Alright everyone, today’s book review is going to be N.J Rayner’s first novel in his Strobes Series, The Time Table Book One. After reading the extent of this book, I felt like I was going to need eight or so Advil pills to end the throbbing pain in my head.
About the Author
As mentioned on his Amazon author page, NJ Rayner grew up in Mellor in Cheshire, and now lives in Kent. He is married and has one son and two step children. He spent his career working in advertising for a number of leading agencies, before finally deciding to follow his dream of becoming a writer. He firmly believes that Douglas Adams was right when he said the Earth is a giant computer programme run by mice.
The Writing Style
When you first open this book, you are introduced a quick page which describes the London Underground railways that are still used to this day. While this is a nice little ‘Did you Know…’ section, I feel that some of it does not really matter to the story on the whole such as:
It closes at around midnight each day, and opens again at around 5.30am the next morning, and there are over 2.7 million journeys made every day.
No part later does the reader need to remember how many journeys or trips that are made on the railways each day.
A fair warning to other Americans or ‘Yanks’, as NJ Rayner is from Chesire England, parts of the dialogue in the story is in cockney. This can be confusing to some if you don’t know the commonly used phrases that is used in cockney English which can actually break the story up at sections as readers are confused about terminology.
Another problem that I had with this story is that there is a lot of exposition throughout the book that off-balances the dialogue. Instead of stating that these character’s look like this and saying that the characters think that, it could have been incorporated through their actions or their dialogue. One example of this would be see early on with Doreen Fudge, who is described in the book as…
She was eighteen-years-old and a bit on the fat side. This was probably due to her fondness for crisps and chocolate, and an awful lot of it. However, according to Doreen, all the women on her mother’s side of the family were big-boned, so it was genetics, not crisps and chocolate, that were to blame.
There is no way that this could have just been briefly mentioned? While giving a lot of information about the characters from the get-go can give the reader insight and an idea of what the character is supposed to look like, it can be too much. It should be explained over the course of the book. My last observation that I find to be a poor choice is that the chapters on average are only six to eight pages long and the book has FORTY TWO chapters in it. Several of these chapters could be turned into single chapters, there is no need for creating shortened chapters like this.
The characters in this book are divided into two different groups: The Topsiders and the Strobes.
The Topsiders consists of the humans who live on the ground above the London Underground as they find themselves becoming involved with the activities below. The story focuses on several human characters including an elderly couple (Norman and Florrie Beswick), an obese young woman (Doreen Fudge), a struggling musician and his band (Rod Heath) and others.
The Strobes on the other hand are the subterranean creatures that live in the abandoned sections of the London Underground Railway and scavenge what is left down there. Several of these characters are imaginative for readers to be entranced by such as an orange dragon who ‘farts fire’ and steals IPods. There are also two different groups that also reside in the London underground called ‘the Cribbit Snocklers, and the Darkenbads’ whose intents vary from the mischievous to the malevolent.
While each of these characters are described and given backstory, the problem is that they are not memorable. From the moment that a character is introduced and given a back story, the story almost immediately focuses on another character. Part of having characters that the reader can enjoy is letting them sink in over the course of an entire chapter, even two. If you are going to have multiple characters in a story, that’s fine, but let them build. In the first chapter alone, the reader is introduced to four different characters. That is too much for the first chapter alone.
The premise of this story would be that in the labyrinth like London Underground, there are subterranean characters have come across a stone table with inscriptions embedded on it with several holes and a few pegs that is capable of transporting to different locations in time and space. When the table is accidentally sent to the human world, its purpose and powers confuses the humans and the Strobes, the Cribbit Snocklers, and the Darkenbads try to retrieve the table.
While the story is creative and original, it seems that it is unsure of how it wants to proceed. With the constant switching between characters and plot lines, the story becomes muddled and confusing to the reader. There is too much being thrown at the reader from the beginning that it can steer them away from reading the rest of the story which for a guy in his twenties is moderately enjoyable once you get past the beginning. Some parts are moderately funny for both young and old readers.
While younger audiences would enjoy this more, older audiences would have some difficulties with the imaginative characters and imagery. I would hope that in future projects that NJ Rayner would create a more cohesive story so readers in the future can better follow what exactly is going on.
If you want to check out the book on Amazon, it is available for $2.99 on Kindle and $10.80 on Paperback.
You can visit NJ Rayner’s Website here.