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Archive for the ‘Time Travel’ Category

Just three days ago I finished reading and reviewed The ’86 Fix. It’s a time travel story, and I gave it a pretty dismal review and only one and a half stars. The story was “okay” but the ending was so bad, it really disappointed me. That’s when I realized I was simply set up for a sequel. When I wrote that review, I stated that I wasn’t going to read any more books by this author, let alone the sequel.

But since I was interested in what might happen to Craig Pelling next, just for kicks, I downloaded the preview anyway. After reading about five percent of the book, I changed my mind. Beyond Broadhall is the sequel to The ’86 Fix.

I just finished it, and it’s a better book. It’s getting 2.5 stars.

The story picks up right where the first book stops. It’s now 2017. Craig is in a mental hospital, basically imprisoned, for eleven months, while counselors and psychiatrists try to figure out what’s wrong with him and set him on a course to release him into society.

As soon as Craig is free, he starts researching, trying to find his parents, his wife Megan, his coworkers, and his nemesis Marcus. He realizes that rather than “fixing” things during his visit to 1986, he did far more damage to many innocent people’s lives than he could ever have dreamed. As revelation after revelation comes to him, he gets more and more disturbed – and wiser. When he finds his father, who is now a very decent man, and very helpful to his cause, he figures out that he didn’t really need to go to the past to “fix” things. He has the power right here and now.

Here is the problem with The ’86 Fix and Beyond Broadhall. They are not really two books. They are one book. The author should have put them together back to back, making them twice as long. Then he should have edited out about 25% of the fluff and boring stuff that wasn’t necessary, and it would have been a surprisingly entertaining and complete story. The total letdown of the first book, the terrible ending, would have just been one setback to the protagonist in the middle of the story, and it would not have been that bothersome. It would have also saved the author some awkward “backfilling” he had to do to give the reader of the second book enough knowledge for it to stand on its own. But then, I do not believe that anyone would read the second book without having read the first one.

I don’t have a problem with series of books. Some are done quite well. For instance, the Harry Potter books are a good example, or the “Pillars” series by Ken Follett. Each book can stand on its own. You don’t have to read the first one to enjoy the second one, even though in most cases, people will read them in sequence.

The ’86 Fix and Beyond Broadhall are not two separate books. They are one longer book with some boring passages, but a pretty entertaining story.

My advice to the author would have been to repackage the two into one.

So, if you want to read a low-tech time travel story that provides some lessons about what life is all about and how the decisions we make affect us and all those around us, buy both of those books, and read them back to back, without skipping a beat between the two. And you’ll have yourself a comfortable read.

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Craig Pelling is a 46-year-old man in England in 2016. He lives in alcohol-soft middle-age, to use a Pink Floyd phrase. He is pudgy, balding, out of shape, lazy and overall a fairly unlikable character. He has lived for more than 20 years in a love-less marriage, and his career, by his own standards, has been lackluster. When an old high school classmate and bully of his becomes his new boss, his whole world comes crashing down.

His parents are moving out of their house into a retirement home and ask him to come home and clean out his childhood room. When he turns on the computer, something surreal happens and he is transported back into this 16-year-old body. He gets to spend a weekend as his teenage self, with his middle-aged man’s experiences and knowledge of his future. He is determined to set some things right. Can he fix his life, and the lives of those around him? He definitely tries.

The first half of the book is describing Craig’s failures and current situation in 2016. It’s kind of slow and boring, being the fairly unlikeable character that he is. At about the mid-point he performs the time travel, and things get much more interesting. The pace picks up.

But the ending is terrible. Readers want to see the hero win, they want an upbeat story. The ending is deflating and depressing, and it becomes obvious that the writer simply set us up to read the sequel.

In addition to lack of editing regarding the plot, and the marketing of the book, it also has a good number of grammatical errors that somewhat distracted me. I was going rate this book two out of four stars, but the horrible ending just depressed me and I am downgrading it to 1.5 stars.

But that’s apparently not going to stop me from buying Beyond Broadhall, the sequel. I want to know what happens to Craig next.

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After reading A Ripple in Time, I wrote this review but I didn’t think I would read another Zugg book. Then one of my readers commented under that review, challenged me by pointing out a grammatical error in my blog entry while I criticized Zugg for his, and told me there was a sequel. Well, I couldn’t leave a time travel book unread.

But, unfortunately, it’s not a time travel book.

