Book reviews / Science Fiction

Book Review: Just one Damned Thing After Another

I think this was the kind of book that I would have absolutely loved as a teenager. It was fast paced, sweary and involved history. However, even though I don’t claim any great sophistication as an adult, it just didn’t quite do it for me.

The setting is one we’ve seen before. It’s a word with time travel, however because history is a fickle thing, there are specially trained historians who get to do all the time travel. So far, so Doomsday Book. It doesn’t take place in a real place, but rather an imagined university. But to me it felt very English and quaint. St. Mary’s, the place where all the time travelling historians and support crew exist, felt like a neglected college of Oxford University. But it still felt…other. It didn’t feel quite English, more like pretend English.

The difference is that somewhere along the line, an anti-St. Mary’s appeared and has messed up the time line. Right away, that felt like breaking the rules of the universe. History can’t change, except if you’re a bad guy. I think it just about gets away with it, as the bad guys don’t try to bring anything back to the present and only attempt to murder the St. Mary’s historians.

But the book delivers on the title – it is just one damned thing after another. Relentless action, with tiny bits of world and character building. And I think this is my problem with it. There’s no breathing space so it feels entirely improbable. And I’m Miss-Destination-Rather-Than-Journey-Plot-Over-Description and it was too much for even me. I imagine people who like more drawn out, detail-orientated world building would struggle a bit with this.

I can’t even…imagine….what St. Mary’s looks like. Some bits are described but you don’t get a sense of the place.

It takes place over a long period of time, but you can still manage that and have some character development. Most of the characters were fully formed with only Lucy (the main character) really having any attention. Even then, she came fully formed and completely dominated the book, to the detriment of the other characters. She was brilliant, and I loved her, but everyone else didn’t get the attention and so felt very same-y. They were just names and job descriptions, walk-on parts in the Lucy show. I also felt the crisis point and how Lucy acted completely out of character, which really annoyed me. I mean, you can have a character be in crisis and not 100% turn around and be a different character.

Saying all that, it was still enjoyable, if relentless. It’s hard to have your origin story and then also the introduction of villains and and a complicated universe. I feel like you could have got the same fun and adventure without all the massive anxiety of peril all the time. Some things could have gone right, is all I’m saying. Potentially taking out of the side-adventures to focus on the main story and spend longer on the actual big set pieces, would have added more tension rather than just anxiety the entire time.

Anyway, it was fun. I’m not sure I’m going to read any more, but may do. Maybe if they slow down a little bit, the characters and world building can have some time to build on their own and not just be thrown in the reader’s face at 100 miles an hour.

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