Review: Timesplash by Graham Storrs

Title: Timesplash
Author: Graham Storrs
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Format(s): Various electronic formats (PDF and Palm eReader reviewed)

Timesplash is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller by debuting novelist Graham Storrs. It’s set in a future a few decades away, where time travel equipment is available on the black market for anyone with the right money.

It’s based on the premise that time travellers can cause temporary disturbances in the past, which the universe automatically corrects. The correction results in a backwash at the point of departure, where it can cause anything from mildly psychedelic anomalies to large-scale destruction. This solution is excellent from a plot perspective: It avoids creating a confusing web of paradoxes, while still allowing the time travellers’ actions to have consequences.

The premise is used to build a very believable sub-culture around time travel; the travellers (“bricks”) and their techinicians are thrill-seekers and nerds who organise rave-like parties around themselves, where youths can experience the psychedelic effects of the backsplash. They use nicknames and terminology reminiscent of hacker culture, and are idolised much like rock stars.

The novel starts at this point and sends the reader right into the action. The time travelling scene is soon corrupted by terrorism and bricks who don’t know when to stop. After a few chapters, the plot crystallises into a thriller with elements of science fiction, espionage and terrorism.

The plot is tightly knit, rarely slowing down the pace. The time travel sequences emphasise suspense through the bizarre anomalies occurring around the main characters, and between travels, the story is a straight, but competently executed thriller with some love interest thrown in.

The author has taken care to give the three main characters believable psychological motives, and distinct ways to think, feel and act, but apart from that, we really don’t know much about them. The descriptions of hero and heroine are lacking the little details that make us identify with someone, making them somewhat bland. The main antagonist is far more interesting.

The main characters are also guilty of the novel’s greatest sins: gratification and a fixation on sex. The heroine’s body is so amazing it must be commented on time and again, men act like love-sick teenagers around her, and she constantly uses her sex appeal to get her way, which gets annoying and detracts from the story. Much of the supporting cast is weak in characterisation.

This is a novel that could make an excellent movie – there is plenty of physical action, the time travel scenes are very graphic, the plot is straight with only two threads to follow, and the main characters could easily be made appealing to moviegoers. The principles underlying time travel are also explained with very simple metaphors.

Both the PDF and Palm eReader versions of the book lack extra linebreaks between scenes. This is a rather glaring oversight, which may cause confusion to readers.

All in all, Timesplash is a tight thriller with some interesting ideas.

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