Mason, the protagonist, makes it back to 1720 at the end of A Ripple in Time. In The Planters, he comes out on the other side and the story tells how he finds his way back to the plantation, reunites with Karen, Jeremy and Lisa, and how they make a living running a plantation in 1720.

The twist is Nathan, one of the antagonists in A Ripple in Time, who unexpectedly survived the pirate raid and comes back to the plantation. While the story illustrates life in 1720 in South Carolina, and while the four survivors are occasionally drawing on their knowledge of history to drive their actions, and while Mason uses his Glock automatic pistol once to save their lives against pirates, there is absolutely no time travel in this book. Therefore, it would have been more effective to just call it a historical novel, but as such, it would not have lived up to those of the greats like Bernard Cornwell, for instance.

There were no significant grammar error in The Planters, unlike there were in A Ripple in Time, or at least I didn’t notice them. Perhaps the author had more proofreading done. I applaud that.

The way the story ended left it open to another sequel, which I definitely will not take the time to read.

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Great Scott!

Michael J. Fox at age 58 with Christopher Lloyd at age 81 at a poker night.

Source: mrchristopherlloyd on Instagram

Surprisingly, this picture touched me more emotionally than I want to admit.

I want to travel back to 1985. Anybody have a DeLorean?

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Ivy is a 37-year-old divorced mother of twin girls of sixteen. She is on her way to visit them, driving down a freeway in rural Virginia when the road suddenly is buckled up and destroyed in front of her. She gets out, along with a few other people in other cars and tries to figure out what might have happened, when she is thrown into a time warp of sorts. Along with Harper, another stranger, a 33-year-old man, she wakes up and finds herself in a primeval forest.

Long story short, they were thrown back in time about 17,000 years to when North America was still full of large fauna, including giant bears and saber tooth tigers. The very first humans had just come from Asia and had made their way across the American continent.

Ivy happens to have a notebook with her and writes a journal of their story of survival in a Paleolithic wilderness. Her journal is the book. Ivy tells the story in the first person present tense.

There is nothing really happening in the story, other than the description of their day to day efforts to survive and possibly thrive. The plot is simple and way too simplistic to be credible. It’s almost like a fairy tale for an 8-year-old audience. The language is stilted and unreal, and the ease with which everything goes smoothly for them just does not ring true.

Reading about that time in history reminded me of The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel which I read many decades ago and remember as a very good book. So reading Pushed Back prompted me to download that book so I could read it again, or at least give it a try.

The language in Pushed Back is juvenile and full of trite expressions. I’ll give you one example. The author likes to use the word “friggen” to create a feeling of astonishment that she apparently can’t impart otherwise.

When Harper kills a wild pig with his spear, Ivy says:

“Oh my gosh, you are a friggen master hunter!” I crowed in joy.
— Ison, S.A.. Pushed Back: A Time Traveler’s Journal (p. 158). Kindle Edition.
I guess it’s ok to use this word in this context when Ivy quotes herself directly. However, this word is used five more times throughout the book. Here are the other examples:
  • a friggen giant sloth
  • the Paleolithic friggen era
  • after seeing the big friggen sloth
  • that was friggen amazing
  • just as friggen fast
Ok, the author likes “friggen” but to my astonishment, she also likes “fricken” as in the other two examples:
  • I mean really fricken screwed.
  • What? Fricken dandelions.
Maybe you are thinking I am being petty, and maybe I am, but these are just a few examples of the repetitive use of trite expressions and made-up words that may be part of colloquial American life, but it sounds friggen stupid in a book.
Then, of course, there are the numerous punctuation, spelling, grammatical and even tense errors that should have been found by an editor or, if too expensive, a friend, who should have read the book at least once before it was published and sold. But alas, that’s apparently acceptable in modern publishing.

This is listed as Book 1 in the time travel series, but I could not find a Book 2 yet. Checking S. A. Ison’s work, I see she specializes in survival material and post-apocalyptic stories, with several series of books in that general subject matter.

Given the poor presentation, the sloppy editing, the vapid language, the flat plot and the superficial characters of Pushed Back, I think I am done reading S. A. Ison books.

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Steve Mason is a Federal Air Marshal on a flight down the eastern seaboard of the United States, to Charlotte, North Carolina.  After a mostly uneventful flight, the plane suddenly hits a dark cloud unexpectedly. Turbulence ensues, strange blue flashes are outside the windows, and just as abruptly as the cloud appeared it stops and the plane enters blue sky again.

