Review: The Day After Never (Nathan Van Coops)

Reading The Day After Never (by Nathan Van Coops) is like folding raspberry jam through ice cream. Parts seem immiscible at first, but by the end of the novel you realise that it comes together to make it a really cool novel!

The Series

The Day After Never is Nathan Van Coops’ third novel, following In Times Like These and The Chronothon.

The Day After Never (Nathan Van Coops) book cover
The Day After Never (Nathan Van Coops) book cover

I read these novels in all the wrong order (Book 2, Book 1 then Book 3) and I’m happy to confirm Nathan’s statements at the start of each novel that whilst they’re connected they can be read independently from each other.

When I read The Chronothon I was able to pick up easily the brilliantly thought out time travel methodology. Coming to The Day After Never with over 2 years between reads was a little more difficult for the first few chapters, and I’m going to blame that on my ageing and failing memory, but indeed, the gravitite particles, chronometers, anchor points, etc…ah yes, it’s all coming back now like an old friend! 🙂

What about the rest of it?

Writing style

The story telling style, like with Books 1 and 2 is first person (so like The Time Machine) but the elegant twist is that it’s done in the present tense. I like this – it makes me feel that I’m right by Ben (the main protagonist) and seeing events through his eyes ‘live’.

Well, I say “first person” and I say “live”, but these are debatable terms…

The Day After Never is effectively told from 2 points of view but from the same person (Ben) who’s in two differing states of ‘being’. There’s the Ben in the “Neverwhere” (where time doesn’t exist) and the Ben in real life. The lines cross at times with varying amounts of interaction (actually reference is made to this in The Chronothon) but they’re not quite interlaced and woven together as a single fine fabric as much as an itchy woolly jumper covers a T-shirt.

Many novels drop into the time travel genre simply because certain aspects of it are told from the point of view from a character from another time period. We get this In Times Like These, The Chronothon and here in The Day After Never because they’re told in first person through Ben’s eyes, but the series sits more firmly within the time travel genre because we have a good solid dose of time travel with methodology and paradoxes. Where The Chronothon gives us a good set of time travel nuts and bots and different time periods, The Day After Never gives us an additional insight into differing times through Tucket.

Tucket’s from the future and finds it exciting to be in the present. He displays high levels of enthusiasm and exuberance and coupled with his taste in clothing it’s a joy to read about him! The icing on the Tucket cake is his thoughts and opinions about modern day culture which give us a nice glimpse into the future. In my humble opinion, Tucket is the star of the show, and in a sense, the unsung hero. Keep an eye on Tucket, everyone!

And of course there’s Benjamin Travers. Ben to his friends. Sometimes even “Dip Shit Ben” to those same friends…


I’ll come right out with it. Despite being a real fan of Ben in The Chronothon, my feelings about him have completely changed in in The Day After Never. He’s turned into a complete @rse; he certainly seems to be different from how I remember him.

As far as I can tell, The Day After Never picks up 2 weeks since the end of The Chronothon so I don’t really expect him to change in this time. But he has. He’s less of a nice guy and more selfish and less patient with others. Oddly I was reminded of my teenage years. When my mates got girlfriends they became @rses. (You know that song “When a man loves a woman // turn his back on his best friend”) and then be best buddies again when things went tits up. Is Ben like this, turning into a jerk now that he’s got the girl?

This might be the clue. The Ben who’s with Mym now is not the Ben who did stuff in the chronothon. Is this why he’s different? Is he miserable, or feeling undeserving to get the girl?

As it is, Ben’s friends don’t seem to notice the change in him. You know the popular guy in the bar with all the friends and who has it all? He wins competitions and has an intelligent and beautiful girlfriend. The one who gets on with everyone – except you? Meet Ben.

He’s not the positive and optimistic Ben of The Chronothon. He moans about cat videos on the internet; when he’s asked about new technology we read:

“I just stare back at him. “Has it got googly-moogly what now?” ”

He’s incredibly impatient with Tucket and he barely opens up to Mym. I’m very hard pressed to accept that this is the same Ben. This character mutilation is made all the worse when we find out that there are many versions of him; we’ve even got a “Dip Shit Ben” and a “Crazy Benny” (though admittedly these are Bens from alternate time lines).

Thankfully, by the time the plot gets going and Ben is thrust into action, he reverts back to his usual good natured self. Maybe he’s just the kind of guy who does best under pressure.

The Neverwhere

Along-side the Ben in real life, we have the Ben in the Neverwhere. The Neverwhere is a place outside of time and where at best there’s a tenuous connection with the real world.

In a sense it’s some sort of Matrix analogue – it’s too difficult for the mind to see so the mind hangs onto its memories. Once the mind has a better perspective then the Neverwhere can be seen for what it really is. Nathan has clearly spent a tremendous amount of time in constructing the Neverwhere and the physics / philosophies that lie within it. Indeed, Ben needs time to learn how it works (for example how to move from time to time or moving through memories) as well as coming to terms with being there in the first place.

