Dystopian

Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

Cover of "The Handmaid's Tale," featuring two women in red cloaks and white bonnets standing near a tall brick wall
Image from Margaret Atwood

Title: The Handmaid’s Tale

Author: Margaret Atwood

Genre: Dystopian

Trigger Warnings: Heterosexual sex (consensual and non-consensual), misogyny

Back Cover:

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

Review:

I’m still not sure what to make of this book.

I picked it up because my fiance and I got Hulu and I wanted to read the book before I watched the show. It took me a while to work through, for no particular reason.

And it was … odd.

There really wasn’t a plot to speak of. Like, seriously. At first I thought it was just slow to start, but nope – I got all the way through it and there still wasn’t really a plot. But it’s okay, because it’s really the world that grabs you. It’s one of those things where you get off the bat it’s an oppressive regime, but it’s slowly revealed how horrifying it is, what life was like before, and how it suddenly changed (although it didn’t make completely clear why it changed).

And the world is horrifying. People who don’t convert to the regime’s particular brand of Christian fundamentalism, doctors who performed abortions, and anyone else who doesn’t conform are executed and hung on a wall for everyone to see. There are only a few options for women – if they aren’t wives, they could be Handmaids if they were fertile, Marthas (who do all the housework) if they weren’t, or Aunts (who indoctrinated the handmaids-in-training)  if they were … I’m not sure what the qualifications for Aunt are. Women aren’t allowed to read or do much of anything – wives are allowed feminine pursuits like gardening and knitting, but not much else.

The details – and even the main ways society functions – fall into place slowly, bit by bit over the course of the book and even by the end I still felt like there were some things that I wasn’t aware of yet. It was beautifully built, engrossing, and enough for me to keep interested despite the lack of plot.

I grew up in a Christian fundamentalist world. This all made sense to me. I honestly didn’t realize how completely horrifying this would sound to other people until I started explaining it to my fiance, who was appalled that this would make sense to anyone, and extremely disturbed that there were fundamentalists who actually praised this as an ideal society. If you’re not used to religious fundamentalism (such as the Quiverfull variety), it’s going to be a horrifying introduction. If you are, it’s going to be eerily familiar and still horrifying.

Okay, we’ve gotten this far and I’m still not sure what I’m trying to say about this book. (Samantha Field, one of my favorite bloggers, wrote a great post on it that’s more eloquent than this one and I highly recommend it.) This is the kind of book you really have to read for yourself, because there’s no way you can get a sense of it just from a review.

Advertisements
Science Fantasy

Review: Technomancer by B.V. Larson

TECHNOMANCER by B.V. Larson reviewed at JalynEly.com
Image from B.V. Larson

Title: Technomancer (Unspeakable Things #1)

Author: B.V. Larson

Genre: Science Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Back cover:

When Quentin Draith wakes up in a private sanatorium, he has no memory of who he is or how he received the injuries riddling his body. All he knows is that he has to get out, away from the drugs being pumped into him and back to the real world to search for answers. His first question: How did his friend Tony’s internal organs fill with sand, killing him in a Las Vegas car crash?

After a narrow escape, he tracks down the basic facts: he is an investigator and blogger specializing in the supernatural—which is a good thing, because Quentin’s life is getting stranger by the minute. It seems he is one of a special breed, a person with unusual powers. He’s also the prime suspect in a string of murders linked by a series of seemingly mundane objects. The deeper he digs and the harder he works to clear his name, the more Quentin realizes that some truths are better off staying buried…

Review:

I picked this book up on a whim – wandering through the library while my boyfriend tried to decide on a book, the title caught my eye. The back cover seemed vaguely interesting, so I threw it on my pile and didn’t give it another thought.

Quentin was okay. At first, I thought I’d like him – having no memory definitely gave me some sympathy for him, and he certainly seemed to have an interesting job and past. But as the story moved on, he got more and more heartless and violent, and I found whatever liking I had for him slipping away.

