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Review: The Cold Forever

Dmitry Pavlovsky

 
The experience of reading “The Cold Forever” is like scanning a beautiful, elaborate tapestry from very close up. You can see individual threads and strands, but you never seem to get far enough back to see the way they all fit together. You keep getting lost, but then you get a clue that sets you on the track again. For a moment. It is this quest for meaning that provides the through-line of the reader’s interest and involvement in the story. We are sure, quite often, that we are going to figure this out in the end. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reassure you that, for the most part, you will. (I somehow missed where King Geist came from, but it’s probably in there somewhere.)

“The Cold Forever” is a Time Travel, hard Sci-Fi novel with a Dystopian element thrown in. The plotline is detailed, incredibly complex, yet well thought out. Put briefly (if such is possible) it is the story of an alien test pilot whose experimental interstellar ship maroons him on earth when it self-destructs, causing “time fluxes” which appear randomly and destroy whatever they touch. The story takes place in several different time lines: one is the dystopian earth created by the time fluxes. The other is in a far future world of frost and super-technology. The others are…well, it gets pretty complicated.

The main attraction in the story comes through our empathy towards two characters who stay consistent throughout, to whom we cling in desperation when everything seems out of control. Other characters – all very human and individual – have their own subplots, which are intricately intertwined to create the fabric of the story. 

I have only two complaints about this book. The first one is that it’s just too complicated. There are too many characters and permutations of characters and too many timelines to keep them all straight. There are most definitely too many points of view, which seem to float around uncontrolled. When I reached the point near the end of the book where the timelines and characters all flowed together into a single story I felt palpable relief.
A minor benefit of this is that we are kept so off-balance that no reader is ever going to pick holes in the plotline or the time-travel paradoxes, because nobody can understand it well enough.

The second problem is the style of the fight scenes, which borrow far too much from the Transformer and Iron Man movies. Adolescent boys who play video games may enjoy the conceit that fully armoured beings with futuristic weapons would fight with their fists like cowboys in a Western, demolishing scenery in all directions. But that palls rather quickly. The art of writing a fight scene is in maintaining the emotional involvement of the reader. No amount of bashing and smashing can make up for that. However, the bashing and smashing is very impressive, I must admit.

Taken as a whole, this novel is an impressive feat of literary organization. Recommended for fans of: time travel, hard sci-fi, Transformers movies.
Four stars out of five.

I was given a free electronic copy of the book in order to write this review.

 

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