Audiobook Review: The Far Time Incident by Neve Maslakovic

27 06 2013

The Far Time Incident by Neve Maslakovic

Read by Mary Robinette Kowal

Brilliance Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 48 Min

Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel

Quick Thoughts: The Far Time Incident isn’t going to blow your mind with some sciencey high conceptual trip through time, but instead is a fun little adventure story with engaging and likeable characters and some nice unexpected touches along the way.

Grade: B

One of the things that always bothers me about Time Travel novels is the obsessive need to protect the timeline. You go through all the trouble of inventing a machine that violates the known laws of physics, but when you finally do take that trip back in time, you pansy ass around worried that if you accidentally brush up against one butterfly, it will cause a storm in the Atlantic, forcing Columbus to turn back in his journey, allowing the Aztecs to take over the land we call The United States and because of this Dorothy will never get to Oz. Well, screw Dorothy and her little dog too! If time is so malleable then it deserves to be screwed with. I always prefer the alternate timeline theory, where once you kick that butterfly’s ass then it breaks off a whole new timeline yet leaves the one you left intact. Me, I’d go all Homer Simpson on time’s ass, kicking everything I see and going genocidal on butterflies. Then, just to be ornery, I would go and kill my own grandfather, just to see what happens. I mean, hell, it’s my time machine! If I defeated time, shouldn’t then I reap the rewards? Hell, yeah! So, I know, this sounds all militarist and belligerent of me, totally different from the persona I try to adapt on social media and in my blog. I’m a nice guy. I really wouldn’t want be responsible for a butterfly genocide. Butterfly’s are pretty, unlike their evil worthless cousin’s the moth. Those bastards deserve to die. And I really don’t want to humiliate and abuse time. I just think, if you are going to time travel, you might as well kill Hitler, warn Pearl Harbor and ask Cleopatra out on a date, and damn the ultimate consequences. All this observation and discovery, well, I guess that’s nice for Dr. Professor Von Adjunct, but for us everyday grunts, time travel should be fun!

When one of the professors responsible for the development of the time machine at St. Sunniva University suffers a seemingly fatal mishap the shatters his being throughout time, the Dean asks his assistant, Julia Olsen to monitor the campus security chief’s investigation. When evidence turns up indicating it may not be an accident, Julia and Chief Kirkland ask to be taken on a demonstration of how time travel works. Yet, another act of sabotage sends Julia, the Chief and their team on a journey through histories darkest moments. The Far Time Incident is a entertaining and unique time travel adventure, adding enough little twists to a popular subgenre to allow it to standout. Maslakovic takes a less is more approach to the physics of time travel, infusing it with pop sensibilities, allowing us lay people to grasp the concepts without having to truly know the math. In fact, Maslavokic spends more time and detail on the intricacies of campus politics, allowing that to influence the outcome of the adventure more than the physics of time travel ever did. She does add some nice touches along the way. I love the idea of time travel as a murder weapon, sending people to their ultimate doom by transporting them into moments of historical tragedies, like the Vesuvius volcano. She also treats time itself like a character, where instead of relying on us faulty humans to protect it, time acts to prevent interference with its progression. Two other nice touches was the acceptance that our grasp on history is flawed, and that our past is more foreign to us than we may believe. All this makes the concepts and ideas behind The Far Time Incident intriguing, but what makes the story enjoyable is the relatable characters. While some of the characters lack depth, for the most part they were likable and ordinary. We get to travel with everyday people, not braniac scientist and highly trained agents of asskickery. Here, a simple scratch can be the difference between life and death, where as most story protagonist laugh in the face of tetanus. I really enjoyed the relationship between Julia and Chief Kirkland, which had a mature adult romantic undertone, but was never the focus of the novel. If you wanted some romance, it was there, but is more along the lines of mutual admiration than hearts a-fluttering’.  The mystery wasn’t really mind blowing, but did offer a few little twists along the way.  The highlight of the novel was the fast paced sequence of bouncing through ghost zones, periods in history where a person’s presence was unlikely to change anything due to some disaster. This sequence offered a fast series of historical mini-mysteries which was a lot of fun. Overall, The Far Time Incident isn’t going to blow your mind with some sciencey high conceptual trip through time, but instead is a fun little adventure story with engaging and likeable characters and some nice unexpected touches along the way.

This was my first experience with Mary Robinette Kowal as a narrator although I have read a few of her short stories before. As a writer who narrates other writers (along with her own) work, I was interested to hear one of her performances. I found her to be very well suited to this novel. She has a solid, pleasant voice that I would have no trouble listening to for hours. She gives a really charming performance, while also being technically proficient. She captured engaging qualities of the main character Julia, truly playing off her likeability. Her other characterizations were just as solid. I really enjoyed her abiltiy to display the small bits of dark humor with an almost devilish smirk in her voice.  Her pacing was crisp, and matter of fact, never trying to push the story, but letting it flow naturally. Kowal is someone I definitely will look for in the future, in fact, I recently downloaded one of her own novels that she also narrated.

Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

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