However, all communications with the outside world have ceased. The crew looks out the window and recognize the familiar landmarks of the North Carolina coast, but all the cities are gone. After a frantic but unsuccessful search for an airfield to land, the pilots know they will run out of fuel and decide to ditch the plane into the ocean off the coast of what used to be Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The landing is not as successful as that pulled off by Captain Sullenberger who landed a plane in the Hudson River in 2009.  The plane crashes hard, breaks up, and out of the 180 passenger and crew, only less than 30 people survive.

Eventually, the survivors realize they landed in colonial America in 1720. There are only four cities of any size in the colonies at that time, Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charles Town, which would eventually become Charleston. The survivors have to fend for themselves by fighting off marauding bands of Indians, criminal colonists, pirates, not to mention diseases, hunger, and lack of shelter.

The storytelling is stilted and juvenile. There is even a sex scene that is surprisingly explicit and somewhat inappropriate. What bothered me most is the multitude of grammatical errors that should have been caught by an editor. Here are a couple of examples:

Mason caught sight of the man whom had to be the captain. He wore a bright blue coat and a matching three-point hat with a feather.
— Zugg, Victor. A Ripple In Time: A Historical Novel Of Survival (p. 273). Kindle Edition.
“Whom had to be the captain?” That does not even sound right. There are other places in the book where the author misuses the word “whom.”
Here is another one:
He was surprised to learn there were several built prior to 1720 that still exited.
— Zugg, Victor. A Ripple In Time: A Historical Novel Of Survival (p. 294). Kindle Edition.

“Still exited?” Really?

There are many such errors throughout the book. They are minor, and they don’t destroy the meaning. But they irritate me immensely. It makes me angry that the author is willing to have people pay money for a book that obviously NOBODY even bothered to proofread even once. I should not be finding basic grammar errors in a professional book.

So I didn’t plan on giving the book much of a rating. Yes, it’s a time travel story, and I love time travel stories. That’s the only reason I stuck with the book and continued reading, even though most of the action is fairly monotonous and slow.

But then, the ending is surprisingly good. I enjoyed the last 10% of the book tremendously and found the conclusion satisfying. For a change, here is a book that actually has an ending and is not just a cheap setup for a sequel or a series.

It was going to be 1 star, but the ending brings it up and – at least for me – made it an enjoyable read.


.

SPOILER ALERT – do not read beyond this point if you are going to read this book!

Some of my readers expressed curiosity about the ending, so I decided to summarize it here.

When they first landed at the beach they ran into a band of Indians. Mason he wanted to start out friendly and searched for a gift. He wore a steel bracelet with an inscription which read “Steve Brown, USA, 82nd Airborne, Operation Iraqi Freedom.” He gave this bracelet to one of the Indians as a gift.

During their ordeal, Mason became friends with the lead flight attendant named Karen. Eventually they had a relationship and there was one sex scene in the night on the deck of their boat.

Toward the end of the story, when the 20 survivors realized that they were probably marooned in 1720 for the rest of their lives, the group decided to buy a plantation outside of Charles Town with money they had obtained by accident from a pirate’s loot. When they needed to decide whose name would be put on the title for the property, they agreed that Lisa and Jeremy Jackson, who had also become close, would quickly get married and take title of the plantation. Upon purchase, the couple stayed in the plantation, and Karen stayed with them, while Mason and a few of the other men went back to the camp by boat to pick up the rest of them and bring them to the plantation.

Karen and Mason were in love by then, and when Mason left, he promised Karen he’d be back in a few days.

During that trip, however, the original pirate attacked them and eventually decimated their boat and everyone perished. Mason eventually was severely wounded and fell into the ocean. As he passed out, he saw blue flashes. Note: blue flashes are associated with the original travel through time in the first place.

Mason woke up in a hospital in 2019. The Coast Guard had fished him out of the ocean four days after the plane had disappeared and he was the only known survivor. Being a Federal Air Marshal, his colleagues debriefed him and he told them the truth. Nobody believed him, of course, and eventually even he himself assumed he had hallucinated the entire experience during the trauma of the crash.

