Review by odlanra -- Timewise by Robert Leet

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Review by odlanra -- Timewise by Robert Leet

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[Following is a volunteer review of "Timewise" by Robert Leet.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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Reading the description of Timewise by Robert Leet, there would be no doubt that it is a science fiction book. What particularly caught my attention was that it seems that the story would explain the concepts leading to the justification of the possibility at least in the story, or at most actually challenge the imagination to allow the idea of seeing into the future or looking into the past a reality. But after reading the book, I would consider it as much as a love story; enduring, at first unbelievable, complicated, and with a climactic or denouement part sufficient to overwhelm one with emotions, if only one would focus also on the love angle and not solely trying to every now and then, comprehend the theories of physics.

The story is the story of Ron Larsen, an intelligent teenage orphan just mainly trying to survive in his early years, and his longtime love, Regina Russo, a Physics Professor. Ron Larsen, by a stroke of luck, would meet different people, all of whom would play a part in his life sooner or later. Among them is Regina Russo who would help him financially in his studies and make him an unwilling listener on the theories of Physics and her interpretation on its repercussions. Their dates and meetings would end and they would have to separate ways. Ron would later have a well-settled life and would be successful in his predictive business using mathematics. Regina likewise, would indulge in the same venture using a different means and has a unique problem of her own in this endeavor. Their life together, characterized by sometimes romantic yet platonic closeness would pit them against a revengeful intruder, but they would learn more from their secret experiments. Yet Regina, in the course of straightening up the lifelong issues of their experiments, would make a momentous decision.

I like the parts where the love angle was deeply shown. I am not fond of love stories. Not that I do not like it, I would just prefer other types of stories. And yes, I have seen and read similar love angles if not similar love lines as in the story. Yet there were really so many instances that the words of the story can be emotionally piercing, capturing my attention:
“There were simply two of her. And although I was in love with both, I could only observe the solitary Regina from afar.”
“I know of no other word than love to describe how I felt toward both Sheila and Regina, but those emotions deserve a richer vocabulary.”

I also like the lessons or teachings the author brought out in the story. They are really thought-provoking, if not a gem of a wisdom. They are not many but not really isolated ones either. It is inserted in so many instances, sometimes not noticeable. Some of them were used by the author to give an impression of the characters of the story:
“Trying for perfection shows a lack of imagination and a misunderstanding of reality.”
“The annuals may be as beautiful as the perennials, but no matter how you treat them, they only last a year.”

If I remember it right, consciousness, and awareness and even memory are considered mainly by many as philosophy topics. I have read a book stating that the nature of such topics could be best explained only by philosophy. The argument of the story now interestingly mixes things: concrete science and abstract philosophy. I am lost but I am glad. I have loved philosophy aside from science. The discussion revives in me perhaps a long-lost or forgotten if not neglected desire to understand such abstract topics related to man’s unique existence. It challenges me to review and understand these concepts again, this time, along with science.

The physics concepts and arguments in the story did give a semblance of justifying the possibility of looking into the future, albeit in a very blur manner. Still, my expectation is somewhat satisfied. Frankly speaking, I think it will be foolish, of course, if I would be expecting more than that. But since these concepts are not really the easiest concepts in the whole world and are really mind-boggling, I believe that a little grouping together of concepts or direct explanatory linking statements along the way will make the story easier to understand. There were a lot of concepts discussed and presented. While the author discussed in general, the concepts in an order leading to the main theme of predicting the future, sometimes there are inserted principles more relevant to another necessary theme than to main theme, e.g. dark matter. While this makes the story more intellectually provoking, it can also make it confusing or overwhelming. In addition, I think all concepts should be thoroughly explained. There were principles that were not completely expounded as the others, e.g.; entanglement, Steve Hawking radiation, possibly to expedite the events to be presented or probably because it is well-known or can easily be found in references.

The author did the best to discuss the physics principles really slowly and gradually, making use of conversational style to expound on scientific ideas and solving the issue of discussing very profound and hard-to-understand modern physics concepts. It explained principles in a few sentences as compared to reference books that would use so many pages to make the reader understand. It easily and seamlessly switches from a lecture paper or reference book to storytelling mode. But there were times I felt that it is too slow. I was eager for an event or action. But perhaps, the slow and part-by-part presentation of concepts is justifiable. The balance between slowing down for the reader to understand against normal or fast pace to excite and maintain the interest of the reader is really easier said than done. Nevertheless, the thought that there will be another principle or a better explanation coming made me hang on. And once I got to the main flow of the story, I felt I could not let go of the book and stop.

Despite the emotional turmoil it has generated, still, there are, however, some scenarios and instances that I felt that the need for intellectual explanation competed for available print space against highlighting the gravity of emotional aftermath. The emotional description of these scenarios became immediately fast, diluted with scientific explanation and consequently presented not as deep as it could be if left alone and unhindered, affecting the emotional capture of the reader. I had wished that the author would be more profuse in words and description in presenting the emotional consequences while explaining science-related events just as he had with the description of people, places, surroundings and other emotionally laden parts of the story. This situation was particularly noticeable for me at the last major event. Just the same, I felt the gravity of the event to the point that I am also lost in thinking and wondering. Likewise,I am glad that just like many science fiction books, the story has action and suspense, aside from the love angle. Again, I think that the need to present the scenario in a fast manner with scientific explanation probably competed for the immediately needed typing space against enriching the suspense experience of the reader.

