The 2014 Barneys: Day 12

Barney Award for best deployment of a time machine (and no, portals do NOT count, I mean an actual constructed time machine that you get into and twiddle knobs and pull levers to make it go):

Time travel’s a big theme in fantasy these days. Just as vampires and werewolves and other scary monsters have leached out of horror and been subsumed by the insatiable appetite of romance, so too has time travel. Many a modern-day heroine has stepped unwarily through a portal and been swept off her feet by a Mr-Darcy-alike. And it’s a match made in heaven. What could be better than the sparky twenty-first century woman falling for the old-fashioned gentlemanly qualities of a hero of the past? Or less than gentlemanly, sometimes. Fantasy, too, loves its portals. There’s so much humour in the culture clash of city-born protagonist dumped into a world of swords and wizards and orcs and all the rest of it.

But time machines? Actual, build-it-yourself-in-your-garage, turn the dial to plus two hundred, pull the lever and… WHOOSH time machines? Not so much. It’s so ‘Back To The Future’. Or worse, H G Wells.

But Michael J Sullivan has built his writing career on traditional themes that everyone else thought had gone out of fashion decades before. Just when it seemed grimdark and gritty was taking over the world, and that fantasy would never again rise from the mire of blood and gore and oath-splattered realism, he released action-packed fun romp  the Riyria Revelations. And readers absolutely loved it.

Now he’s done the same for sci-fi, and in ‘Hollow World’ has written a book that not only features the time-machine-in-the-garage, but uses it to explore all those fascinating ideas that inevitably follow. Themes like gender, the purpose of religion, what God is, traditionalism versus modernism, immortality, individualism, the nature of insanity, the meaning of love and a thousand more. Just like sci-fi used to be. And he does it through wonderful and unforgettable characters. Pax, the tormented genderless star of ‘Hollow World’, is perhaps my favourite character in the whole of 2013.

This Barney is kind of a cheat, because this book isn’t technically out yet, but I chipped in for the Kickstarter campaign and got to read it ahead of time. So yay for Kickstarter and authors savvy enough to be creative with publishing. And look, both versions of the cover, because they’re both cool.

My review

Finally, because it’s the season of goodwill and freebies and so forth, a bonus:

Barney Award for awesomest cover of the year (and possibly ever):

Why? You have to ask why? Duh, DRAGON! I’m going to leave this nice and big so you can appreciate it in all its magnificence. I haven’t finished reading the book yet, so no review, but yes, of course the book’s pretty cool, too (do pay attention, DRAGON…).



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