In Retrospect

February 7, 2014 Book Reviews 1 ★★★★½

In Retrospect four-half-stars
Author(s): Ellen larson
Published by Five Star Publishing on 12/11/2013
Genres: Science Fiction, Time Travel
Pages: 268
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley

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Former elite operative Merit Rafi suffered during her imprisonment at the end of a devastating war, but the ultimate torment is being forced to investigate a murder she would gladly have committed herself.

The year is 3324. In the region once known as Turkey, the Rasakans have attacked the technologically superior Oku. The war is a stalemate until the Oku commander, General Zane, abruptly surrenders. Merit, a staunch member of the Oku resistance, fights on, but she and her comrades are soon captured. An uneasy peace ensues, but the Rasakans work secretly to gain control of the prized Oku time-travel technology. When Zane is murdered, the Rasakans exert their control over Merit, the last person on Earth capable of Forensic Retrospection.

Merit, though reinstated to her old job by the despised Rasakans, knows she is only a puppet. If she refuses to travel back in time to identify Zane’s killer, her family and colleagues will pay the price. But giving in to Rasakan coercion means giving them unimaginable power. She has only three days to make this morally wrenching choice; three days to change history.

As the preliminary investigation progresses, Merit uncovers evidence of a wider plot. How did the Rasakans defeat the technologically superior Oku? Why did the Oku surrender prematurely? How did the Rasakans discover her true identity? Merit realizes she will only find the answers by learning who killed the traitor, General Zane.

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review by Travis Starnes

In Retrospect is time travel story mixed with a who-dun-it style mystery set against a dystopian sci-fi backdrop.  It sounds like a strange mixture but Larson completely pulls off this interesting collogue of genres.

When it comes to sci-fi, and especially dystopian and post-apocalyptic future (or in this case post-post-apocalyptic) sci-fi, the setting is what makes or breaks the book for me.  Larson did what I think works the best by creating a detailed world and just hinting at all this past information.  Similar to Tolkien’s work you can feel the history of the world the book never focuses on that far history.  You know there was some kind of apocalyptic event, that prior to that a limited form of time travel was invented and that after the event new civilizations rose to take the place of the old powers.  I would actually be interested to read a book set earlier in the world’s history and find out more about that, because what little information I was able to get about it sounds very interesting.

That is just one level of the history Larson created.  She then has the history of the conflicts between the “new” civilizations, the Oku and the Rasakans.  Unlike the “ancient” history this conflict is a large part of book as events of the book take place not long after their devastating world.  There are many flashbacks to just previous and during the war as the mystery slowly unfolds.

The mystery itself is fairly interesting, although it is not the type of plot that the reader can figure out.  Larson slowly gives more information to serve up then debunk various possible answers to the question of who murdered General Zane.  The twist ending, and of course in a book with a mystery and time travel there is going to be a twist, is interesting and you get that “a-hah” moment when all the pieces are slotted in for you.

While this is a sci-fi story and a mystery, it isn’t action packed.  Most of the book is various stages of interaction between the characters.  This isn’t a problem as most of the characters in the book are very well fleshed out and relatable.  Larson did an excellent job with characterization and it really shows.  That is even harder when you consider that the development of these characters happens in a non-linier, at least from the in-book timeline, progression.  It is a neat trick and I am sure Larson had some pretty complex outlining when writing this book to keep it all straight.

Everything about this book just works.  The time travel, while not really seen much but a constant presence, the continuing flashbacks, the evolving mystery and the sci-fi elements all work together in perfect harmony to make a truly enjoyable read.  In fact my only real complain I have is the stuff about the shields (read face masks) kind of ridiculous and annoying.  But that was so minor that it didn’t bother my loving this book.

If you like time travel and a dystopian sci-fi setting, pick this book up.  If you just like a mystery with good character work pick this up.  Heck, if you like books the give it a try.  You won’t be sorry.


Rating Report
Overall: 4.6

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