But he missed Karen. Depressed, he went on a road trip to Charleston to see if he could recognize anything in the city. There was nothing left of the old Charles Town of 1720, other than the names of the main streets. On a whim, he entered a history museum. In a display box of Indian artifacts he found a rusted out bracelet, the inscription no longer readable, but unmistakably his bracelet. Now he knew he had really been there. He drove out to the plantation and met an old man by the name of Michael Mason who lived there. The old house had burned down in the Civil War and another one had been built, but it was the same plantation. There was an old painting on the wall that was the only item of value surviving from the pre-Civil War period. On the painting Mason saw Lisa and Karen, along with a little boy. Michael Mason explained that family history has it that Jeremy died from an infection a few years after they got married and they never had kids. But Karen had a son from an unknown father. The little boy was named Steve Mason. Lisa willed the plantation to the boy and he became the patriarch for the long line of Masons who would run the plantation through the centuries that followed.

Mason went home, outfitted himself with survival gear, a stash of antibiotics, and rented a Cessna. Then he spent the next three months flying around North Carolina every day looking for dark clouds with blue flashes. Eventually, in a storm, he found one – and disappeared. That’s the last thing we know of Mason.

After Mason’s disappearance, his friend Ted Wilson at the Air Marshal Service started to investigate. At Mason’s house, he found a shopping list of survival gear, the contract for the airplane, and the address of the plantation. He drove to the plantation, and a young man let him in and they talked about “his missing friend” who had left this address for some reason that neither understood. As Ted walked around the house, he saw a painting with two couples and one young boy. The young man explained that one of the couples was Lisa and Jeremy Jackson. When they never had children, they willed the plantation to Steve Mason, who was the son of Karen and Steve Mason, both also in the painting.

Obviously, Mason had made it back to Karen, his stash of antibiotics had saved Jeremy’s life, and they all grew old together at the plantation.

Ted walked away knowing the truth.

 

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Joseph Bridgeman and the Silver Hunter starts on the day the story of The Unexpected Gift of Joseph Bridgeman ends. It’s a sequel. After saving his sister Amy in the first book, Joe now has to change history by preventing the murder of a young woman in London in 1962 by one of the two notorious crime bosses of the era.

The story is entertaining and well-crafted. It kept me reading. Time travel was again the central plot mechanism in this story, but it was a different kind of time travel.

That was a bit disconcerting.

In the first book, Joe travels by self-hypnosis. He essentially wills himself into the past. With practice, he can pinpoint an exact date and even time and place and transport himself to that. To get back home, the timestream simply pulls him back, is if he were attached to the present by a rubber band. Furthermore, the further he travels back in time, the shorter the time is that he gets to stay in the past before he is pulled back, sort of like a rubber band that is stretched farther and has to snap him back sooner and harder. An unfortunate side-effect is that his clothes and any other objects get pulled back faster, so he ends up naked in the past if he does not watch out and prepare and quickly steal or buy some local clothes. As you can see, the rules of the type of time travel he practices are very precise and they limit his options.

In the second book, somewhat inexplicably, he has been “untethered” by the time travel powers that be. Now he can travel much further back, he can stay longer, he does not lose his clothes, and he is completely controlled by a magic “watch” which warns him with a count-down before he travels, and with another count-down before he returns. We don’t find out who builds the watch, who controls it, and how it works.

Oddly, while Joe was very proficient in the first book with his hypnotic time travel, he does not even attempt it at all in the second. It’s almost like the author decided that the rules of time travel he introduced in his first book didn’t work for him, so he just started over with new and seemingly inconsistent rules.

I found this distracting. When I read a time travel series, I expect the methodology, and the universal rules, to remain consistent. This was done very well by Nathan Van Coops in his series of four books, starting with In Times Like These. The rules are solid and remain solid.

In these books, the author just started over again, used the same characters, threw them into a different plot, and changed all the rules.

The last chapter in this book set him up for another sequel as Joe’s sister Amy writes him a letter from the future. Will I read the third book when it comes out? Probably not.

 

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In the 26th century, Earth is a polluted wasteland. For hundreds of years, humanity’s situation has devolved, scientific progress has been retrograde, culture has stagnated, and government is utterly corrupt. A small number of giant “megacorporations” run things. Under their thumbs are governments, government agencies, and all of the people. The gap between the privileged and the destitute has grown immensely. The megacorporations do what is good for them and their shareholders, and they have no qualms about annihilating thousands or millions of people, if they are in their way. The people live in utmost poverty and need, eking out a living by planting, salvaging and living off the land.

The desperate live on the depleted Earth, which by then is the least attractive place to live. The lucky and fortunate ones live on the moons of the gas giants or in space in general.