The other characters I liked even less. Okay, I didn’t mind Jenna, the overemotional, hard-headed bride, but the rest of them ranged from “you’re not always right, idiot” to “I absolutely hate you.” And almost everybody was an antagonist most of the time.

As far as plot goes, the how/why-did-Tony-die thing gets forgotten about pretty quickly. The first half is pretty much figure-out-what’s-going-on, which I really enjoyed. Plus there was the nice touch of Quentin having no memory, so no one really explains things because they expect him to already know it.

The fun part is really figuring everything out along with Quentin. At first, I thought the idea of this kinda-magic was going to be really cool and I would enjoy reading about it. But once I understood it, I didn’t enjoy it as much.

The last half of Technomancer turned into a stand-up-for-the-little-guy, save-the-world, impending-war kind of thing, and it was honestly kinda boring. Since the characters ranged from mediocre to frustrating, figuring things out was the only thing that kept me reading through the first half. I only finished the book out of a vague sense of curiosity, followed by “there’s only 50 pages left, I might as well.”

Technomancer probably wasn’t worth finishing, honestly. I enjoyed the first half, but then it fell apart. Out of the two hours it took to read this, I wasted about an hour. Besides all the bad stuff I probably shouldn’t be reading about (see my grading card), I really just didn’t care.

The Unspeakable Things series:

  1. Technomancer
  2. The Bone Triangle
  3. The Elixir

Report Card

For more on my grading system, check out this page.TECHNOMANCER scored a 2.0 (D) and a final verdict of "don't read"

Contemporary

Review: The Thursday Night Club by Steven Manchester

The Thursday Night Club by Steven Manchester
Image from Steven Manchester

Title: The Thursday Night Club

Author: Steven Manchester

Genre: Contemporary

Format: Ebook

Buy: Amazon Barnes & Noble Kobo

Back cover blurb:

Five college friends have been getting together every Thursday night to share humble meals and an abundance of laughter. But when tragedy takes one of them, leaving the others to question the fairness of life, the Thursday Night Club decides to embark on a contest in memory of the generous spirit of their fallen friend. The objective of the contest is simple: whoever performs the kindest deed by Christmas night wins the pot – four quarters. And there are only two conditions: the benevolent deed must be anonymous, and it cannot cost a single penny to pull off.

As the four friends undertake the contest, the healing begins and they become inspired beyond their expectations. There might be a winner in this competition, but it is very clear there will be no losers.

Review:

I picked up this novella on a whim – partly because it was short, and partly because I liked the concept of a “good deeds” competition. It took me a while to get around to starting it, but once I did, I devoured it in about an hour.

The Thursday Night Club is very short, bordering on short story length, so I can’t really say I got to know any of the characters really well. There were Kevin and Randy the pranksters and Jesse the slightly-less-prankster, all typical college guys, and Ava and Izzy, nice if somewhat bland girls.

The plot is pretty simple, and pretty well explained in the blurb. Surprisingly, the character who dies doesn’t die until about a third of the way through the book. The first third focuses on a prank war between the boys – which was okay, but was not what I signed up for (plus, I’m not a huge fan of pranks).

The good deeds competition, though, was awesome. I loved watching the four remaining friends figure out ways to help people and meet specific needs in their community. It made me want to go out and do something for people in my community. And there were some great life lessons on generosity and helping people, too. (And it was also kinda Christmasy, which made me happy since Christmas is so close.) I honestly wish that part had been longer.

I expected to enjoy this story, but I didn’t expect to love it – or to feel so inspired when I finished. It left me wanting to go out and do something like that with my friends. Or maybe just do something on my own. I recommend the read just for the story, but maybe once you’ve read it, you’ll be inspired to help people, too.

I received a free review copy of The Thursday Night Club from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

Report Card

For more on my grading system, please see this page.

