Book Review: A Long Time Until Now

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Hey Space Cadets, here is the next installment of my book reviews. I found this book from a thread in the Galaxy’s Edge Fan Club. It was a time travel novel with an awesome cover so I had to buy it. Since I bought A Long Time Until Now book at Trad Pub prices, I read it! So here we are, with me writing a review. I listened to this one as an audiobook, without reading the eBook. So, without further ado, let’s get on with this review. Let’s do it!

 

Title: A Long Time Until Now ( Temporal Displacement Series Book 1)

Author: Michael Z Williamson

Narrator: Dennis Holland

eBook Price: USD 5.38 USD

Audiobook Price: USD 29.99 or 1 Audible credit

Obtained: I bought the audiobook with one Audible credit

Pages: 960 pages

Hours: 22 hours, 10 minutes

Rating: 4/5 Grenades

Summary:

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). 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!

 

A military unit is thrust back into Paleolithic times with only their guns and portable hardware. Ten soldiers on convoy in Afghanistan suddenly find themselves lost in time. Somehow, they arrived in Earth’s Paleolithic Asia. With no idea how they arrived or how to get back, the shock of the event is severe. They discover groups of the similarly displaced: Imperial Romans, Neolithic Europeans, and a small cadre of East Indian peasants. Despite their technological advantage, the soldiers only have ten people and know no way home. Then two more time-travelers arrive from a future far beyond the present. These time travelers may have the means to get back, but they aren’t giving it up. In fact, they may have a treacherous agenda of their own, one that may very well lead to the death of the displaced in a harsh and dangerous era.

 

If you love epic sagas involving time travel that mess with your mind, then you should read this novel. Plenty of adventure and intrigue to keep you glued to your seat in this page-turning novel! It’s the perfect blend of time travel and action-orientated and military science fiction. If this sounds like your flavor of badassery, then you’ve come to the right place!

 

 

Characters:

In this novel, there were ten main characters, way too many for me to connect with all of them. Heck, I struggle to name all of them. Many of these soldiers blended into the scenery, leaving you wondering who they were. However, a few of these people stood out; Lieutenant Elliot, Sergeant First Class Spencer, Sergeant Casswell, Sergeant Alexander, and Specialist Dalton. They were a motley collection of troops, thrown together in a convoy that was designed to drop personnel off at their new homes and continue moving. These convoys happen, I was on a few of them. However, the odds of finding people with just the right skill sets listed in this novel so these guys could survive would be astronomical. Seriously, I served with a lot of extremely intelligent soldiers with advanced degrees (Master’s Degree and/or PhDs). That wasn’t my issue, it was that these characters seemed to have just the right skills to let them survive. Anyway, I liked some of the characters but most left me scratching my head trying to figure out who the heck they were. Not bad, just meh. Maybe some of this was because it didn’t feel like the head-hopping between character point of use was done well? I sometimes couldn’t tell who the POV character was, leading to my confusion. Some of the reviewers said that this was a formatting issue from the book that carried over to the audiobook, but I can’t verify that. It does fit with what I heard, so I thought it was worth mentioning. On top of not connecting with the characters, I had one character I actively wanted to dropkick out the nearest airlock. This character, Sergeant Casswell, was a stereotype of what I hate and made me want to throw the book several times. Glad I didn’t succumb to my frustration; my iPhone just went past my warranty date! Overall, I give these characters 4 out of 5 grenades.

 

Plot:

Unlike most of the military science fiction, I love to read, this wasn’t an action-packed novel. It wasn’t my usual action-adventure story; it was a slow burn to an extremely satisfying conclusion. I wasn’t able to read this book from start to finish in one setting because of its length but I wanted too. I felt like I was sucked into the pages of this book, which is just how I like it! The action that was there was enjoyable, furthered the plot and left you having a lot of fun. I wanted more detail from the firefights since there were so few of them, but what was there was good. I also wanted more from the Roman legionnaires, they were th e cool factor from the cover that sucked me in. Seriously, the cover scene was what sold me on this story, but the Romans don’t show up for the first half of the book. One thing that might make this book hard to follow for non-veterans was the overuse of military jargon and acronyms. I understood them, but they even annoyed me. Otherwise, there was nothing about this plot that I couldn’t buy into so I’ll give this a solid 4 out of 5 Grenades.