James Griffin-Mars is a Chronman, a highly trained specialist, one of an elite few, who have the technology to travel in time. ChronoCom is a government agency that regulates time travel. Strict time laws are in force, intended to prevent accidents, time paradoxes and intended or accidental changes of history.

Chronmen are usually deployed by the agency to salvage. Since technology development has devolved, the most interesting and valuable technologies are hundreds of years in the past. The Chronmen are dispatched to jump to a time and place just before some known disaster, and take away valuables, either machinery, artwork, documents, books, anything of value to salvage before the disaster wipes it out anyway. The majority of progress in the 26th century does not come from invention and innovation, but from salvaged loot from the past.

Chronmen lead very dangerous lives, and most do not last very long. James is on the brink of burnout when he takes on one last mission, where the payoff is so high, he can retire when he completes it. During the mission he gets to know Elise, a young female scientist on an oceanic platform in 2097 where his mission is to save some technology hours before the platform explodes and sinks into the ocean, killing all people aboard. When the disaster strikes, and he has captured the loot, without actually planning for it, he takes Elise home with him, more than 400 years into the future. Of course, bringing anyone back from the past violates the first time law. This forces James and Elise to become fugitives on the wasted Earth, trying to survive in the wilderness, undetected by the government trying to hunt them down. In the process of saving themselves, the opportunity to save the planet arises and gives hope not only to the two of them, but to all humanity.

Time Salvager is a story about a dystopian future, think Orwell’s 1984 on steroids. Graphic descriptions of the squalor most of humanity lives in are contrasted by the high-tech excesses of the elite. Transformer-like technology abounds and gives soldiers and agents superhuman capabilities. Reading Time Salvager is like watching a superhero movie, where the heroes are indestructible due to the magical technology and the power it gives them.

At a time when the income gap between poor and rich is widening, climate change is daily sensational news, corruption of government is rampant and abuse of power is becoming acceptable and normal, reading Time Salvager is a strong reminder of how bad it can get. It’s not a pleasant read, but entertaining nonetheless, and definitely thought-provoking.

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Joseph Bridgeman is a single guy with a failing antiques business, money problems, emotional problems, and for some reason he can’t sleep.

But he has some unusual skills. For instance, he can “view” the past, not like you and I when we recall memories. No, he can get into another person’s head and see the world from their point of view. He does that involuntarily when he sleeps. No wonder he is an insomniac!

He also has a terrible history. In 1992, when he was 14, he took his little sister to the fair and she disappeared. As one might expect, the family was never the same again and Joe’s life was dominated by his guilt.

Then, quite by accident, when trying to get help from a hypnotherapist, he discovers that he can time travel.

Can he go back to the fair in 1992 and change things just enough to keep his sister from disappearing?

I am a time travel buff, so I had to read this. I am glad I did. This story is a unique time travel tome, reminiscent of The Time Traveler’s Wife, or the various books by Nathan Van Coops (search my blog for his stories). There is a sequel, which is not as highly rated by the reviewers on Amazon, but I like Nick Jones’ style well enough, I’ll probably pick up the next one.

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In 2012, Peter is a retiree in Snohomish, Washington. He buys an old house and starts fixing it up, when he notices something odd about his shed. One night Peter sees lights out there and when he goes to investigate, he meets Henry, the old man who sold him the house. Henry let’s Peter in on the secret: The shed is a time portal. You set your mind to “when” in time you want to go, and walk through it, and there you are. Simple as that. And thus we have a time travel story.

Peter loses no time exploring the Snohomish of his youth in the summer of 1958. He crosses over almost daily, gets an apartment, buys a car, and establishes an identity there. During a return trip to 2012, his granddaughter Emily notices something weird and soon Peter comes to the conclusion he has to confess. Emily is let in on the secret. Since Emily is only 15 and a minor, they also include Emily’s mom.

For reasons that I can’t fathom, other than making a story, they decide that Emily will take a quarter of high school in the fall of 1958. They make preparations and put the plan in motion. But there is a school bully and he is one “bad hombre” to use the author’s word.

This book is really bad for a lot of reasons, so bad that it is worth pointing it out. There are about 50 reviews with high ratings on Amazon and I just don’t understand how that can be. Half of them seem to be by Snohomish residents who obviously like to read about their cafes, streets and businesses. There is a nostalgic element. But why is this book so bad? I will list the main reasons:

Grammar and Spelling:

The book it littered with grammar and spelling errors, so many I didn’t count them. Here is an example – red highlights are mine.

