Hey Space Cadets, here is the next installment in my series of book reviews. This time I’m reviewing some short stories. Some of these will be outside of my normal reading genres, as I seek to broaden my horizons. However, I will also review stories solidly in my wheelhouse, never fear! And I won’t rate those I don’t like below a 3 Grenade because it isn’t the authors’ fault that someone other than their target demographic read the work in question. I’ve nothing special to report, so let’s get right to it!
Title: The Traveler
Author: Stefan Bolz
Narrator: Arden Hammersmith
eBook Price: USD $1.00
Audiobook Price: USD $6.08 or 1 Audible Credit
Obtained: I purchased this audiobook on Audible
Audio Length: 1 hour, 6 minutes
Rating: 5/5 Grenades
First, let me say that none of what I’ll say in this section couldn’t be found on the back copy of the novel. Heck, I cribbed this summary from the back, and then I added my own twist! And not even much of one, since most of the books I read have kick butt descriptions (aka blurbs). As I have said before, if the blurb doesn’t catch my eye, then I tend to skip the book unless a friend recommends it. Generally speaking, my goal is to provide a spoiler-free review, so here goes nothing!
Every day after school, twelve-year-old Tee works as an apprentice in her father’s blacksmith shop. From him, she learns how to weld, forge, and make beautiful things out of ordinary pieces of steel and metal. When her dad has a stroke and lying on his death bed, he whispers one last inaudible word to his daughter. Following it, Tee eventually discovers a notebook hidden inside his workshop. In it, she finds detailed instructions on how to build a time machine.
She longs to see her father again, and she wants to honor his last wish to build the machine, but deep-down Tee knows that there is no such thing as traveling through time. Reluctantly, she begins to build what she believes is simply a means, set up by her father, to ease her grief and help her get through the darkest time of her young life. She doesn’t know yet that her father’s last gift to her will change her life in the most profound way.
If you dig intense emotionally evocative stories of life and love, you’ll love “The Traveler” by Stefan Bolz. Get your copy today and share it with a friend.
The main character, Tee, is a young girl mourning the loss of a father she loved dearly. In the story, I don’t remember finding her name, but it’s in the blurb so it must’ve been there. The girl was driven by grief to complete her time machine, a final gift to her father. Her character was very flushed out, someone you could relate too. Despite the length of this story, I really connect to this girl, who becomes the “every man” for people who’ve had to mourn a loved one. She was written in a way that leaves the readers wanting more. Seriously, I remember hating when the book ended because it meant the main character went away.
The basic plot is about a girl’s journey through the stages of her grief. The story moved on at a good pace, there were no points where I felt like it got bogged down in the weeds. It wasn’t an action story, the plot was more cerebral and visceral, but it was fun. I enjoyed hearing how the machine was built, interspaced with snippets of her earning the funds to buy needed parts. It didn’t feel like things were handed to her, she earned every inch of her forward progress. The basic plot of this story was fun, it was moved along, and it kept me engaged. Here the author accomplished his goals as a storyteller!
There wasn’t a lot of world building in this short story, but it wasn’t needed. This story was set in the modern day, with enough tie-down points to anchor you in the fiction of Stefan Bolz. I could certainly envision myself in this world where a kid made the improbable possible. The story also built upon the worldbuilding of author HG Wells, at least with regards to the machine itself. This short story set the scene for a larger universe that left you wanting more. Because of his work here, I could buy the premise of a kid somehow forging this epic, one-of-a-kind time machine. I would say that here the author accomplished his goals.
The author used just the right touch here, I could picture every setting and even the machine itself. You could process this story through all your senses because Stefan Bolz left none of them untended. I smelted the forge, heard the clank of the hammer and felt the heat from the hearth fire. Hell, I could even smell the salt from Tee’s tears as she cried out for the loss of her father. If Bolz isn’t a blacksmith in this life, he channeled his past lives! I feel like the amount of description here was perfect for a short story. This is what description looks like when done right! I could picture myself in the various set locations, seriously… Grade-A work! It is the first solid 5-Star review for an author’s descriptive talents I’ve ever given.
After becoming a fan of audiobooks, I’ve listened to over a hundred hours of stories read to me by awesome narrators like RC Bray, Luke Daniels, Mark Boyett, Veronica Giguere and now Arden Hammersmith. I’m confident in what I enjoy and what I dislike. I know that I hate accents that seem too cheesy and despise narrators that sound like robots. With those pesky caveats, I will review the narration quality of this novel. The audiobook was well done, and the accents were consistent. Arden Hammersmith did an amazing job, I’ll listen to other books by her without question! Her performance didn’t feel robotic like a machine was reading the novel to me. You’ll often see that from me because it’ll drag me out of a book so fast that I can’t listen to it anymore. With Arden, it felt like a friend was sitting with me reading an amazing story that she couldn’t put down. Overall, I give her 5 out of 5 grenades for her performance.
Since I’ve been mentioning the covers in every single review, I decided to make that a part of the format going forward. As usual, a disclaimer that I’m colorblind so your mileage may vary. With this one, the image of a figure on the cover was so dark that I had trouble making out many of the details. All I could see was a blob of light surrounded by dark with white lettering. I don’t feel like it is one I could adequately or fairly review so I’ll draft my wife. She said that the cover looked good, but it didn’t pop out and give you the “wow” factor other covers do. She liked the font, which was blocked and three-dimensional and she enjoyed the wind-blown look of the girl on the cover. Overall, my wife gave this 4 out of 5 grenades.
I absolutely loved this short story! Time travel stories that are more literature than pulp isn’t normally my thing, but this short story showed made me rethink that choice! I found Stefan’s prose to be easy to read, written in a way to keep the story moving along without lagging. Because I listened to this as an audiobook, I can’t comment on any typos, but none of the phrasings yanked me out of the story. The story was visceral, pulling all the right emotional heartstrings. Because of how this is written, it was the perfect story for the short story medium, but it still left me wanting more. I wanted it to keep going, which is a good sign. I found the basic story premise to be highly entertaining, though in a melancholy sort of way. Stefan Bolz used several creative tactics to make the basic task, the building of a time machine, plausible for the 12-year-old main character. This was partly because the narrator, Arden Hammersmith, did such an amazing job! Between the two of them, the narrator and the author, they entertained me in creative ways that were entirely believable within the context of the world they created.
In conclusion, I would recommend this story to everyone who loves fun science fiction and give it 5 out of 5 grenades. But don’t take my word for it… if this book sounds like it’s right up your alley, check it out!
Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!
–> As usual, all images came from Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are used on the Fair Use Doctrine.