Book Review – The Reality War: The Slough Of Despond by Tim C. Taylor

The Reality War by Tim C. TaylorImagine a world run by giant lizards: lizards who wear clothes, drive cars, get married and form governments.  Imagine that warm-blooded, scale-less human beings do not even exist.  That is the reality which fights for existence when Raslan Saravanan, a human time traveller born in 2951 but living in the 1990s, makes a choice.  The wrong choice.  His decision rewrites history and allows alternative realities to become possible.

The Reality War is a time travel sci-fi novel with huge imaginative potential.  I have a soft spot for sci-fi novels because of the simple reason that literally anything could, and often does, happen.  I enjoy being surprised at every turn of the page.  As long as the writer can give a reasonably convincing explanation as to why something is happening, I’m happy for him or her to let their imagination stretch as far as it can go.

In this novel Raslan meets and falls in love with a woman from 1992, and the idea of settling down and having a family with her is temptingly dangled in front of his nose.  However, he tries to do his duty and return to his own time, resisting both his dream of domesticity and the unseen forces he suspects are trying to manipulate him.  We follow his life and his choices, jumping backwards and forwards between different dates, different characters’ perspectives, and different realities as we progress through the book.

This jumping around means that you do have to keep a watchful eye on the chapter headings, which indicate where you are in time.  The year doesn’t get confusing (you’re not really going to muddle up the 20th century with the 30th century) but I couldn’t keep up with the current day and month.  However, I suspect that this says more about me than it does about the novel.  It actually didn’t matter too much anyway as it’s easy to get the writer’s general drift, and, of course, the chronology of a time travel novel is supposed to be all over the place.  It took nothing away from the overall experience.  I had the same struggle with dates in The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I would nevertheless thoroughly recommend.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The novel’s characters are well-drawn and colourful.  The “villain” of the story, Amskirk, hates Raslan with a cold venom and it is satisfying (from the reader’s point of view) to see him frustrated every time things go his enemy’s way.  I found Raslan a sympathetic protagonist but a little spineless (intentionally so); the book’s female characters are a lot more feisty.  However, I was occasionally niggled by the feeling that some of the language they used jarred with my interpretation of their personalities, drawing attention to the fact that this is a male author giving a female character speech.  Again, this is a minor nit-picking observation (and simply a personal opinion) and didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel.

The story is influenced in part by John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress: a Christian allegory written in the 1700s.  The main character, Christian, embarks on a spiritual journey upon which, in order to reach the Celestial City (usually interpreted literally as heaven), he must choose the right path to follow, echoing Raslan’s dilemma of deciding between duty and desire.  The idea of the journey itself, from despair to enlightenment, is also mirrored in both books.  According to Taylor’s blog he does not intend to write a modern-day equivalent to Bunyan’s novel, nor to write a religious story, but instead wishes to entertain his readers, interweaving a number of elements from The Pilgrim’s Progress into his book along the way.

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

The Reality War is self-publishing writer Tim C. Taylor’s first novel.  The Slough Of Despond (another nod to a crucial element in The Pilgrim’s Progress) is the first of two books in this series.  There’s currently an offer in place for readers of The Slough Of Despond to receive a link to download the second book, The City Of Destruction, for free once it becomes available.  After a cliff-hanger ending to the first book (not to mention cliff-hangers at the end of almost every chapter), I’ll definitely be downloading The City Of Destruction for the final instalment, so watch this space for my follow-up review.

I’d recommend Taylor’s blogs (one under Tim C. Taylor, his writing blog, and another for his indie publishing company, Greyhart Press) for interesting articles about self-publishing, writing, and the publishing world in general. If you have an eReader you should check out his “Read!  Review!  Repeat!” page, which allows you to download free eBooks published by Greyhart Press, on the condition that you post a review for each on Amazon.  A small price to pay for a free book!

If you want to read The Reality War for yourself on your Kindle, click here to download the first book: The Slough Of Despond (or here if you’re in the US).


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Art Norville
    Mar 06, 2012 @ 06:11:58

    I think you have noted some very interesting details , thanks for the post.


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