As we ate, she asked, “Why did I remembered what happened and the other kids didn’t?” I explained, “We kept our memories by returning though the portal. To the other kids, it was like rewinding a tape and recording over it.

There are two major grammar oversights in one paragraph. This might be acceptable to some readers, but to me it’s an insult. I paid $3 for this book. I now have a list of bookmarks of all the grammar and spelling errors that annoyed me enough to mark them. Did anyone at all, including the author, ever read this book before publishing it? Apparently not. But they expect the public to pay for this.

Juvenile Writing:

The book is full of clichés and trite expressions. When the author didn’t know how to describe something, he resorted to some colloquialism. It felt cheap.

Bad Writing in General:

The author does not know how to make a dialog work. There is some dialog, like in the example above, but it’s stilted at best. Since he can’t write dialog, he uses exposition throughout and indirect dialog. For instance, on the same page as the above excerpt:

I gave her a hug and told her I was proud of her and that I loved her. She began sobbing and turned and buried her head in my shoulder as she hugged me back.

Pretty much all the talking in this book is done this way. The narrator says what he said, rather than saying it. Sometimes that works, but this entire book is written that way. None of it is real. The entire book tells us what happened, rather than showing us what happened.

Filler Descriptions:

The book is stuffed with unnecessary descriptions, of what the characters are wearing every day and what they are eating:

She ran to the entrance in her new, knee-length, gray wool skirt that Dorothy had made for her a few days earlier. She had on white bobby socks, her saddle shoes, her white Jansen sweater, a light blue jacket, and a bright blue scarf around her neck. I watched as she ran to the door. It made me tear up a bit when I realized how much she looked like her grandmother had when I’d first met Linda at WSU.

Ok, you get a picture of what Emily looked like that day, but the author does it in every appearance. It does nothing to move to the plot along, just fills pages with words. He does the same thing with food. Every time they eat, and they do a lot of eating in this book, he describes the menu in detail:

As I entered the kitchen, I gave her a hug around the shoulders and asked if I could help. She gave me the chore of setting the table while she finished with the rest of breakfast. It was a wonderful breakfast of fried eggs, hash browns, bacon, toast, and orange juice.

There is nothing special about the breakfast. But why list it? Why talk about every item they eat every time with every meal? If it does not contribute to the story, it should not be there. My estimate is  that the whole book could be condensed to about 50 pages if the author just left out all the filler stuff that has no need of being there. Here is another example:

Dorothy had prepared a great meal. The dinner started with a wonderful salad of lettuce, nuts, raisins, tomatoes, fresh peas, croutons, and blue cheese dressing. The main course was sirloin steaks and baked potatoes—the ones left from the bag I’d purchased at Safeway the day before. They were dressed with sour cream, whipped butter, and bacon bits. Dessert was fresh apple pie à la mode. Dorothy told the kids that she and I had driven all the way to the Monroe Farmers Market to get the apples. They all enjoyed the meal immensely.

This is the author’s attempt to make it seem real, kind of like Stephen King does when he describes details. But he picks the wrong boring details at the wrong times in the story to provide color. The fact that dessert was fresh apple pie à la mode just isn’t advancing the plot. And we don’t need to know all the ingredients of the salad. Really!

Nonsense Plot:

This is supposed to be a time travel adventure, and while there was room for it to be just that, the author missed the chance. It’s basically a nostalgic story in 1958 to pander to Snohomish residents and their memories. He could have just written a period piece. The protagonists didn’t need to step through a portal in a shed from another time to do any of the stuff they did. They could have just lived there and the story would have mostly been the same. The time travel pieces of the plot were very minor, unimaginative and in some cases nonsensical. This was not a time travel book.

In Summary:

I don’t like to blast a book with negative criticism, but in this case it’s necessary. The author clearly didn’t bother to have an editor read the book even once before he started selling it. Why didn’t he ask one of his friends who wrote a Five-Star Amazon review to give him a list of grammar fixes? He could have done that in an hour. This shows me that the author really does not care about the quality of the book, but he does expect us in the reading public to pay money for the privilege.

I read all the way through, because that’s my policy. Some books I just can’t read all the way through. When that happens I don’t give myself the right to actually rate them. I just state that I couldn’t keep going. This book was short enough that I kept with it, even though I suspected it wasn’t going to get any better.

So here goes:

 

 

This is zero stars, by the way. The real stars are gold covered. See some of my other reviews.