 

Worldbuilding:

This is the first book I’ve read by Michael Z Williamson, but I’d heard good things and his reviews were solid. I wasn’t disappointed! This world was very flushed out and left you curious about the larger universe. The author superbly illustrated the world that was Neolithic Afghanistan. The world was a lot of fun and left me wanting more from this universe. The world was very well flush out, describing everything about the universe where this grand time-traveling adventure happened. There was never a point in that world where I couldn’t suspend my disbelief, I deftly bought into the concept of a temporal rift. Not only could I, but I did envision myself setting. Overall, the author gets 5 out of 5 Grenades for this category!

 

 

Description:

This is one area where Michael Z Williamson’s skill as an author shone through. This book was chalk full of visualization, and you could definitely imagine yourself in this world. There wasn’t a single spot in this novel where I couldn’t visualize what was going on. I loved the Neolithic setting; I could picture every hill and dale. Heck, the scenery was set so well that I could even smell the rhino dung, let me tell you those beasts need to eat more fiber! Seriously, the scenery was described in vivid detail. The equipment was written with such attention to detail that your friendly neighborhood doomsday prepper was taking alone time to soothe their frayed nerves. However, when it comes to the characters, we get much less detail and that was frustrating. We know everything about their sex lives and body shape but not so much on their general appearance. I did love reading about the other historic cultures that stumbled through the time anomaly, my inner history nerd was geeking out hardcore. If you love alt-history and/or time travel, this book is worth your money and time. Overall, I loved the descriptions in this book. A solid 5 out of 5 Grenades from me!

 

 

Narration:

I enjoyed this book exclusively in the audiobook format. It was well done; the accents were consistent, and I didn’t want to rip my ears off. There wasn’t a whole lot of range from the character accents, but the narrator did good! I’d listen to more books by Dennis Holland, though he clearly wasn’t a favorite of mine. His audiobook was of a professional quality, so I had nothing to complain about, but it didn’t sing to me either. He didn’t commit the Cardinal Sin, which is my only real requirement; he didn’t sound like a robot, he didn’t bore me, and he didn’t use accents that annoy the bajeesus out of me! Overall, I give him 4 out of 5 grenades for his performance.

 

Book Cover:

Wow, how much can I gush over this cover before you tell me to shut up? It had a futuristic warrior, a Roman Legionnaire and an American GI fighting a woolly rhino from the top of an MRAP military vehicle. The color scheme for the cover set the perfect tone of gritty survival novel set in the distant past. The author’s name and the book title were colored in such a way that they stood out, but at the same time blended in with the painting used for this cover. I loved it, would seriously put a print of this on my wall and give this cover artist 5 out of 5 Grenades!

 

 

Overall:

Okay, let’s get into the weeds on this one! I’m a huge Alt History fan, so obviously, the time travel aspect was a hit with me. It was my jam, and I had the bread ready and waiting. Because of that, the novel’s cover spoke to me. I really loved it; that image is why I bought the book. However, when I finish the story Michael Z Williamson told and realized that the scene from the cover wasn’t included, I was pissed. There was a missed opportunity with those Latin time travelers. The Roman Legions are where modern militaries trace their roots back too, so the side by side comparison could’ve strengthened this adventure saga. They could’ve done so much more with the Romans and taken this book to the next level.

 

Speaking of time travel novels, this one was one of the most plausible ones in this category that I’ve ever read. The way they entered the time anomaly and everything that happened as a result of this felt grounded in some reality, no matter how implausible. The author ingeniously created a theme of man versus nature survival. The way in which this was carried out kept my attention for all 22 hours of the audiobook. I loved seeing how various skills were used to allow the soldiers to survive and thrive in the Neolithic era.

