Saturday, September 10, 2011

Review: Timecaster by Joe Kimball

Timecaster by Joe Kimball
Ace Books, June 2011
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller, Ecopunk

From the Back of the Book:

Chicago, 2064: Talon Avalon is bored.

Talon is a timecaster—one of a select few peace officers who can operate a TEV—the Tachyon Emission Visualizer—which allows the user to record events (most specifically, crimes) that have already happened. Violent crime is at an all-time low and there hasn’t been an unsolved murder in seven years. So Talon has little to do except give lectures to school kids—and obsess about his beloved wife’s profession as a licensed sex partner.

Then one of her clients asks Talon to investigate a possible murder. And when Talon uses the TEV to view the crime, the identity of the killer is unmistakable—it’s him, Talon Avalon. Someone is taking timecasting to a whole new level and using it to frame Talon. And the only way he can prove his innocence is to go off the grid—which even in 2064 is a very dangerous thing to do…

My Thoughts:
I'm really surprised that I haven't heard any buzz about this book!  Timecaster is the first science fiction novel written by Joe Kimball, a pseudonym for JA Konrath who has previously written thriller and horror novels.  Timecaster is full of interesting world-building: a virtual Utopian society with no violent crime, legalized drugs, institutionalized prostitution and life after oil.  Technology is a big feature in Timecaster, both in creating the setting and driving the plot. The technology that changed the role of the police is warped by a mysterious figure to do terrible things in the name of the protagonist Talon.  Combined with the vivid world-building is fast-paced action that made Timecaster a breeze to read.

Part of the World-building is that society no longer runs of oil products.  Everything is run on biofuel which means, that between transportation needs and food needs, animals and plant products are in high demand.  It becomes illegal to own anything made from animal and plant products and citizens are required to contribute either credits or plant matter.  Every available surface is covered in plants- roads, walls, floors, and ceilings included!  The details created with this are absolutely lovely if terribly sad since paintings and books are now illegal.

While I really enjoyed Timecaster, there were some scenes that detracted from my enjoyment of the story.  There were certain sexual scenes that disturbed me.  I don't mind sex scenes in my science fiction but the portrayals of non-consensual sex with a male victim were handled very poorly.  I don't think their inclusion added to the story at all and the only compelling reason to not have the sex scenes be consensual is to show just how "old-fashioned" and faithful to his wife the protagonist is.  It also would have been more convincing if the non-consensual gang bang hadn't gone on until a male tried to join in.  Overall, not a flattering portrayal of anyone's sexuality.

The action and plot were enough to carry me through the book and come out with generally fuzzy feelings for the novel but the portrayals of sexuality did detract from my appreciation.  It might not have been as big a trigger if there hadn't been as large a tendency toward Sex Positive Culture.  I would probably still recommend this book because I did really enjoy it but it isn't going to make a favorites list.  I'm also going to look forward to the sequel coming out later this year.

Written as Part of the Speculative Fiction Challenge

Other September Reviews from the Speculative Fiction Challenge

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