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When Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) is 21, his father (Bill Nighy) pulls him aside and tells him that the men in his family have always had the ability to travel through time. They can do it at will by going into a dark area like a closet or a bathroom with the lights off, clenching their fists, closing their eyes and wishing for another time. Boom, there they arrive, properly dressed the way they were at that time.

He can’t seem to find a girlfriend, so he decides he is going to use his new skill to get one. That does not turn out quite the way he expected. When he meets a girl and falls in love, she gives him her number, and he bounds away excited. Mission accomplished! But then he travels back in time to help out a friend and realizes too late that he is now in a time where he has never met the girl and never received her phone number. He now has to figure out how to meet her again – but where to start?

I ran across this 2013 movie at a hotel flipping through the HBO channels. Time travel is one of my favorite science fiction genres (just search this block for the category and it’ll be obvious I am an aficionado –>) so this was a natural choice to stop on. The mechanics of time travel in this story are very simple and not scientific, like they would be in a fairy tale, which this essentially is.

About Time is light feel-good movie with no antagonists but perhaps life itself and the curve balls it throws at you. It plays in England, the characters are all delightful and light, and life is — almost — perfect. When the credits rolled I was convinced that I need to live every day as best as I can and I was satisfied.

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The Warp Clock is the fourth book in what I now call the Ben Travers Series of books. The others were:

In The Warp Clock, Ben Travers comes back with a vengeance.

After the so-so The Day After Never, which ventured into foo-foo time travel, Van Coops is back with a time travel thriller about time travel all the way.

A group of convicts and criminals has banded together in a set of remote timestreams using decommissioned time gates from the Chronothons. They are working on changing history mostly with the objective of enriching themselves, but under the pretense of making the world a better place. They are kidnapping historical figures, like Hitler and Genghis Khan, putting them into an arena a-la-Colosseum and making them fight each other for their lives, to the pleasure of the onlookers. It’s not a happy world. Ben and Mym, and their daughter Piper, are trapped in this nightmare of a world from which they can only escape through a tricky sequence of – you guessed it – time travel jumps that make your mind bend.

It’s all worth it. The book is written in the first person present tense, which gives it a rapid-fire feeling. The action drives forward from sentence to sentence, giving it a truly breathless pace.

Of course, there is also Dr. Quickly and a cameo appearance of Cowboy Bob in Montana and his housekeeper Connie. The old band is back together.

I would not recommend reading this book out of order. If you’re interested in the Ben Travers series, you really need to start with In Times Like These, where Time Travel 101 is the course and anchors are the lesson. Then work your way up. The Warp Clock, as the first book, would likely leave you confused or lost.

 

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Portal to the Forgotten: A time travel story

Tyler and Grace, a young couple in rural Arkansas, are out for a walk in the Ozarks, when Grace suddenly disappears into thin air on the trail right in front of Tyler. When Tyler tries to explain this to the authorities later he is arrested for suspected murder of his girlfriend.

Luke is Tyler’s cousin. His hobby is building primitive weapons, hunting with primitive weapons and tools, and playing survivalist in the woods of Arkansas. When he hears about Grace’s disappearance, the believes Tyler, and he goes on a quest to figure out what happened. On this way, a mystery woman who claims to be a writer, befriends him and they retrace the steps of Tyler and Grace.

Sure enough, there seems to be a “portal” in the woods. They traverse the portal and end up in “another dimension.” But they don’t have much time to reflect. Luke finds himself in a net, trapped like game in the woods by tribal savages.

Portal to the Forgotten is sold as a time travel story, and that’s how I stumbled upon it. But it really has little to do with time travel. The protagonists are simply tossed into a world that is completely different from their own, with seemingly no way back.

The author romanticizes his characters. Luke, for instance, happens to be a primitive hunter. He drives his pickup truck into the wilderness, parks the truck, walks away, sort of like they do in Naked and Afraid, and builds tools, hunts animals, and lives off the land. That’s his hobby. Supposedly he is REALLY good at that. Now what are the odds of such a person ending up jumping through a portal into a primitive prehistoric world, without any weapons or tools? Yes, the plot in this story is too contrived.

Luke is the perfect primitive hunter, better than any of the tribal adversaries. Moon turns out to be a one-man army – think of Rambo. Grace, a martial artist, is also a fighter in her own right. So the people stumbling into the “other dimension” are all super heroes with super hero skills.