THE THURSDAY NIGHT CLUB scored a perfect 4.0

Classic, Science Fiction

Review: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

A Princess of Mars book cover
Image from Do Góry; modified so I feel okay with posting it here

Title: A Princess of Mars (The Martian Tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs #1)

Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs

Genre: Science Fiction/Classic

Suddenly transported to Mars, John Carter found himself captive of the savage green men of Thark. With him was Dejah Thoris, lovely princess of Helium. And between them and rescue lay a thousand miles of deadly enemies and unknown dangers.

This book has been on the bookshelves in the office for a long time (it came in a box of adult sci-fi and high fantasy books Dad got off eBay), but I avoided it because of the naked people on the cover. Then we got the movie John Carter on Netflix, and when I learned a really good movie was based off this book, I decided to give it a try.

I was surprised at how much I liked John Carter. He was a Confederate soldier in the Civil War, then a gold prospector, but always a gentleman. (Having learned a lot about the Civil War recently from a pit stop in Gettysburg on my way to Washington, D.C., most men were gentlemanly back then.) He could fight (and he was good at it), but he was also kind, protective, and respectful.

Unfortunately, the other characters pulled pretty flat. Dejah Thoris was beautiful. Sola, the green woman assigned as John Carter’s servant, was peaceful for a green person. The rest of the green people were wild and violent. And…that’s about it.

The rescuing Dejah Thoris plot that is mentioned on the back cover? Dejah Thoris doesn’t even show up until halfway through the book. The first half is John Carter adapting to life as a sort-of prisoner of the green men and fighting his way up from prisoner to chief of sorts. Then Dejah Thoris gets captured, and since the green men and Dejah’s people are enemies, they decide to kill her. So about two thirds of the way through the book, John and Dejah escape.

The John Carter movie had a lot of similarities to the plot of A Princess of Mars. The movie producers didn’t follow the same timeline as the book and glossed over some parts, which made for a better movie. But the parts they skipped made for a better book. I loved John Carter’s time with the green men, and I highly enjoyed learning about their society. Of course, once they escaped, I enjoyed that, too.

The biggest thing that bothered me about this book was that clothes apparently don’t exist on Mars. Everything was done in the nude. Nothing is actually described, and it’s not awkward for the characters, but I just felt a little weird knowing that whatever is going on, everyone is naked. (On the bright side, the cover makes sense.)

Like a lot of classic books, the writing is a little dense. Despite being an action book, it’s still full of long paragraphs and heavy on description. For the most part, I didn’t mind (although I did find myself glossing over paragraphs here and there), but if you’re used to snappy action, this would certainly be a change of pace.

Did I enjoy this book? Yes. Will I be reading the other 10 books in the series? Probably not. Besides the fact that we don’t own the rest of the series, I think A Princess of Mars had a perfectly acceptable ending and see no reason to continue past the conclusion.

The Martian Tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs:

  1. A Princess of Mars
  2. The Gods of Mars
  3. The Warlord of Mars
  4. Thuvia, Maid of Mars
  5. The Chessmen of Mars
  6. The Master Mind of Mars
  7. A Fighting Man of Mars
  8. Swords of Mars
  9. Synthetic Men of Mars
  10. Llana of Gathol
  11. John Carter of Mars

Report Card

For more on my “report card” grading system, please see my About page.

A PRINCESS OF MARS scored 3.6 (A)

Science Fiction

Review: Sky1: Foundation by William Amerman

Sky1: Foundation book cover
Image from William Amerman; used by permission

Title: Sky1: Foundation (Sky #1)

Author: William Amerman

Genre: Science Fiction

Seven hundred years ago, a city walled itself off from the rest of the world. Decades after first containment, the city expanded upwards, becoming a world unto itself. The population of this city-world has now boomed to over eighty million people, but the history of why the world was built and what lies outside has been lost to the citizens. This world is Nick’s world.

Nick Burke has been allotted 389 square feet of living space by the government. Disease spreads quickly when people are packed together so tightly. Quarantines are regularly imposed in an effort to contain the spread of infection. Lately, though, rumors are spreading that quarantines on some Grounds are not being lifted.

