A Long Time Until Now Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
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Book one in a new series from the creator of the best-selling Freehold Universe series.
A military unit is thrust back into Paleolithic times with only their guns and portable hardware. Ten soldiers on convoy in Afghanistan suddenly find themselves lost in time. Somehow they arrived in Earth's Paleolithic Asia. With no idea how they arrived or how to get back, the shock of the event is severe. They discover groups of the similarly displaced: imperial Romans, Neolithic Europeans, and a small cadre of East Indian peasants.
Despite their technological advantage, the soldiers only have 10 people and know no way home. Then two more time travelers arrive from a future far beyond the present. These time travelers may have the means to get back, but they aren't giving it up. In fact they may have a treacherous agenda of their own, one that may very well lead to the death of the displaced in a harsh and dangerous era.
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|Listening Length||22 hours and 10 minutes|
|Author||Michael Z. Williamson|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||June 02, 2015|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #27,451 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#43 in Alternate History Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#121 in Time Travel Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#260 in Alternate History Science Fiction (Books)
Reviewed in the United States on April 2, 2022
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A technical note, to start. For me the book could have used another round of proofreading. I got the Kindle edition; there was a generous handful of free-floating punctuation characters like "[" and "]". A good stretch of the way into the book, I struggled to track which character was speaking, and associating the name with the personality and/or skills, and in spots I think "he" and "she" were swapped. By the end, only a few of the names ran together. Ten is a significant main cast, and there are many more to keep track of besides. I don't count this against the story, but hope a later edition will handle a bit of text cleanup. Another Kindle complaint - no pagination. I got only position and percent progress.
The pacing was slow, particularly at first after the initial shock of the event that throws the unit back in time. There is a mountain of detail in this book - more than it might need as a standalone, but this is billed as Book 1, so it's too soon to tell what details may be important as the series grows. However, I lost a lot of sleep the last few days because it was hard to put the book down. The story hooked me.
The length lets you spend time inside each character's head, and that is both a blessing and a curse. It's a claustrophobic setting, and some characters you'd happily spend less time with if the situation would let you. These aren't archetypes; they're individuals, with traits to appreciate and to annoy, sometimes simultaneously. Two standouts: Dalton, the "creationist," at times treads on toes with his beliefs in such close quarters, He strives to be respectful, but his bedrock convictions are sometimes too much for his unit, even his fellow Christians. Many of the words aimed at him in the book are harsh, but he stays true to himself in circumstances that are believable, and which earn him respect over the long haul. Caswell, the "feminist," struggles more with her deeply-held conviction that men are pigs who are actively objectifying her and are always on the verge of manhandling her, or worse...and, as one of only two women in the camp, the only single woman, and the only Hot Redhead on the planet at that time and place in history who is surrounded by history's Greatest Hits of testosterone-driven warrior cultures, she has a valid point, She, too, is a multidimensional character, with a variety of skills indispensable to the unit's survival, from marksmanship to a knowledge of flora. I get the sense we'll learn more about Caswell in future books, so her story isn't entirely explained. Spencer and Alexander, the two older team members, also get significant page time; everyone gets some fleshing out, but these four plus the lieutenant stood out the most to me.
There is a tremendous attention to detail in the book, down to the ingredients and preparation of the meals; I'm sure a recipe book or website is in the works, if not already available. It can be overwhelming. The attention paid to the passage of time, the complexity and ingredients of the meals, the relative degree of comfort they enjoy in their camp, help to mark progress in the book. The 21st century unit has limitations - their vehicles aren't good off-road, they aren't equipped for an extended campaign when they are displaced, so the amount of food, power for gadgets, ammunition, hygeine supplies, etc. are issues from the beginning, and only get more strained as they encounter other cultures. Rear Eschelon skills get some attaboys in this book.
For me it was a daunting book, but worth the lost sleep. As the book progresses, so does the pace. The interaction of cultures from various periods in humanity's development is interesting, and the reason each culture was picked made sense. I'm curious, again, to see where book 2 goes; much is wrapped up in this volume; Williamson introduces the "temporal displacement" concept in a way that doesn't require all or any of the people we met in this book to continue the series, though I hope we will meet again with at least some of them.
I've seen "Mad Mike" on Facebook, which prompted me to give this book a try. I'm glad I did. I'll be reading more from him.
However, much of that knowledge comes in a believable way, with character backgrounds that account for this knowledge in believable ways. One character, Barker, has an American Indian background and also has knowledge of primitive skills. Another, Caswell, knows edible plants, but her parents were hippies. Things like that.
A while back, I read a criticism of the book about the character of Dalton. Dalton is a Christian and Williamson is an atheist. You can see the sparks flying already, right?
Honestly, I don't know what that person was smoking.
Dalton is a creationist, which automatically sets him up for ridicule since the characters are sent further back in time than creationists believe exists. His devout Christianity creates some tension, even with fellow Christians in the unit. He starts off as someone who appears to be the unit "boob".
However, he is portrayed sympathetically and becomes a sort of glue that keeps the unit together and sane during an insane time. He essentially becomes the religious leader for a group without a chaplain, and does it without any formal training. Plus, he's able to discuss matters of faith with the atheist Spender and not make Christians look like insane fanatics. Instead, he's a man of faith who you can always trust when the chips are down. He's the warrior of the group, and the hunter. Both of those become vital as the story progresses.
Dalton isn't the only time Williamson takes a character type and make them vital to the unit.
For example, Caswell.
Caswell is a feminist who spends much of her time convinced that she and Alexander, the other woman in the unit, are about to be raped. However, she also has a background in sociology as well as edible plants, and her contributions are vital to their survival. It's possible that Williamson botched the feminist philosophy, but it looks very similar to much of what I've read myself, so I doubt it.
Now, no book is perfect, and A Long Time Until Now has its issues.
One thing was that several characters blended together. Barker and Spencer have skills that set them apart, as does Caswell and Alexander. Dalton's faith does a pretty good job as well. However, with ten characters, it becomes difficult to keep them all apart in one's mind and due to them being Army soldiers (and a Navy man, Trinidad), they seem to blend even more.
Not just that, but Williamson spends more time than necessary justifying the CO, Lt. Elliot, and his freezing up after the unit is transported back in time. We get it, he freaked and no one is blaming him. However, after the third time when Spencer says he understands, it gets a little old.
Both of those are minor points, and both are very subjective. Neither really took away from my enjoyment of the book, and I look forward to the rest in the series (and this is the first in the series, though it seems to be a completely self contained novel).
Michael Z. Williamson is an author I have watched for a while, and one of the few I've met in person. I see significant leaps in his skill since Freehold, which I love. This one has me eagerly awaiting his next book.
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