It’s this learning curve which is the making and downfall of the Neverwhere. At first the Neverwhere was interesting in comparison to a slow start with ‘real’ Ben because we’re also learning how things work. When things with real Ben pick up, the Neverwhere continues slow and steady. Ben’s actions are primarily driven by his questions, but essentially there’s so much introspection that at times it got monotonous. In comparison with the real version of events this made the Neverwhere a dull hiatus to plough through.

Then again, I suppose that’s the thing with Neverwhere.

The plot

I was well over 100 pages in and the plot still wasn’t clear to me. (It reminded me of In Times Like These which for the first 7 chapters were so incredibly slow I gave up. Luckily I was persuaded to push through, and indeed things picked up to make a pretty decent novel out of the remaining chapters.) Ben in Neverwhere was there but didn’t know why, how, or what to do, and irritating Ben in reality was squawking about after an attack at one of Dr Quickly’s labs and they’re off to see what happened. Perhaps as in real life, once something happened to Ben’s girlfriend then things started moving.

And this is when the groundwork laid out in the early chapters pays off. Ben is back to being Ben, we see more time travel jumps, and there’s tension in the plot which keeps us turning those pages. I’ve already mentioned Tucket through whom we get some ideas about the future, but written within the story are some more brilliant sci fi ideas.

My favourite is metaspace – a virtual reality overlay accessed in real time which opens up a whole new world. Nathan doesn’t leave it there – he incorporates technology required to support and be supported by metaspace and training programs. Space elevators, underwater complexes, synths (synthetic humans), the novel is rife with juicy ideas! I really enjoyed a section of the novel set in Nyongo in 2165 where we see a social structure working around and against the cultural and technological norms of the time.

Where The Chronothon had Ben playing some clever time travel tricks, The Day After Never doesn’t lend itself easily to Ben’s aptitude in this arena. But we do see some clever time loops being integrated into the plot where I think many other authors would have been more cautious and shied away.

Nathan clearly has an army of movies and novels in his arsenal, and we see references and influences of these in his writing. Subjectively I didn’t care for some of them, but for many I did. There’s a brilliant quote about a place which was “…more Star Wars than Star Trek”! 🙂

Every Rose has its Thorn

Despite my earlier comments about a slow start in reality and Ben being a pillock, I have no general overall problem – these points are more than made up with subsequent pacing, other characters (and change of character). But I do have a couple of negative thoughts about The Day After Never.

The first is the rock bottom basic story line which is basically a Harry Potter-ish rehash. And like many of J. K. Rowling’s ideas, this one can be found in countless other novels and movies as well. It’s just not very original, and given the volume and depth of Nathan’s sci fi ideas it’s a huge disappointment.

The saving grace is that it’s buried deep within a multitude of sub plots and secondary story lines so in practical terms it doesn’t really matter.

My second point is similarly small, though perhaps with greater ramifications. There’s an attempt to explain a Biblical occurrence using time travellers. To be clear, I’m not getting all grumpy because I’m a Christian and don’t like this sort of thing (actually the opposite – I like questioning stuff!) My gripe is again the lack of originality. Wiggling in religious reminded me of The Accidental Time Machine (Joe Haldeman) who also crow-barred in an unnecessary religious angle.

I suppose I should just be thankful that there wasn’t a crass attempt at solving the JFK assassination. And anyway, to be fair, a page or so later and the incident was gone.

In closing

This is best summed up as H O L L Y W O O D. It’s got more cheese than a Dutch street market, and is as predictable as the knowledge that the vendor is going to do his best to overcharge you – and make you feel good about it. And as a father of two little girls I was dismayed beyond belief with how things stood between Mym and her father at the end. But I suppose it works.

Thankfully there are two saving graces. The first is something that we should expect from the moderator of the Goodreads time travel group – the closing of multiple loose ends and avoidance of paradoxes. In some cases I didn’t even realise that there were any loose ends! I think this is simple author downright honesty. Seemingly meaningless actions in Book 1 are revisited, and it’s expertly done! I’m sure some other authors would simply let these things fly.

And finally, the closing scene between Ben and Mym. Sheer beauty! Ben is back to being the Ben from the chronothon times, and the way that these characters interact is crafted masterfully. For me, this is almost the crux of a blimming good time travel novel – hints of methodology, possibility, destiny and mystery. It’s all there in the last few pages, and brings the novel to a beautiful conclusion.

Rating * * * * *

On a time travel footing, The Day After Never gets the full 5 stars. It continues with a solid and consistent time travel methodology and pays great attention to paradoxes. I really like the time loops, and the fantastic feast of futuristic features more than makes up for the slow start and an irritating (at first) main character.

More please Nathan!


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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!

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