 

However, this brings me to my major complaint. The soldiers that were on the two vehicles were almost too perfect for this mission. Soldiers are generally smart people, and I certainly served with some extremely well-educated individuals. Unfortunately, where the author lost me was in how useful everyone’s skills were. The odds of having just the right skill set for this novel to work always struck me as farcical. That said, I know that this was as much a plot device to allow the story to work as anything else. As such, I was able to bite my tongue and drive on to see what else was in store for these stranded soldiers.

 

Another area where I was less than satisfied with the characters, was how they were portrayed. Namely, I felt many felt flat. They lacked depth beyond their role as the possessor of whatever their skill set was. Oh, and Sergeant Casswell pissed me off. She was such a whiner, the antithesis of every female warrior I served with. Part of what I didn’t like about her I can’t mention on my family-friendly blog post, so we’ll move on.

 

My dislike of Casswell, however, tied into my other complaint about this book. I’m no prude, but there was too damn much talk about sex and sexuality. We get it, soldiers are generally young and virile, operating during their peak sexual years. I’m aware of what that entails, and so is your average reader. There was no need to dwell on it to the degree that it was, making me think that this aspect was more about the author and less about the story. I have to leave part of what I mean by this out of the review because I wanted to be family-friendly. What I can’t say is that reproduction and consent were harped on in a way that took away from what was otherwise an amazing story. Seriously, it really felt gratuitous at the end.

 

There was a lot about this story that I really loved. Part of what made me love this story was the world-building and descriptions. The author did a bang-up job here, which I detailed above but it’s worth repeating. I could imagine myself inside his story, fighting the Urushu primitives and fending off the woolly rhinos. This was the saving grace for this story and what I want more of from the sequel that the author is currently writing. This alone was worth the price of admission into the Afghanistan pre-history!

 

One part of the story that I initially didn’t like was how preachy the religious aspect felt. However, I grew to appreciate what the author was doing. It was very obviously pro-pagan and antagonistic to Christianity, but there were scenes at the end that brought it all together in a way that I appreciated. Further, as the story developed we begin to see this evolve into a more nuanced approach. If this type of angle bugs you, I promise it’s worth hanging in for the big reveal.

 

I know this review sounds a little negative, but I really did love the novel. I liked it enough that I’m trying to thoroughly and critically analyze it, partly so I can learn from what I didn’t enjoy. Just so my review doesn’t come off wrong, let’s focus on more about what I did enjoy. One place that the author got right, and it fit with what we know of human nature, was how all of the groups interacted. The plausibility and authenticity of these interactions shown are bright as the North Star. While there wasn’t nearly as much interacting as I would’ve liked, what was there was done superbly. I do not know if the author is a trained historian, or merely did his research, but he sold me on his knowledge base. I was convinced, and with a Bachelor of History, I’m practically an expert!

 

Before I put this review to bed, another aspect of the storytelling that I really appreciated was how the author resisted the urge to have the soldiers enter the past drastically oversupplied. The gear that they carried was exactly what you would expect from a mission they were on, which limited the soldier’s ability to cope. Further, the lack of supplies meant that the characters had to improvise, adapt and overcome. Their journey of survival was what made me love this novel. We took the basic soldier skills and then got to see them use the nonstandard manner. If it was my story, I might’ve been tempted give them more goodies to make it through their ordeal. Seriously, hats off to the author for resisting the temptation. The story was better because of it.

 

Overall, it’s an amazing adventure, a look into Michael Z Williamson’s twisted imagination, and leaves you wishing that his therapist has a therapist. This is a book I would happily recommend, and an author I will definitely read again.  Heck, I would even recommend that you buy the novel!  But hey, it’s easy to spend someone else’s money! This is definitely a novel worth buying, versus merely reading for free at the library. I give this novel a solid 4 out of 5 Grenades!

 

If this book sounds like it’s right up your alley, check it out! You won’t regret it! Well, unless it keeps you up all night and you’re late to work… and then your boss fires you because you became a book addict and a rabid Mad Mike fan.  And then you track him down and climb into his window in your skivvies and he shoots you with grapeshot. Okay, the fanboy/fangirl syndrome MIGHT kill you. Be warned but enjoy the high!

 

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

brown_bess

JR

 

–> As usual, all images came from Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are used on the Fair Use Doctrine.