IKEA brand time machines, what could possibly go wrong? Oh right, mind fucks galore…
A little backstory into the reason why I am doing this review. Quite some time back, I asked on Reddit (Never do this under any circumstance) for a couple of people to review my book Dead Boys and I eventually had two fellow authors give me their critiques of the book; Ian Jackson who had written Dead Charming (Check out the review here) and Alex Hansen who had written several books including the title book. Seeing as I have already reviewed Ian’s book, I had figured that I return the favor to Alex and give one of his novellas a read. After asking for his permission, he gave me a copy to read and the review commences.
I would want to give a small discussion about the use of time travel in fiction and how it has been adapted to literature over the years, but I feel like that if I did that here, it would completely overshadow the actual review. So, the discussions of time travel will be saved for another day and another editorial.
About the Author
Alex Hansen, a self proclaimed ‘Part Time Writer’ is not a rookie when it comes to the literary game. Having written several novellas, he has made a mark on the literary world with his writing on demons, dystopias and other unconventional concepts that most authors would shy away from. His Amazon bio best describes his work.
Alex Hansen is a part-time writer from Pennsylvania who specializes in interpretive rewrites of elementary school science textbooks.
Just kidding. But he has written about demons, dystopias and drive-thrus, so maybe nothing is off-limits. Inspired by a broad range of authors including Stephen Crane, Oscar Wilde, Dean Koontz and K. A. Applegate, he strives to craft interesting and relatable tales that have a little bit of heart and plenty of comedy.
The story would follow a young man by the name of Kenny Scanlon, who after finding himself unemployed at his computer repair hotline job and recently dumped by his girlfriend Amy, decides to blow off some steam by going to an unusual yard sale. It is there that he purchases a self-assembly time machine (Tiem Machine) for two dollars (You have to love the exchange rates.) from an alien named Pilz who is preparing to leave the planet Earth to return to his home planet of Pyson. After assembling the Tiem machine, he decides to test it out by going back in time to when he was eighteen years old and convince him to better himself. But upon arrival, he quickly learns that time travel is not as straight forward as it appears. Now faced with alternate timeline versions of himself, he has to try to straighten out the different timelines with the help of his reluctant friend Travis.
Now from the get-go, this sounds like the average ‘guy has the opportunity to fix past mistakes, but goes on a journey of self-discovery’ story line that has been done almost to death in the past. But what sets this book apart from other incarnations of the same story would be that Kenny’s past does not take up a majority of the story, but his attempts to fix the multiple timelines. This is actually a nice change of pace from other stories told in the past. It also helps that Alex has established an alternate timeline premise in the story that prevents the characters from directly altering the past. In the novel, every time that someone travels back in time, they create an alternate timeline that arcs off from their own. While the person can do something to affect the alternate timeline, it does not directly affect the main timeline. This actually helps avoid the traditional tropes of time travel stories, but unfortunately can create some confusion with the reader at times when the main characters are talking about the alternating timelines. Personally, I had to re-read some portions of the book because it threw me for a bit of a bender trying to keep the alternate timelines straight. But if this was the author’s intentions, then kudos to you.
I would have say that the characters are well fleshed out and bring their own sense of life into the story and the insanity that it would entail.
Kenny and his alternate timeline versions of himself would make up a majority of the story’s character listing, but speaking of the original Kenny, I think that while he is developed and well rounded, he can come off as despondent at times. During a large portion of the story, he pines over his ex Amy to the point that it is almost annoying. But I admit that I like his progression over the course of the story as other authors in the past have sometimes forced a character/perspective change at the very ending. The alternate timeline versions of Kenny bring some enjoyment to the story as well as they try to make sense of the timeline and prevent the two evil Kenny’s from stealing the other timeline’s Tiem machines.
Travis is hands down, my favorite character of the story. Acting as Kenny’s roommate, friend and compatriot during the time traveling adventure, he isn’t afraid to tell it like it is despite how hard it might be to hear. He tries his best to get Kenny out of his rut and tell him to move on, even to the point of slapping him multiple times.
Despite his reluctance to get involved in the time traveling mishaps, he willingly decides to help Kenny in resolving the matter at hand and even helps him with being his wingman.
Pilz or as he is known on Earth “Quentin Lundquist”, is an alien from the planet Pyson who sells the tiem machine to Kenny as well as a device that makes people invisible. His involvement in the story is minor, but the moments where he is actively involved can be humorous. Despite giving a human a functional time machine, he shows reluctance to helping them resolve the problems they created. It was interesting to see the two versions of him in the story (old and young) and how he had changed over the years.
The Writing Style
I would have to congratulate Alex Hansen for creating a coherent and straightforward story that could have easily gotten askew with the premise. Despite the multiple timelines that he included into the story, it is easy to follow the story from start to finish. I also enjoyed how he wrote Kenny’s inner monologue, but i feel that it comes dangerously close to ‘Fight Club’ territory when he mentions things such as ‘a Sandwich of Self-Loathing’ and ‘Mayonnaise of Squandered Opportunities’. But I did find myself laughing at some of the different jokes in the story such as Travis’ Doom reference and imagining an army of Kennies (or is it Kennys? What is the right plural?) running down the road.
On the whole, I enjoyed Alex Hansen’s Tiem Machine and what it has offered for the Time Travel subgenre despite its minor flaws. The characters are believable and memorable, the story captures your attention and the humor is plentiful. While trying to make sense of the alternating timelines can be difficult at times, it can be better understood of a quick re-reading. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a humorous story.
If you want to check out Tiem Machine, it is available on Amazon.
You can also check out Alex Hansen’s website here.
On a side note, be sure to stay tuned for the next review which is probably going to kill me to try and do.