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Book Review: Time Crawlers – Varun Sayal

I was given a review copy of Time Crawlers by the author in exchange for an honest review – thank you very much, Varun Sayal!

If I’m completely honest with you, I’m not usually a big fan of sci-fi stories, but Time Crawlers was different to other books of the genre I’ve read before. The short stories are fast paced, very imaginative and original, and they don’t take up a lot of reading time, so they are a nice and quick read for when you don’t have a lot of time. They contain artificial intelligence, aliens, genies, high-tech, different universes, and much more.

What I liked a lot was that they really get you thinking – what if? What if the future really does hold these prospects, will there be constant war, will people not have any remorse or a conscience? The one story that got me thinking a lot was “Death by Crowd.” It features the dark and dangerous desires of the masses that are being brought to life in the darknet, fueled by a crypto-currency. It’s basically like a web-show that lets people watch from the safety of their homes behind their screens, how humans are set on fire and die a painful death – on camera. The money they ‘earn’ for this goes mostly to their families. The horror in this story was tangible, and it honestly turned my stomach just to think of such a scenario, but the story itself is also very powerful, and it brought the question “What if” to life in my head. What if the future really holds such a horror? Would people actually watch it, and pay to see something as horrible as this? I honestly don’t want to think of an answer.

One story that stood out to me on another level was “Genie”: It features a man lost in the jungle who finds a lamp inside an abandoned house and rubs it – when suddenly, out of nowhere, a genie appears. I liked that for once, it is a female version, which is quite refreshing – I don’t think I’ve ever read a version of the djinn myth in which the genie was actually female! It was also quite inventive to see the question “Do they actually live inside the lamp?” being answered – it’s really much different to what I would have expected!

However, and this is one of the negative points I have to mention, I sometimes had the feeling that the dialogues in the stories were a bit strange – they often seemed quite unnatural to me and not how they ‘really’ would go down in such a scenario. I don’t really know how to explain it properly, but at times it felt like the ‘normal human’ is only asking things or offering tiny bits of dialogue so that the ‘extraterrestrial being’ can get its show – that the genie, in this case, can explain how her world and rules function in a long-winded monologue. In another short story, “The Cave,” for example, the powerful heroine tells the General in a lengthy monologue that if they’d just pull the ‘monster’ from its cave and throw it into a black hole in order to get rid of it, as the General had suggested, it would drive his ‘world’ into an apocalypse, when he just replies with: “Oh, okay” (p.76). Where is the horror, where is the emotion necessary in such a situation?

I think that these instances could have maybe been changed if the stories had a different style and format. Some of them look more like screen plays or interviews which offer scarce or no narrative description at all, but just dialogue. It happened in some of the other stories as well, which was a shame – especially because the stories are so imaginative, I think a bit more narration rather than just dialogue could have helped a lot!

Another slight negative I have to mention was that with at least two of the stories, I didn’t really get a feeling of closure – it was like the stories were just cut off instead of ending properly, which was a shame as well, because I’m sure this could have been different if they were a tiny bit longer. The first story, for example, “Eclipse”, has a number of questions that the main character is concerned with, listed at the very end of the story. These questions are ones that the readers wonder about too, and since they are not answered, it feels like a big chunk of the story – one that would have been necessary for a proper conclusion – is missing, unfortunately.

Furthermore, I sometimes had the feeling that there hasn’t been a proper editor at work with these stories? Or maybe some spelling/grammatical errors escaped him/her, I don’t know, but I definitely came across some, especially in the beginning of the book, which definitely could (and should) have been eliminated before the publication.

All in all I can say that these stories were definitely very quick and easy to read, very imaginative, original, and – most of all – quite thought-provoking! The blend of different cultures, mythology, science, conquest and drama make for an incredibly diverse collection of short stories.

If you’re a fan of science fiction and want to see a different and, in my opinion, very special take on it, I suggest you try Time Crawlers out and see for yourself how much these stories get you thinking! A solid 3 stars from me – with the prospect for more in future stories to come!

 

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