When a quarantine is imposed on Nick’s Ground, he and his family are trapped. The only way out is to break laws that carry a penalty of death. Fearing for his life and the safety of his family, Nick joins forces with a local group to move to another Ground. But can he trust his new friends?

Not exactly sure why I decided to read this book. Maybe because it was an adult sci-fi, and I haven’t thought about reading one of those in a while. Or maybe because it just sounded different. Either way, I did decide in favor of it.

Nick was okay. He was trying hard to protect his family and overcome a traumatic past that kept coming back to haunt him. He had the kind of frustrated urgency of someone who knows something needs changed but isn’t sure how to change it.

(Random side note: While reading this, I had two books going at once – this one and another one with a main character named Nick. The other Nick was a sarcastic goofball…pretty much the complete opposite of this Nick. I don’t think switching between two different Nicks was good for my enjoyment of either story.)

Besides Nick, the only character I really liked was his friend Storme. Storme was more of a follower, and came across a little bit nerdy, but he was caring and a good friend.

The other characters I wasn’t really a fan of. Nick’s cheating wife (and his son, who didn’t get much page time) and various sex-obsessed men seemed to be the only major players.

The plot was a little wild. At first, it seemed like Nick was just trying to get passes to immigrate up a level or two (from the impression I got, their world is built like a skyscraper, and the higher class you are the higher your Ground or floor). Then they broke into a government building to steal something (explosives?). Then the government was after him, and he was trying to save his family and the information about Mulduin.

Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of action and adrenaline and fights and stuff. I just wasn’t always exactly sure what Nick was trying to do.

I had a couple minor problems with Sky1: Foundation. One was a little too much sex for my taste. The other was Muldoin. I’m pretty sure it was either a place or an event. I’m not sure what happened or why it’s important for Nick to tell its story. And it was a huge plot element. I think if Muldoin was explained, even gradually, things would have made more sense to me.

If I were to choose again, I don’t think I would read Sky1: Foundation, but it was an interesting story, and very different from what I usually read. So all in all, not a bad read.

I received a free review copy of Sky1: Foundation from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

The Sky series:

  1. Sky1: Foundation
  2. Sky2: Detrius Machine

Report Card

For more on my book “report card” grading system, please see my About page.

2.63 (C) final grade

Adult, Fiction, Science Fiction, Suspense/Thriller

Review: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park book cover
Image from Michael Crichton

Title: Jurassic Park

Author: Michael Crichton

Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Creatures once extinct now roam Jurassic Park, soon-to-be opened as a theme park. Until something goes wrong…and science proves a dangerous toy….

I lost interest in dinosaurs in second grade, I’m not a big fan of adult books, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the Jurassic Park movie. So until it was a book club book, I had no intention of ever reading this book.

So, I want to mention characters, but I’m not sure which ones to mention. There’s Grant and Ellie the archeologists, Ian Malcom the mathematician (and my favorite character for reasons I’m not sure of), John Hammond who created the island, Hammond’s grandkids Tim and Lex, and various employees. All of them played an important part at some point or another, and I liked (or in some cases, hated) them all in varying levels. But none of them stood out as “I really liked him” or “she’s the main character.”

I was surprised that I enjoyed the plot. The movie missed a lot of details, which was sometimes a good thing but most of the time managed to keep me interested. And the rampaging dinos managed to keep my attention. Sometimes it wasn’t as thriller-y as I think it was supposed to be, probably because I didn’t care about the characters as much as I should have, but I still occasionally found myself hoping certain characters would survive (and sometimes that others would get eaten). There was a lot of gore at times, sure, but I’m not sure a book about carnivorous dinosaurs could have got away without it. Overall, I was happily interested.

My biggest problem with the book was that it got bogged down in scientific details every once in a while. I don’t care which isotopes they extracted to piece together the dinosaurs’ DNA. All I need to know is that it can be done. And as not a huge fan of chemistry or biology, I found most of the sciency stuff boring.

I didn’t exactly enjoy Jurassic Park, but I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t hate it. Do I plan on reading any more of Crichton’s books? No. But I don’t regret this read.

