Saturday, April 11, 2015

Time After Time - Allen Appel

    2009; 320 pages.  Book 1 (out of 5) of the Pastmaster series.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Time-Travel; Historical Fiction.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    Alex Balfour is having a nightmare.  He’s in the World War 1 trenches, with the Russian army, and getting pummeled by the advancing Germans.  One of his comrades is dying from a bullet wound in the stomach, his blood dripping out onto the ever-present mud.  Alex is trying to escape the bombardment, crawling away through the muck and mire, but it appears hopeless.  He tries to help the mortally wounded soldier, but both know it will be to no avail.

    Thankfully, the dream ends there, and Alex wakes up, back in his own apartment, albeit sore and stiff from sleeping too long in a chair.  He’s had these oh-so-real types of dreams before, and they seem to be getting more frequent.  Thank goodness this one’s done.

    But a question lingers.  If he's been dozing in a chair all evening, how is it that his jeans and shoes are caked with mud?

What’s To Like...
    If you’re a history buff, particularly if the Russian revolution interests you, then Time After Time is going to thrill you.  Allen Appel seems to have thoroughly researched the tumultuous events going on in 1917 Russia, and presents a great “feel” for the lives of the people suffering through the upheaval.  It was nice to see the Zimmerman Telegram get some ink, and I found the reference to (the siege of) Akhulgo particularly enlightening.

    This is also a Time-Travel book, so Apple drops one modern-day, young, plucky, nerdy History Professor into the mix who will have to use his wits to survive the harsh conditions.  Well, his foreknowledge of what’s going to happen might come in handy as well.

    The mechanics of the Time-Travel reminded me of those used in The Time Traveler’s Wife, and the additional details given at about 92% in the e-book were quite intriguing.  The “instant foreign language mastery” may seem a bit far-fetched, but it has the advantage of making the story flow at a crisp pace.  This isn’t an Alt-History story.  This book is more about experiencing the Russian revolution, not changing it.  Nevertheless, Alex manages to alter a few of the historical details through his meddling, but in the end History will have its way.

    I liked the characters.  It was especially neat to watch Alex evolve from a somewhat "soft" academic to a hardened realist with leadership qualities.  There's a bit of a romance, or maybe two, but no one would call this a Romance novel.

    There is some cussing, primarily the use of the F-word; and some sex, although nothing lurid.  There’s also some violence, but you’d expect this in a book about the Russian revolution.  Despite being the start of a 5-book series (with rumors of a sixth book in the works), this is a standalone novel, with a good ending.

Kewlest New Word...
Knout (n.) : in Imperial Russia, a whip used to inflict punishment, often causing death

    “What happened to you last night?  Was that a normal occurrence, or did it have something to do with my company?”
    “Rest assured that it had nothing to do with you.  I was very unhappy when I felt it coming on.  It’s sort of a migraine; I’ve had them since I was a kid.  When they start, the only thing I can do is lie down until it passes.”
    “I don’t remember you having migraines.”
    “It’s a fairly recent reoccurrence.”
    “Don’t you take anything for it?”
    “Whiskey, generally.”   (loc. 886)

    What was she supposed to do, date?  She could have some wonderful conversations: “Well, my real boyfriend isn’t around at the moment; he’s a time-traveler and he’s in Russia right now, probably fighting in the Revolution or something; but when he gets back, we’ll be getting back together again, so don’t get your hopes up or anything.”  (loc. 3105)

Kindle Details...
    Time After Time sells for $0.99 at Amazon.  The other four e-books in the series all sell for $2.99, which is frankly a great price.  Allen Appel has several other e-books available, ranging from $2.99 to $7.99, and several novellas for $0.99.

“I see you’ve been out playing with the other little boys.  Shot any autocrats this evening?”  (loc. 4703)
    Issues exist, the biggest of which are the huge numbers of typos present.  These are not the usual “spell-checker” typos (fro/for, affect/effect, you're/your, lose/loose, etc.); instead they felt like scanner errors: comer/corner, pig/big, I/1, tum/turn, if/it, etc.  The frequency of these seriously disrupted the flow of the story.  I’ll forgive the scanner; who knows what font it was trying to ‘read’.  But hiring a proofreader would’ve been a prudent investment.  We won’t even mention the time slip regarding the date of Rasputin’s death.

    Everything else is minor.  The author gets overly descriptive at times, especially about food and clothes.  And the supposed “Ich bin ein Berliner” gaffe has pretty much been relegated to being a wing-nut urban legend.

    But I quibble.  I love to read both Historical Fiction and Time-Travel stories, and Time After Time was a thoroughly delightful treat in both genres.

    8½ Stars.  Subtract 1 star if you were hoping for an Alternate History story.

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