Review: d4 by Sherrie Cronin

d4 by Sherrie Cronin is an action novel for intellectuals! It has a gripping plot which incorporates a fully thought out phenomenon of seeing into the future, as well as addressing the philosophical question of what to do with that knowledge.

Sherrie Cronin’s “46.Ascending” series consists of 6 novels each of which focusses on a member of the Zeitman family who have a special power. In d4 the main character is Ariel who is able to see the future.

Book cover for d4 by Sherrie Cronin

Admittedly d4 is not strictly time travel, but there’s a knowledge of the future which I suppose in another novel a time traveller might learn. So call it pseudo time travel. Besides I recently read, loved and reviewed z2 where Alex was able to warp time and manipulate the speed of its passage and I wanted to read more from Sherrie!

Brief synopsis

Ariel works for an investment company which specialises in “high frequency trading” – buying and selling stocks and shares and things based on short term fluctuations in the market. She has 3 clients, one of whom is intent on amassing the world’s wealth with help from his own ability to see the short term future. When he finds out that Ariel has a similar ability to see the future he tries to coerce her into assisting him.

Against this backdrop is the knowledge of a long term future where humankind is threatened. How Ariel deals with her clients, and the relationships she makes with them, seemingly affect the likelihood and the outcome of the future of mankind.

Wrting style

Sherrie really hits the spot when it comes to beautiful writing! Characters have depth and background and these attributes come into play in their conversation with each other as well as how they react to certain given situations. Like in z2 they’re introduced early on and the connections between them become evident fairly quickly.

There is also realism in that the line between the good and the bad guys is either fuzzy, or moves completely. I suppose that in the end, motivations and feelings of people define whether they are good or bad.

The main plot line within d4 is clearly defined, and the pace is steady. A lot happens – not necessarily through direct action like in z2 but through movement of knowledge from one character to another. Consequences of holding that information are key in what happens in d4! Let’s call this an intellectual property -action novel!

d4 is set in Ireland, Greenland and Iceland. A map is included at the front of the novel so that we know where some of the towns in these countries are – which highlights the following point: the assumption is that most readers are probably not familiar with these locations, possibly because not many other novels are set here. Sherrie gives us a breath of fresh (and probably very cold) air!

I should add that thankfully accents are described and not spelled out phonetically (which is a pet peeve of mine). Actually there’s a special case with one word, but this is added for a slightly humourous angle!

A special note needs to be made about tension in the novel. You’d think that with several of the characters having knowledge of the future there would be little space for intrigue and mystery. I don’t know how she does it (and I hope it’s not my stupidity!) but Sherrie masterfully maintains suspense throughout the novel. Ariel knows what’s going to happen next – but we don’t!

Several small details help to ‘pad out’ d4 with more elements of realism. For example, Ariel’s ongoing confusion between Fergus and Ronan shows her vulnerability as well as providing a touch of humour.

“d4” – What’s in a name?

Talking of names…

I’m giving this a little section of its own partly in response to an entertaining – but nonsensical – review I read on Goodreads which is so inaccurate it’s almost comical. The reviewer starts off with an insane comment opinion different to my own that the name “d4” comes up out of nowhere.

Interested in knowing what’s behind the name? Me too! Personally, I think the name stands out. Most time travel novels have “time” in the title. It’s getting old and stale. Names like “d4”, “z2” and “46.Ascending” are different and call attention!

The Goodreads reviewer had trouble in understanding where the name “d4” came from. “d4” is the name of Baldur’s organisation. Not difficult to pick up (from page 38 or thereabouts), and hardly scientific stuff – although if you want that, it comes on p 138 where “d4” is explained in glorious mathematical detail (although I must admit that I find it unlikely that Ariel would have followed the path she took to discover this).

Personally, I love the naming of the book (and of z2 which equally has a brilliant basis)!

Links with other novels

Like z2, d4 is a novel which is loosely connected with others in the 46.Ascending series – but only loosely; it can be read independently from the others and still make sense.

Since Ariel is a member of the Zeitman family, each of whom are the main characters in the other novels (x0, y1, z2 and c3), there are clearly come cross references. Having read z2 I was aware of the links back to that novel, but there were also others which I must admit whetted my appetite. For example, Ariels’ brother Zane is able to morph into other shapes, and there’s a comment that one of his friends, Toby, owes him a debt which can’t be repaid.

I’m guessing that’s covered in y1 and I’d love to read it, though I should specifically point out here that the cross-references don’t come over as a cheesy way of begging the reader to rush out and purchase all of the other novels in the series. In fact, you’d probably hardly notice that they’re there at all if you didn’t know about the other novels in the 46.Ascending series.

