Author Rob Shackleford goes beyond the nitty-gritty physics and paradoxes implicit in time travel in his new book Traveller – Inceptio, an impressive new addition to the time-travel niche and an exciting start to a new series.
The story begins simply enough: a group of Australian graduate students researching security technology stumble onto the potential for a time-travel device and the world immediately takes notice. Governments begin clamoring for the technology, but a more methodical approach is required for such world-changing technology. A destination is chosen – Saxon England, about 1,000 years in the past – and it is decided that an individual should first be sent alone.
Enter Michael, the protagonist of this epic story, who is sent on an incredible mission into the past, fending for himself and finding ways to survive – and thrive – in a world very different from the one he left behind. The descriptions of ancient England are vividly detailed and memorable, and Shackleford flexes his literary muscles each time the story moves back to Michael in the past. The authenticity of the writing is also impressive, and the amount of research that obviously went into writing this story is significant. Readers truly feel like they are witnessing 11th century England in these pages.
Meanwhile, back in the present, elite squads of soldiers are being trained to adapt and survive in the past, without employing modern technology, only with their advanced intelligence. The brilliant group of graduate student researchers continues to play their part in the novel, and offer their own opinions on how humans should use the new technology. As with any game-changing breakthrough, motives can become blurred, conflict is inevitable, and philosophical debates abound.
Many other time travel novels have already gone into depth about the potential paradoxes and dangers of time travel, and they often get so tangled up in the complications and contradictions of the technology that the plot suffers, and that is not the case here. Shackleford occasionally dips into heady musings about the repercussions of time travel, but generally, the novel doesn’t waste time with too much reflection. The action is nearly constant, and the ambitious scope of the novel doesn’t leave room for intense philosophical discussion or exposition, which is actually to the book’s credit.
The characters are incredibly strong as well, and written with passion and precision. Michael receives the most attention, but Shackleford doesn’t skimp on detail and character richness for the graduate students, the elite squad of soldiers, or the villagers and Vikings that Michael interacts with in the 11th century. Each page of this book has been thoughtfully penned, and every plot progression moves towards an enthralling and well-planned conclusion.
With all that’s going with this book it does suffer from editorial problems. A thorough edit of the entire book is required, as there were occasional awkward passages, grammatical mistakes, and spelling errors. If this book were more polished, it would be rather close to perfect, so it’s a shame that it suffers from issues that should be easily fixed.
Overall, Shackleford has created a unique concept within a somewhat saturated thematic niche. A book of this size can be daunting to read, let alone write, but Traveller – Inceptio effectively sets the stage for an inventive and action-packed series.
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