. I’d liked to have seen more significance given to these images.


    Shay did not spend long in confusion over her situation when she was thrown back in time to that of her grandmother. Much of the story describes events which occur in the new time frame, and at times I found this quite tedious. It didn’t seem to add anything to the plot, and seemed to be there almost for the sake of it.

    Actually, the plot line remained somewhat of a mystery to me. I thought it might have been a quest for Shay to get back to her original time, but her efforts to do so were given no more attention than the mundane goings-on in her new found life style.

    Perhaps these involvements in everyday life added depth to the character; by the end of the section I felt I knew the character fairly well. There were also nice little comments in italics which showed what Shay was thinking, and this often harked back to her own time and showed the juxta-positioning of the time lines.

    One particularly irksome angle of the Shay timeline was reading dialogue from Thora K. Thora speaks with a regional Cornish accent and this is delivered to the reader through phonetic writing. I found it really tiresome to read and at times needed to read the syllables out loud to be able to understand what the author was trying to get her character to say. I’d have preferred to have ‘invented’ the accent in my own head, after knowing that Thora spoke in such an accent.


    Rachael is an interesting link in terms her peculiar biology; her mother is her future daughter, and her daughter goes on to become her grandmother. Sadly, this was not really developed into anything particularly worth of note. It is only towards the end of the last section that Rachael starts to piece together what had happened, and even then I thought it was dealt with weakly.


    Brandy was a delightful character. This surprised me as I was expecting to be bored to tears with old fashioned ideas and morals being out of place in the modern world. In contrast, it was a refreshing insight into our modern world see though the eyes of a girl.

    Brandy seemed to adapt to her new temporal surroundings a lot quicker than her grand daughter did. I don’t know if this was because a modern way of life is ‘easier’ than an outdated one, or whether it was simply a difference in character.

    The High Low-Light

    I was very interested to know what was going to happen when Shay living in Brandy’s body was going to meet herself when she was born as a child.

    The moment happened very quickly, and was over in a paragraph. OK then.

    There was hint of a recovery when Rachael began to catch on to what had happened – ironically this was quite a drudge to read through given that it was at the end of the book and things were coming to a close. I think it would have made much more of an impact if the truth had been realised much earlier on in the novel.


    In harsh summation, I found this to be a very tedious book to get through. Yes, 2 characters swap places in their position in time, so there’s an element of time travel, but that’s about it. For the most part the reader is reading about how a girl from the modern time finds it in the past, and vice versa.

    I found the story line therefore to be unclear – it was more of a drama than anything else where the reader was invited to get involved, but there is very little to keep me wanting to turn the pages

    Very disappointed 🙁

    Review: Selected Shorts by David Goodberg

    Selected Shorts and Other Methods of Time Travel

    David Goodberg

    I don’t like to write negatively about an author’s creation, but my frustration in ploughing through this collection of ‘shorts’ drives me to vent.

    Am I missing something? This isn’t so much a selection of short stories, but more a collection of ideas, each of which don’t seem to have been fully worked up into a coherent short story. Only a handful of them are related to time travel.

    Some of the time travel ideas are interesting and hold potential, but the delivery is very poor and the theme behind each story is spurted out to the reader in a contrived soliloquy towards the end of each story. The writing style is telling-not-showing and dogged with the continual use of superlatives with very little description. If this was the ‘most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life’ how did she look? If the main character ‘usually had no problem with small spaces, but this time he did’…why? What was different this time? The flesh around the bones of the story line, for me, rots with leprosy and falls to pieces.

    Another nail in the creator’s coffin is the renaming of a familiar object such as a microwave oven, and (re)presenting it as a futuristic invention. Admittedly, it’s not plagiarism or a breach of copyright, but it shows a lack of creativity and is an irritation to read.

    I was really disappointed when I read these short stories. I was hoping for clever endings or a twist in the plot…or something. At least a conclusion. Instead, there is just a…stop. Having finished one story, I found myself starting to read the next in two trains of thought; one thinking “surely this one must be better than the last”, or else in a morbid fascination of how terrible a short story can be and providing a source of inspiration in writing something better.

    Some reviewers make the comment that the each story is not self contained, but should be read in conjunction with the others. I saw no common line through the stories, no common history, or no common characters. Indeed, there is misalignment between events and dates between stories.

    In summary, the pun of a drawing of someone holding up a pair of shorts on the front cover pretty much shows the depth of writing…shallow and childish. It’s a real shame, because I think that with a just a little more thought, these stories could have been something fantastic. Instead, they read as a first draft at best.

    Review: The Time Machine, H.G. Wells

    The Time Machine

    H. G. Wells

    This is perhaps the most famous of time travel stories, and is often heralded as being among the first, despite being predated by Well’s own short story “The Chronic Argonauts”.


    The main character remains unnamed throughout the book, and is referred to only as the time traveler. He builds a time machine, and goes forward in time to a period when mankind does not exist in a condition as they do now, but rather as a dipolar population consisting of Eloi (carefree and innocent creatures) and Morlocks (savage and brutal). During the course of the time traveler’s visit, he formulates various theories as to how the Eloi and the Morlocks came into being, as well as their interactions with each other. The truth is finally crystallised when he is able to visit a museum where he learns of the true course of development of Eloi and Morlocks from modern day man.

    The time traveler returns to the present day only a few hours after he originally left, and relates his experiences and thoughts to friends over dinner. The following day he makes preparations to make an additional trip, promising to return shortly, though the reader is informed that the return of the time traveler was still awaited after 3 years.


    No discussion is entered into as to how the mechanics of time travel operate in this story. Rather, time travel is used more as a tool enabling Wells to give voice to his creativity for a futuristic world. The Time Machine is therefore not really a sci fi novel as such, but never-the-less, an easy read which introduces the possibility of incorporating time travel into a novel.