Thanks for the premory

Now for the real juice of the novel!

Ariel ‘remembers’ the future, or to use her word – she has “premories” of the future. I think it’s a really nice touch to give Ariel’s capability a word, and I’m embarrassed to admit like much like a test rat in some psychological experiment of some ilk, I found that having a word to call it kind of made her experience more understandable to me!

Much like memories, Ariel’s ideas about the future are fuzzy. They can consist of sounds, smells and meanings – and she is also able to assign a level of likelihood of occurrence. Her premories arise mostly through physical contact with an object or a person.

It turns out that Ariel is not the only one in the novel with this ability. But where Ariel can see a few weeks ahead, other characters can see only a few seconds into the future; others a few hundred years.

Mikkel describes Ariel’s range into the future as being in the Goldilocks zone – not too close and not too far. Indeed, Ariel and other characters were described as being like a telescope, binoculars, magnifying glass or a microscope depending on the extent of their view. Very nice! 🙂

Another really nice explanation of the range of views was given by Siarnaq who likened the phenomenon to being tuned in to different frequencies. I couldn’t help wondering if there was a connection between this and Ariel’s name! 😉

Just as touch can trigger a premory, it can also trigger a contagion of sorts between those with the ability; each gains a view of what the other can see. When Ariel has prolonged physical contact with another who can see short term, she suffers after-shocks – little flickers of the short term future.

Again, this shows the command that Sherrie wields in her novel by adding in these extra details to make a fully comprehensive phenomenon.

On a personal note, I didn’t like the terms “psychic” or “clairvoyant” to describe Ariel’s ability to see into the future. For me, these words conjure up images of dodgy spiritualism, gypsy caravans, josticks and cheap gaudy bling. What Ariel (and the others) have is much more tangible.

Actually on that note, d4 is a good example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The book cover shows a girl (presumably Ariel) doing a pose (presumably yoga, because Ariel practises yoga) by a lake. Maybe you can make out a “D” form in the sky, and the legs make a “4”, but it’s a bit ‘soft’ for the solid novel content. It looks like I’m reading a book about relaxing techniques whereas reading d4 is an exciting read!

A philosophical approach to the future

Underneath the main thrust of the story line lies a gentle question – what do we do with knowledge of the future? This is expressed most clearly towards the end of the novel, but prior to that there are several conversations and inner thoughts where this is brought to the fore.

One aspect I enjoyed was a hint of multiple time lines, though perhaps this would more accurately be described as several branches of possible futures. Knowing the future means that an action can be taken to avoid a particular outcome sometimes. In d4 the point is that the final long term outcome may be the same no matter what actions are taken, but in the short term things can be made better for that particular time line.

This is a philosophical point in itself – if we know the future can we take actions to avoid it?

One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.
Quote from Kung Fu Panda movie. Image credit: www.buzzle.com

Closing

Like in z2, d4 closes with a section describing the outcome of several actions of several characters, and extrapolating this into the future. The section stands out from others as the writing style differs slightly. It closes and wraps up; it’s to the point – but not rushed.

At first I was a little disappointed with the end which was a bit of an anticlimax given the suspense which had so far been building up. It seemed a bit of an easy way out, but reading further I think this was the only realistic conclusion to that particular thread. And here lies the power of the ending…it keeps going!

I love how the plot keeps moving onwards into the future and doesn’t stop where I think most other novels would have (OK –z2 didn’t either! 😉 )

Rating * * * * *

Another 5 stars for another brilliant novel in the 46.Ascending series by Sherrie Cronin!

d4 possesses the wonderful writing style that Sherrie has already shown in z2. It has a steady and gripping plot which incorporates a fully thought out phenomenon of seeing into the future, as well as addressing the philosophical question of what to do with that knowledge.

You can read more about d4 on Sherrie’s d4 blog, and about the 46.Ascending series here.

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

Paul

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Disclaimer: Sherrie kindly sent me a free copy of “d4” to read in exchange for honest review. This is it!

Star ratings:

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

Review: z2 by Sherrie Cronin

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

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

z2 (Sherrie Cronin) book cover

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

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

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

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

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

Elegant blend of story lines!

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

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

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

Writing style

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time for Alex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex – a dreamy guy?

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

It’s a family thing

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

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

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

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

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

z2 Other formats

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

Rating * * * * *

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

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

Paul

If you enjoyed this post, you might like to visit, like or circle time2timetravel on Facebook and Google+

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

Star ratings:

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