Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Book Review: "Crosstime Road Trip"

The Cross-Time Road Trip by Chris Nuttall begins simply, inconspicuously, as momentous events often do, when Army brat college student Erica and her trio of geeky male friends finding a mysterious gadget at an electronics sale. They take the device back to the boys' souped-up RV and set it off, transporting the RV into a parallel world where their college is a post-apocalyptic ruin. Thus begins an adventure across time and space a la the old television program Sliders,only significantly goofier and with more inside jokes.

Full disclosure: I know Chris from the alternate-history message-board I've referenced before and like my review of his novel The Royal Sorceress, this is part of a review-for-review swap. However, I'm not going to go any easier on him than any member of my writing groups.

For starters, if you're part of the online alternate history community, you're going to like this one. The story pokes fun at teenage Third Reich enthusiasts who crop up from time to time, overbearing forum administrators, and other tropes common to communities like AH.comCF.net, and History Alternate. In fact, most of the cast members are based on fellow forum members. It references fairly obscure AH works like the Draka series and hangs lampshades on tropes like how our traveling friends can understand the residents of other timelines where English might not even exist.

(There's a downside to this--unlike The Royal Sorceress, this novel is extremely niche.)

The novel is pretty amusing, although it's more sly and clever than laugh-out-loud. I'm not going to name many specific jokes to avoid spoilers, although I did like the treatment of an immortal Alexander the Great. It's also a fairly quick read--I read the whole thing over the course of today, albeit with lots of breaks for meals, writing Christmas thank-you notes, e-mail, etc.

Although The Crosstime Road Trip is a complete story in and of itself, both the wider world Chris has created and the ending allow for many more adventures for our heroes. I wouldn't mind seeing a sequel or sequels. Given how AH.Com: The Series went on for several years (I wrote several episodes myself under the handle MerryPrankster), I think there'd be a market for this.

That being said, the novel does have some flaws. There are some places where the writing could be more concise. An unrequited-love subplot is never really dealt with, although there was an opportunity for a comedic love triangle between the characters involved. A character's description of her culture comes off as taking shots against both religion and sexual taboos. Although it's rather brief (and to some degree necessarily for the resolution of the plot), it may annoy some readers.

The passage of time is rather problematic--in most of the worlds they visit, it seems Our Heroes are only there for a few hours or days. They do spend a lot of time in one particular place, but not more than a month or so. However, they're described as being gone for months, something that would conceivably have consequences. It would have been better if no time had passed while they were gone a la The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Also, there's a reference to a novel being written about their adventures, but given the amount of time it takes to actually publish a novel, the only way it would work in the timeframe implied would be if it was banged out immediately and published onto sites like Amazon Kindle Direct or Smashwords.

(Hey Chris, if you want to riff on the eBook self-publishing phenomenon in future installments, maybe the success of this novel plays a key role in funding future adventures? Or to take a page from my recent experience and the experience of many other authors, Our Heroes have to deal with online piracy?)

Overall 6 out of 10. If you've got Amazon Prime, this would be a better borrow than a buy.

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