Book Review: ‘Then – Timewalker Book 2,’ by Caroll Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

5-stars for ‘Then,’ by Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

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‘Fantastic Fantasy’

Combing genres in a story, though common today, is challenging with many writers failing at the very premise.

thenCarol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps, in their Timewalker series, have again delivered a fascinating and fun story that carefully mixes pure fantasy with futuristic dystopian science fiction – something few writers would even attempt.

If you enjoyed ‘Wham,’ the first book in this series, you’ll certainly find enjoyment in ‘Then,’ book two. With the same cast of characters and similar themes, the authors have sketched yet another enchanting tale that will take you on a delightful fantasy journey.

The concept of ‘Timewalking,’ is nicely handled with the progression of simultaneous stories, Tess, the main character from Wham in the Fairy past, and Nia, her sister, in the distant future, still the captive companion of the manipulative and divisive Potentate, Pandora.

The story moves quickly, which demonstrates, in my opinion, intentional respect for the reader, and there is enough character development to generate engagement and plenty of sentimentality to create empathy – the most important feature in all storytelling.

In addition, the goals of the main characters (No spoilers here) are established early, as are the obstacles. For me, someone who gauges a book on: Level of engagement, pace of the read, clearly established goals and obstacles for the hero or heroine, level of conflict and whether I felt empathy for the characters, I found Then by Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps to be a thoroughly satisfying read.

What I liked most:

The Hero’s journey:

Though cliché, I’m someone who needs a clear through-line, and a well-developed hero or heroine on a clearly defined journey to remain engaged.

Tess’ voyage is established early, as is Nia’s, and one can easily empathize with their plight when viewing the formidable obstacles they must face.

Story ensemble:

This is an ensemble piece with three, often four, different, intertwined storylines moving simultaneously. I like the complexity of this design and applaud authors who can pull it off without confusing the reader.

I had no difficulty following the varying paths laid out by the Phipps team.

World building:

For this type of story, world-building is an essential component. I’ve often felt the measure of the world-building to be as follows: Would the story be interesting if you subtracted the main characters?

e.g.

Would the JK Rowling books be intriguing without Harry Potter? Would George Lucas’ Star Wars be interesting without Luke Skywalker? And my answer would be a strong resounding yes to both.

Similarly, both the fantasy and futuristic worlds painted by the authors of Wham and Then have been done so with creativity and precision.

Take Nia and Tess out of this story and you would still have a wonderfully imaginative, captivating world.

Criticisms:

I have one, and nothing that would lessen my 5-Star rating or a high recommendation.

The authors included many characters in this piece. This can challenge the reader. I did, at times, find myself reading back to reacquaint myself with a specific character and their significance to the story.

Faster readers, and readers who aren’t typically reading two or three books and an assortment of screenplays simultaneously, while writing would probably not experience this difficulty.

Summary and Recommendation:

Then, Timewalker Book 2, is a creative Fantasy / Adventure with heart, realistic dialogue and a nice dose of sentimentality that is well-written and engaging.

I give Then, the second instalment in the Timewalker series by Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps, 5-Stars and my highest recommendation.

Review by TE Mark – Writer / Screenwriter

Book Review: ‘Jouth #2’ Anthology by Blaster Books

5-Stars for Jouth #2 an anthology by Blaster Books

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‘Stylistic and diverse’

Anthologies comprising stories by various authors are always a treat. One gets to sample different writers’ styles while drawing immediate comparisons between them.

jouth 2Jouth #2, a compilation of shorts by four seasoned writers, offers a tasteful diversity and a meaningful indulgence into the realm of the science fiction genre.

The stories are crisp, meaningful, deliver fresh ideas and never drag. The themes are clear, well explored and one story, in particular, employs a nifty ending twist that planted a big smile on my face.

(I just love that ‘aha’ moment carefully planted at the end of a well-written story.)

Meercat Manners by Julie Frost

The eclectic crew of an interstellar freight hauler gets even more eclectic when an AI is installed to monitor and assist running the ship.

With an illegal cargo of intransigent and constantly fighting meercats, a criminal offense, the owners and crew, first at odds with the new AI, come to terms and ultimately grant it acceptance into their family.

This story was a delightful read as the author plumbed the depth of her imagination with the creation of her characters; Intelligent bugs and meercats, to name a few, along with George the AI who takes the form of an anteater.

The author also makes a nice claim for the possibility of the peaceful coexistence between races, sexes, species, sentient machines? etc that is both creative and praiseworthy.

This is a fun story with a nice pace, just enough depth, and imagination.

Haunted by the Past by Eddie D Moore.

This is a clever short that explores the future and past with obvious corollaries to our own time. The future, where energy is free, is described as one, or possibly the ultimate, quest of current man along with memory viewing as the next and probable phase of privacy intrusion. (I sensed the author was registering a little warning here.)

Craftily written, this is a short that could easily lend itself to a full novel or screenplay. Well done!

Destiny Sails by Dimpra Kaleem

Destiny Sails is a time traveller on a mission being interrogated after her capture by undisclosed authorities. Undisclosed for a very specific reason.

Ms Kaleem’s 1st person narrative is intelligent, nicely organised, moves well and displays the writer’s deft understanding of how to use mystery to drive a story and make it engaging. The plot is smart and the twist, craftily concealed throughout, is brilliant. (For me, this story made the book)

The author also uses powerful, realistic dialogue allowing her to create imagery without cumbersome descriptions: facial expressions, intonation, posture, gesticulations etc. To me, this is indicative of a well-studied, veteran writer who understands the craft.

Around Mars and…Back Again? By John Taloni

The final story in this selection of shorts is a fast-moving adventure tale of a couple en route to Mars aboard a privately funded interplanetary ship.

The situation becomes perilous as they approach their destination and are forced to rely on their instincts and each other to survive.

Though my least favourite in this anthology, I like the way the author incorporated just enough pure science to make the adventure believable. I liken this story to AC Clarke’s 2001 or 2010.

I also enjoyed the interaction between the characters who, under life-threatening conditions, display a heightened level of determination and trust in one another. This seemed real and made me care for them and about their plight.

What I liked most:

Writing styles:

Each writer in this anthology fully grasps the essentials of good storytelling. I would wager each to be well-studied in creative writing and experienced.

Thematic writing:

A well-conceived theme is explored in each story, which is, to me, crucial. I love stories that posit thoughtful questions, dissect them, and offer partial answers allowing the reader to become involved in the further exploration.

 Criticisms:

I have none. The stories in Jouth #2 are logically organized, well-written and the editing is perfect.

Summary and Recommendation:

For the fiction reader who enjoys a quick, imaginative read, Jouth #2 is a sure bet. You’ll enjoy the different styles and the more imaginative concepts.

I give Jouth #2, an anthology published by Blaster Books, a 5-star review and my highest recommendation.

Review by T. E. Mark – Writer / Screenwriter.