Adult, Fiction, Science Fiction

Review: The Return of the Time Police by Kim Howard Johnson

The Return of the Time Police book cover
Image from Kim Howard Johnson; used by permission

Title: The Return of the Time Police (The Time Authority #2)

Author: Kim Howard Johnson

Genre: Science Fiction

WARNING: This book is second in a series, so this review will probably contain spoilers of the previous book. If you haven’t read The Last of the Time Police, I recommend not reading this review.

The last members of the Time Authority, Stan and Jack only planned on a routine time hop to 16th century France. But when Leonardo DaVinci stowed away and tumbled out (along with the time machine’s manual) in 18th century England, a Chronological Anomaly is created that threatens to wipe out reality. They crash-land in a futuristic 1848 England that DaVinci created and join forces with Maggie Wells and inventor Sam Warner and his wife. The unlikely partners must find a way to rescue DaVinci and Benjamin Franklin in the previous century, but when they are captured while trying to recover the Time Carriage, they face execution at the Tower of London. Can the group escape in time to find DaVinci, prevent the destruction of our Timeline, and help Franklin invent the game of golf? And if they succeed, will they be wiped out of existence?

So, The Last of the Time Police was very interesting and different. It wasn’t my favorite book ever, but I was curious to find out what happened next, having left our main characters with half an ill-fated romance and a dissolving timeline. So when Kim Howard Johnson offered me The Return of the Time Police, I accepted.

There’s very little to say about the characters that I didn’t say last review.

Stan and Jack did manage to be a little more serious (the threat of impending non-existence helped), and I still enjoyed Maggie, who seemed to play a smaller role in this book than the last one. Ben Franklin played a bigger part in this book, and I didn’t really mind him even though at the beginning I was sure I wouldn’t like him.

As for minor characters, I enjoyed Sam, an inventor from Maggie’s 1800s. Two other people joined Stan and Jack’s little group, one from Maggie’s world and one from theirs, but I kept getting the two mixed up.

The idea of The Return of the Time Police wasn’t as appealing to me as the idea of the previous book. While the previous book was about how DaVinci would have revolutionized the world if he’d ended up in the 1700s, in this one, Stan and Jack were trying to find and recharge their time machine to fix the timeline. That’s not to say I didn’t like it, but I did find the first book’s concept more interesting.

The Return of the Time Police continued the bunch of twisty plots from various timelines. The near-future one from last book only got a couple scenes this time around. The focus this book was on the 1700s and 1800s, and involved running from the 1800s police, golf, executions, electricity, and, of course, time travel. I was only confused occasionally, and the plots kept me interested.

I have to mention the ending really quick, since it wasn’t quite what I expected. It was bittersweet and perfectly fitting, but not at all what I thought would happen.

Overall, this was a pretty good book. I wouldn’t call the Time Authority series my favorite, and I probably wouldn’t read it again, but I don’t regret the read.

I received a free review copy of The Return of the Time Police from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

The Time Authority series:

  1. The Last of the Time Police
  2. The Return of the Time Police
Adult, Fiction, Suspense/Thriller

Review: So Say the Waiters Episodes 6-9 by Justin Sirois

 

So Say the Waiters Episodes 6-9 book cover
Image from Justin Sirois; used by permission

Title: So Say the Waiters Episodes 6-9 (So Say the Waiters #2)

Author: Justin Sirois

Genre: Thriller

WARNING: This book is second in a series, so this review will probably contain spoilers of the first book. I recommend not reading this review if you haven’t read the first book, So Say the Waiters Episodes 1-5.

While Henry and Dani become accomplished kidnAppers, it’s Glen Haymaker, one of the company’s co-founders, who is stealing the show—and maybe more. He is more concerned about the public spectacle and becoming a celebrity within the network than sticking to the company’s ethics. If So Say the Waiters Book 1 made you question what you might do with the power of kidnApp, book 2 will scare you into realizing the creators and administrators of these apps live in a world between worlds. Haymaker, through his dazzling manipulation, will push that power to its very limits.

