Book Review: Places In Time

Places Of Time by [Doggett, Ken]

In PLACES OF TIME, not everyone was happy with the breakup of the old Soviet Union—least of all an eccentric genius, Sergei Lichizev, who blames America for its downfall. So, when he creates a machine that allows him to manipulate time, his first and greatest ambition is to eliminate America, and restore the Soviet Union to its former glory. But it’s complicated…
TIMESTOPPER shows us an inventive professor with a unique way of manipulating time, while his beautiful female assistant has absolute and adoring faith in his brilliance. Or does she?…
THE FLOWER THIEF features a young man earning extra money peddling flowers to passersby on the street, but he gets his wares from a very unsavory supplier, and that’s just the beginning of his troubles.

And two stories featuring the character Jackson Cruz:
In LITTLECLOUD, Cruz is part of a team that clears and evaluates orbital debris around Earth, and on one particularly routine day he finds something that changes his humdrum life; in THE ULTIMATE SPY he’s back on Earth job hunting and takes on a job that he hopes will be challenging, but which ends up being much less—and much more—than he had hoped for.

PLACES OF TIME

  • World Building

As short stories go, this one is in the average range for world building.  As it’s a time travel tale, each stop in time requires a fresh development.  Ken does a nice job in providing enough details to orient yourself, though each stop is so short, it’s more like a quick sketch than a fully developed scene.  (Perfectly understandable, with the length of the story.)

  • Character Development

As short stories and novellas go, the character development was well done in this one.  The three main characters had some depth, though not all the motivations were as defined as I like.  I tend to prefer character driven stories, and this one was a blend of character and plot driven, which didn’t allow for as much development.

  • Pacing

This is where the story excelled.  Throughout the entire tale, there was a sense of urgency, frustration, and well-built tension.  Made for a fun, page turning read.

Overall score?  This one hits a 3.5 out of 5.  Fun read, lots of potential, but not quite enough development to make it really memorable.

TIMESTOPPER

  • World Building

A quick sketch of the lab is all you’re given in this short story.  There’s not enough detail to understand what era the tale is occurring in, which makes understanding the opening a little confusing.  However, with the brevity of the story, there is no room for anything besides what’s presented, unless Mr. Doggett would have extended the piece.  As this was published through a magazine publication, I have the impression he was working within a preset word count.

  • Character Development

The characters weren’t quite cardboard, but lacked any type of depth.  Made it hard to care about either the scientist, or his assistant.  If anything, the way the assistant was presented made me loath her.  Not sure if that was the intended result or not.

  • Pacing

Much too short for the potential story – I’d love to see this one developed and fleshed out more.  This one just didn’t work – either I didn’t care about the characters enough, or the pace was much too slow for the events.  I wondered what I’d read when I finished it, and if there was a followup story to go with it.

Overall score?  This one hits a 2 out of 5.  Not memorable, but there is a lot of potential that would be fun to see developed in a longer work.

THE FLOWER THIEF

  • World Building

There is a lot of world building in a short amount of space in this one.  It’s definitely a city (any big, to midsize) city will do for the back drop.  The environmental details definitely give the reader something to hold onto, even when things take the heavily foreshadowed twist, which is unusual for a short story.

  • Character Development

When I finished reading, I actually wondered who the main character was supposed to be.  Of the two highlighted, and the last one mentioned, I wound up completely lost.  This wasn’t because of a lot of plot twists, or Machiavellian intentions – there just wasn’t enough to latch onto for the characters themselves.  Each one was a brief sketch – more of a shadow really – playing out across the well detailed screen of the setting.  Unfortunately, this often happens in shorter pieces – either the world is well developed and the characters are not, or the reverse.  All I remember (mostly because of the HUGE foreshadow) was the zombie.

  • Pacing

The pacing in this was rough – sometimes it had a nice sense of building tension, then things felt forced or rushed.  Right after, there was a decided lull that slammed on the brakes in the reading.  Not enough to kick me out of the tale, but definitely enough for me to wonder if this was a story than had an ending, and an ending, and another ending tacked on.  It just didn’t feel like it flowed properly.

Overall score?  This one hits a 2.5 out of 5.  As an example of how to do an incredible amount of world building in a short amount of space, this story excels.  Unfortunately, the other flaws made this one memorable for all the wrong reasons.

LITTLECLOUD

  • World Building

Another wonderful piece with a lot of world building done in a short amount of space.  Setting and approximate timeline are quickly established – twice.  Once aboard ship, once in the station.  Everything flowed smoothly, and really allowed the characters to shine in this one.

  • Character Development

Each story has its own voice, and the voice this one had was beautiful.  The characters had enough depth they felt like fully fleshed people as I read through.  Nicely done!

  • Pacing

I’d say this short story had a steady pace – nothing too fast, nothing too slow, nothing really to comment about.  There’s a little excitement, but it’s not enough to drive the story forward.

Overall score?  This one hits a 3 out of 5.  A nice quiet read for me.  While I can’t remember the character names, I do remember their personalities and quirks – something that usually doesn’t happen for me in short stories.  I also remember the settings – another unusual occurrence.  However, trying to remember what the tale was about?  Not so much, which really kills the final score.

THE ULTIMATE SPY

  • World Building

Building off of the previous short story, I expected this one to build up from the previously developed world.  That didn’t happen – we start fresh with a new environment.  Sadly, this one felt like it was a collage of ideas, rather than a fully fleshed in scene.  There was a lot more focus on the technology than physical environment, which may delight the more science oriented readers.  It did wind up leaving me lost and struggling to understand some of the dialogue as the story progressed.

  • Character Development

Since this is a continuation of Littlecloud, I was disappointed the new characters weren’t as fully developed.  The carry over character lost depth, which made the rest of the story that much more lack luster.  The support cast were shallow – more like shadows than people – even though they had both faults and virtues.

  • Pacing

I’m not sure what the timeline for the story was – it may have been mentioned, but it didn’t make an impression.  Because of this, the events seemed to drag on without any real urgency.  Sadly, the slow pace made remembering much besides the finale of this tale difficult.

Overall score?  This one hits a 2 out of 5.  Sadly, this is a story I probably won’t come back to, even if I do re-read the book.

Overall score for the entire book? Much as I hate to give anything less than an average rating, I’m afraid this one only qualifies for a 2.5 out of 5 for me.  There is a ton of potential in a couple of these tales that would be interesting to see, should they ever be developed into longer works.  Unfortunately, the format didn’t work well in my opinion for these tales – not enough room for  them to be fully developed.  This, unfortunately left much to be desires, and little-to-no impression on the memory for me to get a glimpse of later and want to come back to see again.

If you enjoyed the review, and wish to read Places of Time for yourself, you can find it on Amazon Here.

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