This novel follows Benjamin Knight, a teenager and scientific prodigy. An experiment gone wrong sends him to a distant, post-apocalyptic future (though in truth a pocket reality). It’s a land of crude steam engines and feudal lords where most if not all remnants of the past are long forgotten. Before he can adjust, Ben’s technological know-how plunges him into the middle of a conspiracy he doesn’t understand.
If that synopsis sounds familiar to you, you probably shouldn’t read this book. Its first and greatest flaw is that it brings nothing new to the table. The second is the author’s tendency to signal everything that’s going to happen well ahead of time. Finally, every character is a bland archetype, and Ben himself has as much agency as a potato.
Neither the setting nor the plot hit any new beats, and it only takes a few pages for the whole thing to become predictable. Of course the experiment goes wrong. Of course nobody is who they seem. Of course there’s a villain who gets off on torturing people, because why wouldn’t he? There’s a war, a princess equivalent, and a long journey that mostly involves camping and running from the villains. You could say the same of many adventure novels, but there’s nothing in this one to make it stand out.
The setting doesn’t contribute much, either. The author spends an unnecessary amount of time describing the world, which spaces out the action too much. Although I initially dismissed it as another post-apocalyptic future, further discussion with the author revealed that it was in fact a pocket reality reflecting Ben’s own imagination. This never really shone through in the book, at least not in a way that stood out to me, which is a shame since it had far more potential than what I initially believed the setting to be.
The second major problem with the book is excessive foreshadowing. Each chapter begins with a journal entry of Ben’s that, for all purposes, tells the reader exactly what’s going to happen. Instead of framing the story, it gives it away and then leaves the reader to trudge through what follows to its inevitable conclusion. Additionally, most of the twists are given away within the chapter well before they happen. As a result, the book reads more like an extended synopsis than it does a novel.
Finally, the characters. There’s an evil vizier, or whatever you want to call him, who is rubbing his hands together the moment he comes onto the page because he’s so proud of being the villain. He murders, betrays, and tortures with abandon since that’s what all evil, power hungry people apparently do. There are other archetypes as well, the broken woman violent in her grief, the grizzled old warrior, the upstanding young man breaking under the strain of leadership. None of them are realized beyond the most basic confines of their respective archetypes.
At last, we come to Ben. He spends the entire book as a captive or useless lump asking questions about the world for the reader’s benefit. The main characters are the people around him. They’re flat but at least do more than wander around being injured, lost, or confused for an entire book. Ben is little more than a plot device, a Pez dispenser spitting out technology whenever the author feels the need. As written, he should have been a secondary character rather than the focus of the book.
A predictable plot, muddled setting, excessive foreshadowing, and one dimensional characters sabotage this novel before it has a chance to build any steam. This, topped off with a to-be-continued non-ending common to self-published fiction leaves little to be recommended. I give it a 2/5.
If you’re interested, you can pick up a copy from Amazon.