After the awesomeness of So Say the Waiters Episodes 1-5 (and the general awesomeness of the kidnApp idea in general), when Justin Sirois offered me a copy of this book, I said “heck yeah!”

Henry is getting better as the series goes on. He’s mostly gotten over that breakup he was struggling with last book (thankfully). And while he’s not confident by any stretch of the imagination, he’s not reticent and unsure like he was last book. I’m looking forward to the day when he’s a confident Taker.

Dani is Henry’s exact opposite, which is probably why they’re so fun together. Dani is not cautious, not shy, not hesitant and probably not exactly sane (or maybe just not sober, depending on how you look at it). She has a wild, crazy, just-want-to-have-fun-and-heck-with-the-consequences attitude that contrasts strongly with Henry. It’ll be fun when she becomes a Taker on her own – I’m curious to see how her popularity will stack up.

So, there’s a lot of characters in this book. Some barely-mentioned ones from the first book show up with a vengeance (not literally). And Haymaker and Barnstormer, two Takers, also featured pretty big at the end – I think they may be important in future books.

At the beginning of the book, there was a lot of sexual innuendo. A lot. Up to the point where I thought, “Is this going to be the first review book ever that I couldn’t finish?” But thankfully, once I powered through the first chapter, it was no more than I’ve come to expect from the So Say the Waiters series – some, but not enough to make me want to stop reading.

Once again, this was a different kind of plot. There were no “disasters” or climaxes or everything you hear about in story structure class. There isn’t even really an identifiable bad guy. But somehow, Henry and Dani’s exciting (and slightly strange) adventures kept me interested. Or maybe it was the epicness of the idea of kidnApp – I so wish it was a real thing.

Whatever it was that kept me interested, I enjoyed this book. I’m curious to see where the plot goes from here – and I’d like to see how Henry and Dani grow. So whenever the next installment comes out, count me in.

I received a free review copy of So Say the Waiters Episodes 6-9 from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

The So Say the Waiters series:

  1. So Say the Waiters Episodes 1-5
  2. So Say the Waiters Episodes 6-9
Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

Review: A Stranger North by Henry J. Olsen

The Northland Chronicles: A Stranger North book cover
Image from Henry Olsen; used by permission

Title: A Stranger North (The Northland Chronicles #1)

Author: Henry J. Olsen

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

Nine years ago, the Desolation decimated Earth’s human population. Now the survivors struggle on, living in small pockets of civilization scattered across the globe. In a small Minnesota community, life isn’t easy, but the people eke out a peaceful existence as hunters and farmers. This all changes when John Osborne – survivalist and sharpshooter who answers to no one – comes to town. His arrival ignites a chain of events that will change the North forever, as various factions vying for control of the still-rebuilding society hope to swing Osborne’s allegiance to their side.

I picked this up mostly because I haven’t read a good post-apocalyptic lately, and this one sounded pretty good. That, and the author said that even though this is an adult book, lots of YA-aged people liked it. So I decided, what the heck.

John Osborne, the stranger, was an interesting character. He was ex-military, and sometimes it seemed he didn’t know his own strength, but when he was throwing his weight around he knew exactly what he was doing. He was stubbornly independent and carried a lot of anger, which he was really good at hiding. I didn’t like him, per se, but I was fascinated by him.

I’d mention other characters, but besides Osborne, none of them really had enough page time to mention. There was Aristotle, the bookworm girl who shows up in the beginning and end, and Nathan and Emiko, siblings who are in and out of the story through the middle and end. Nathan and Emiko were both important to the story, and I think Aristotle will be more important in future books, but in A Stranger North, they weren’t around enough to get a feel for them.

This is what I’d call a very plot-driven novel. The story’s focus was more on whatever weird thing is going on with Osborne, and on a kidnapping plot that seems to be setting up a bad guy for future books. Characters, and even the post-apocalyptic world, are secondary to the plot, which is unfortunate, because I’d like to learn more about what happened.

