SPSFC2 Review of 'Neander' by Harald Johnson
This review is my own opinion and does not reflect that of Team Escapist. Some spoilers are present in this review.
My first impression after the first 20% was; Clean writing. Good pace with appropriate mix of dialogue, prose, action and intrigue.
An excellent beginning with a strong purpose and a mystery concerning a ring. It certainly caught my attention and I couldn't wait to read more.
Unfortunately, the middle section of the book is where it lost some lustre as believablity and story telling technique issues arose. No police (or anything) guarding the explosion site? How did Tom learn such detail concerning the stories and history’s of the Neanders with nothing more than pantomine and a few words? The author mentions the ‘butterfly effect’ a few times, but teaching Neanerthals to read, write and speak English isn’t just a butterfly flapping its wings, it’ s the whole tsunami. I can’t believe ‘the world becoming a little kinder’ in only certain areas, was all that happened.
Things also moved slow without purpose during the middle part; just life- no conflict, other than the overarching one of how Tom will get back to his time, but that seemed to be only an afterthought. And the mystery of his missing wife and the boat explosion seemed to almost disappear. And that mystery is part of what made the story so interesting.
I also didn’t understand the slips between POV. When with Tom, it is first person, but with Victoria it changed to third person. The change didn’t bring anything to the story, and it would have served better to keep it all in the same POV. It just seemed like an odd choice.
It was written very clean and with good editing, and I thought the author created good characters. They were well thought out and distinctive. And it was refreshing that Tom actually wanted to change history, which is not usually the case with time-travel stories. But the only character conflict that arose, was whether or not Tom wanted to change the future. And I don’t think that was strong enough to carry the story because there were only small mentions of it throughout the book.
Overall, I didn’t quite understand the premise of the story though. It lacked a distinct purpose. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to get out of it in the end. What was the premise of the book? Was the main ploat that Tom was trying to change the future for a better one for himself, selfishly changing everyone elses lives? History should be changed because our present time is messed up? A man trying to find family? We got history wrong concerning the Neanderthals? It kind of lacked a cohesive through-line and any sense of urgency.
It also lacked time-travel rules. Without even a litte foray into time-travel, physics or whatever, the story lacked the scifi feel. As it’s catagorized as scifi, I would have liked a little more detail and mechanics as to how the time-travel worked. Otherwise, it reads as an adventure story. Therefore, with consideration of all that was said above, this book does not meet my standards to carry onward in this competition.