I do not like events wherein a character would be shown doing an irrational, uncommon, not so natural or even a little bit just questionable activities or behavior. Likewise, a sudden change in behavior from what was initially stated or implied as the type of personality of a character would not do well with me. To me, this makes the whole story cheap, forced and unbelievable. I would prefer development of character scenarios first before the culminating behavior. Two instances of slightly questionable behavior or occurrence were presented. One probably could be allowed to easily pass given the events immediately afterward. The other was a mystery at first to me and almost throughout. But then, the start of the strange or questionable behaviors at the beginning of the story was also the behavior of another character at the end. Although it took me the entire story unconsciously questioning it, it became acceptable to me finally. Obviously, it is one of the flavors of the story although it was an unbelievable taste for me from the start.

Similar in part to the comment cited above, I did not find it too believable that the main character is always in a situation where the girls make the first move both in starting to build a relationship and in having a physical affair. It does seem like a James Bond story wherein girls of all types, shapes, and sizes would run after Mr. Bond. But in a James Bond story or movie, I am prepared to accept that. It is, after all, a glamour and action fantasy movie. For a story trying to be realistic, I am expecting a little more odds and negative side than a flawless perfect endorsement by the Gods. I may agree that probably, this situation is possible or acceptable as a story for a handsome actor or celebrity. In the story, the main character was described as tall, probably handsome although not stated, but still an ordinary mortal. To me, this situation seems to be borne out of the usual conceited, boastful, and mischievous, masculine imagination common to many talkative but simply fun-loving men and a case of pure daydreaming. Besides, some lady readers might be offended and would demand a little more respect.

Initially, I questioned the necessity of the inclusion of physical intimacy parts in the relationships of the main character. Not that I do not like it, but this came to the fore when she was invited by a woman posing as a man, or is it the other way around? I was bothered that other people might be offended in discussing this aspect. Near and at the end of the story, it does seem that she is really a woman. And perhaps, these physical affairs are necessary for the story. Aside from adding flavor in the story, if one would connect it, and although the nature of the love of Regina for Ron is left to the reader to conclude, one of the greatness of their love relationship is that it was kept platonic all along.

I do not necessarily like stories that end suggesting there could be a second continuing or another similar story, a sequel. Generally, it leaves one hanging. I prefer that the author makes a decision for his story, present his preferred outcome, answer all questions generated and complete the story. The story left a lot of questions hanging. But I could not say that I did not like the end denouement. I simply did not notice it. I was preoccupied with the similarity of the events at the beginning and end, indirectly explaining the event at the beginning. It also made me wonder what its relationship to the main theme; pure chance twist inserted by the author to add continuity, or an event answering the supposition in the story, or even both. Now that I am reviewing it, I can see that all the side scientific questions presented was answered in the story, true or not in reality; all the possible choices as an answer to the main scientific questions is being hinted at by the story. The choices would not only be between two extremes and all would probably lead still to a beautiful story, I believe. It is now left to the preference and imagination of the reader. Yes, perhaps the hanging end is really the way to end the story; letting the reader make the choice according to their whims, rather than the author contradicting a reality for the reader and just leave either in limbo or in a state of indifferent satisfaction those who do not want to or could not make a choice.

The target reader of the book is definitely those with inclination, interest and at the very least with a background in modern physics. But I would recommend it still to others who can withstand long and slow discussion on science and who would like to extend their imagination especially on the concept of time, and our universe. But I would not stop there. Of course, the intellectual aspect is a source of enjoyment. But for those who are afraid of science terms and physics language, one may well remember that one does not have to agree to the repercussions of the physics concepts stated by the characters of the author and to extrapolate, one may not fully understand how. It would be just sufficient that one appreciates that there is such a concept. Taking the difficulties of the difficult-to-understand concepts aside, one may finally find to their liking the other ingredients of the story; the love aspect, the other twist and turns of chance, and the tragic fate and decision. But definitely, since a great part of the physical print are explanation of physical principles, theories, and ideas, I would not recommend it if one has no patience to attempt to learn or understand even a little of the subatomic world or one who would be unwilling to allow a science-related contrary opinion or incomprehensible concept to pass.

I found no significant error in the book. A little missing linking word here and there but they are either not noticeable or can be ignored and perhaps they are justifiable in relation to style and content. Some graphic illustrations superimpose with a line of electronic text making the text unreadable or difficult to read.

The story is a mixture of a science fiction story and another type of story. I would classify the science story-line as something expected, but the inclusion of a detailed explanation of physics concepts is unique. The combination of the love story and its science fiction part makes it a superb story. In addition, the science part made the story revolves but, in my opinion, the love angle with its emotional presentation has a greater impact. As I have cited above, most of my would-be-better-if comments can be negated by a stubborn valid contrary reason. And perhaps, I am asking for too much.

Despite the comments, I like the story as a whole and it elicited deep feelings in me; it also challenged my mind along the way. I am giving it a rating of 4 out of 4.

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Post by Kei Nakagawa »

Thank you for the great and detailed review! I have just read the book and I also loved that quote regarding the annuals. Also, I like how the scientific concepts relevant to the story were discussed in the simplest way possible. Great read!
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Post by sssns »

Nice! Your review covered many angles. The comparison with James Bond films and its portrayal of women was intriguing. I have not observed this in the science fiction books I read before. I should look beyond the science part and notice the human relationships in my next science fiction encounter. Thank you so much for the comprehensive review.
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Post by MrCamunez »

Reading a book that gives you interesting pieces of wisdom every once in a while, it is indeed worth your time and effort. Thank you for the review!
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Post by turawa mb »

Nice! Your review covered many angles. The comparison with James Bond films and its portrayal of women was intriguing. I have not observed this in the science fiction books I read before. I should look beyond the science part and notice the human relationships in my next science fiction encounter. Thank you so much for the comprehensive review.
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