A Stranger North wasn’t fantastic, but I did enjoy it. As for book two – it’s not at the top of my to-read list, but I’d be interested. This book left enough unanswered questions and threads I’m pretty sure will pop up again later.

I received a fee review copy of A Stranger North from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

The Northland Chronicles:

  1. A Stranger North
Adult, Fiction, Science Fiction

Review: The Last of the Time Police by Kim Howard Johnson

The Last of the Time Police book cover
Image from Kim Howard Johnson; used by permission

Title: The Last of the Time Police (The Time Authority #1)

Author: Kim Howard Johnson

Genre: Science Fiction

Stan and Jack are the last remaining members of the Time Authority, a government unit formed to correct disruptions to the established timeline. Although time travel has been officially outlawed, Stan and Jack must make a quick time hop to 16th Century France to clean up some careless littering. But Leonardo DaVinci stows away and tumbles out (along with the machine’s operating manual) in 18th Century England. This disruption creates a Chronological Anomaly that begins advancing toward the future and threatens to wipe out reality. Stan and Jack must crash-land their time machine in 1848, where they discover, due to DaVinci’s influence, a futuristic Victorian England. After colliding with Maggie Wells, she helps them hide their broken machine. Stan and Jack realize their only hope to fix their machine is to recover the operating manual, if it still even exists.

Three things appealed to me about The Last of the Time Police. One, the idea of time “police” who time travel to make sure something silly in 3,000 BC doesn’t make the Confederates win the Civil War or something. Two, the idea that this is actually a government bureau. Three, time travel. So I said, “I’ll take it!”

Stan and Jack were both argumentative, blundering almost complete idiots. The main thing that differed between the two was physical appearance, although how two guys who have almost the same personality could get into as many arguments as those two is beyond me. They weren’t flat, but they were pretty bland, and it sometimes felt like I was reading around them to get at the other good stuff in the story.

Maggie, on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed. She was spunky and stubborn, and surprisingly good with her hands. She realized the boys (I somehow think of Stan and Jack as “the boys,” even though they’re middle-aged men) are almost complete idiots – and yet somehow put up with them. She never did anything of the sort, but I can easily imagine her punching a guy’s lights out if he made a pass at her.

I found the whole concept The Last of the Time Police was based on – what could Leonardo Da Vinci have accomplished if he’d somehow ended up in the 17th century? – almost the best part. Da Vinci had a surprising amount of page time, and he wasn’t the creative, semi-bipolar artist I expected him to be. He was conniving, passive-aggressive, and a skilled back-stabber, not to mention arrogant and a thief. His inventions created with 17th century technology made for a fun steampunk-esque 18th century London, but by the end of the book, I was about ready for him to get his just deserts.

I can’t really nail down the main plot of this book. There’s so many threads running through it. Stan and Jack in the 18th century are trying to fix their time machine so they can fix everything else. Leonardo Da Vinci in the 17th century is trying to take out the competition by sabotaging the reputation of his rival Benjamin Franklin. And various Army and Time Authority personnel in the near future are trying to fix things from their end. All of them were interesting in their own way, and delightfully tangled.

It’s not overt, but I think there may be a slight anti-bureaucracy message in the near-future storyline. The Army and the Time Authority are playing the blame game, pointing fingers, scheduling meetings, and doing paperwork. Nobody’s trying to fix the problem, and the only guy who really knows what’s going on is busy making sure someone else falls under the bus. Meanwhile, the entire timestream is being destroyed. It’s one of those “are you all idiots?” kind of things, but in a maybe-if-I-keep-reading-they’ll-figure-it-out way.

Overall, this wasn’t quite what I expected. Most of the characters were unlikeable and/or annoying, but I somehow wanted to keep reading anyway. And I’m curious to see where the rest of this series goes.

I received a free review copy of The Last of the Time Police from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

The Time Authority series:

  1. The Last of the Time Police
  2. The Return of the Time Police