TZAK – How Time Travel Began by Cindy Shearer is a futuristic novella about one girl’s experience with time travel in a post-apocalyptic America, set in Yucatan, Mexico.
Zola de Chichen, a Maya science student, tells of the times she has encountered time-travelers, and how she herself time travels once she reaches university, in a world where humans can breed their children with any kinds of looks or variants they choose. When a man from the twenty-first century accidentally gets through the portal with Zola, he has to adjust to life over three hundred years in the future.
One would think this might be a novella for a younger reader, but sexual content does come in suddenly and proves this is for an adult audience. This a genre mix of science fiction and romance, as the man from the past turns out to be a rather sexy specimen.
Zola has to investigate a murder, solve an abduction, and try to figure out who the time traveler was in her first encounter as a child. Her abusive family origins and tales handed down in her hometown don’t help, and she must look harder for evidence of who this man could be. She must look into the very spyglass of history to find clues to the mystery, with help – and hindrance – from her colleagues.
The thing about writing a novella is that backstory has to be kept shallow yet viable within a small amount of pages, and here there is a huge amount of information that the author tries telling and not showing, leaving the ride a little dizzying and incredibly rich in a short space. Had the novella been worked on and formed into a full-length novel, this whole universe the author obviously has in her mind would have been possible, and she could have shared it at length with the reader.
I didn’t really grasp the title of this novella, as we don’t really get to find out the nuts and bolts of time travel or how it was invented, as originally suggested on picking up the book, and that was a tad disappointing. The book cover also really needs some work: it’s not going to attract the browsing eye on Amazon or any other online outlet at thumbnail size.
However, there are some interesting ideas here that will convey nicely to the reader, and TZAK is a good beginning for Shearer venturing into the genre. Readers looking for a dip into time travel will enjoy some of the quirks and details added to the procedure. The ideas of “traveling without moving” from “Dune” by Frank Herbert, and Bradbury’s “The Butterfly Effect” come into play, and it’s fun to see the author running with these. Maybe there’s more to come from this ripe universe, and if Shearer starts developing her characters in more adventures such as these, there is a unique touch of Nancy Drew meets Connie Willis here that’s sure to please.