The land where they end up is not quite the past, or perhaps the deep past, but a prehistoric world full of different tribes, some more advanced than others, but who all are killing each other. The world is so savage, that every time two human males of different tribes cross paths, one of them dies. Of course, our super hero crew always wins, and the savages fall like leaves. Still, a society where human males always kill each other on contact would not survive very long, but that seems to be the world they are thrown into. And let’s not forget, there is the obligatory Nazi named Karl who time traveled to the same world in an effort to steal ancient technology, kind of like in Indiana Jones. True to expectation, it’s the Nazi and his mission who makes everyone’s lives complicated.

Portal to the Forgotten is a somewhat clumsy story with an unlikely plot. It starts out interesting, but as it evolves, it gets boring. There is a lot of editing needed. Sometimes the author uses wrong words or poor grammar. The book could use some professional editing. There is a lot of exposition, where the author tells us what the protagonists are thinking. So we are constantly in the heads of the protagonists, and their thoughts are often just puerile.

For instance, at one point in the story, still back in the Ozarks, Moon had passed out drunk and naked and Luke had brought her into the cabin and put her into bed. So it’s established that Luke had seen Moon naked before.

But later, in savage land, there is the following passage:

“While you are whittling on that, I’m going to bathe.” She stood. “I trust you won’t look.” Luke immediately turned red. He hated himself for it. “That is so cute.” He turned redder and scraped harder and faster, wished she would just go bathe. He heard her behind him taking her clothes off. He was tempted to look, but he was too embarrassed to say anything, much less turn around.

Gschwend, John. Portal to the Forgotten: A time travel story (p. 55). UNKNOWN. Kindle Edition.

The passage continues for a while where Moon is all prissy about standing in front of the fire to dry off and making Luke close his eyes. So these two adult super heroes are stranded in a wild country and they are worried about seeing each other naked? The book is full of descriptions of such unlikely and inconsistent behavior, it makes the characters unreal and incongruent.

Portal to the Forgotten has too much crammed into the story that does not belong there or add to the plot. The science is babble-science. I like my science fiction to the SCIENCE fiction. The plot is contrived and the characters are just not very interesting.

There is a sequel, but I won’t read it.


 

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Christoph Wilder is an airline captain licensed to fly the huge double-decker Airbus A380. On a trip from New York to Europe, the plane flies through a volcanic ash cloud that air traffic control didn’t know was there. All four engines die, and the huge plane becomes a glider over the icy North Atlantic. By sheer steel nerves and drawing on deep experience, he manages an emergency landing in the U.K. Everyone is saved, except for one elderlyt man who dies of cardiac arrest during the commotion.

But the airline is worried about negative publicity and grounds him. In order to continue flying, he takes on a job with a top-secret German government research project, flying an A380 built out to be a time machine. During the maiden voyage, when they are just planning on testing the equipment, things go horribly wrong and they end up in Germany in 1939, the day before the assassination attempt on Hitler in Munich.

Very quickly their time travel adventure turns into an apocalyptic nightmare with seemingly no way out, where the future of humanity is at stake.

Peterson is a German writer, and the locales and the characters are all German, which I actually found refreshing, since pretty much all science fiction I read is American. The German backdrop and story line was a nice change.

I was critical of the book, because the trip through the volcanic ash cloud and the aftermath took a full 25% of the book, before the interesting story even started. I made a note of that to mention it in my review, since I felt the whole thing could have been left out completely without affecting the plot in any way. So it was a slow start, but the story kept getting more and more interesting, and I kept reading. I forgave the author for the rookie start and let it go.

But then there was the ending, which surprised me completely and tied it all together. In fact, the ending was so good that I changed my expected rating of the book from two to two and a half stars.

A quick read, and a good addition to my time travel library.

 

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A suicidal eccentric American billionaire industrialist accidentally crosses paths with a disembodied alien intelligence he calls Ell.  The two team up.

Through complex space/time machinations he is able to download his 70-year-old self into his 10-year-old body of his youth. Through a large portion of the book we accompany him reliving his life a second time around, trying to make changes to the way it went the first time.

He ends up inventing a time/space travel machine. Eventually he uploads his own identity into a machine and starts becoming a disembodied intelligence himself. Ah, eternal life!

For my taste, there was too much psychobabble about disembodied intelligence, but in the end, I enjoyed reading the book, it was quite well-written, and I must say that it’s required reading for anyone interested in the time travel genre.

Enjoy!

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