*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: When it all goes sideways, they keep going on.
Everything goes wrong when the first research expedition from the future lands in the summer of 2000 in New York City. The master time-travel device is destroyed, the professor in charge is killed, and the rest of the travelers are scattered across that ancient metropolis. They’re stranded in the past, their project in a shambles from the start, and their troubles are only beginning…
Millennium Crash is the first book in the Watchbearer’s Quartet by James Litherland, which in Douglas Adams’ style is already up to Book 5.
The story begins when a group of researchers from the future land in New York in the year 2000. Unfortunately something has gone very wrong with their equipment, and the team find themselves separated, scattered, and not all have landed somewhere safe. With both accidental death and murder within the first few pages, the book starts in very dramatic style.
After the initial action however, the story settles down into a more sedate pace, cataloguing the smaller trials and tribulations faced by the group of professionals as they attempt to survive in a past they are unfamiliar with, access their finances, set up a base of operations and conduct the social research they came for… all with the knowledge that their stay may be more permanent than they first envisaged.
Many of the problems faced by the team seem to stem from a lack of field testing of equipment or psychological testing of researchers, which raises a lot of questions about the research project as a whole! Who thought it would be a good idea to send people into the past with faulty technology and without much of a clue as to the culture and society they would need to integrate with?! It made me wonder whether the team’s run of horrendous luck was coincidence or design…?
The only issue I had with the story, was with Matt. Matt is not one of the time-travellers, but bumps into Page (who is) when she is vulnerable and needs assistance. He proceeds to take advantage of her situation to firmly attach himself to her; going as far as to steal her personal belongings and then refusing to return them, using their possession to control her and force her to stay in his company against her will. This is treated in the narrative as a kind of meet-cute. We see the situation from Matt’s viewpoint and see that he admires Page – he wants to look after her and protect her, and doesn’t want to lose her. To achieve this, he withholds money and means of travel from her, and dictates what clothes she may wear, and even what subjects she is ‘allowed’ to research as part of her entire purpose in the past – no speed dating or salsa dancing, because that doesn’t suit his purposes! Page herself seems to tolerate his manipulations calmly, whilst not actively welcoming them. Unfortunately, as a reader his behaviour came over as controlling and emotionally abusive, and so I was horrified to find him being accepted as an honorary member of the team, based on his ‘support’ of Page.
Matt aside, Millennium Crash is a fascinating series starter – setting up a complex situation for Anya and her colleagues, with plenty of scope for further action in the overarching mysteries surrounding them. Will they manage to find a way back home? Have they been deliberately sabotaged, or is it just bad luck? Is the lovely bank assistant, Verity, playing true to her name or part of a deeper game?
This is a great read for anyone who likes their sci-fi to combine incidents of dramatic action with a slower-paced build up of insight into the more day-to-day problems of time travel.
Anya darted through the newly created parking lot to help John. Shouted swear words swelled into the continuing cacophony of car horns blasting, the overwhelming noise pressing upon her still struggling senses. The transition from the sterile, quiet conference room of a moment ago to this raging sea of stimulation was a bad jolt. The fall from a feeling of excitement for their journey to this horror deeply jarred her.
– James Litherland, Millenium Crash