An amusing tale of the crazy mid-1970s television industry. It’s told as a science fiction story, but isn’t really necessary. It’s based on the adventures of Ben Bova and Harlan Ellison in the making of The Starlost, a pathetic 1973 science fiction show. I’m sure there are lots of inside jokes for those who know the backstory, but it’s not necessary to appreciate the antics of these outrageous characters and their scheming. I laughed out loud a couple times during this fast read.
This wasn’t quite as entertaining a read as Hiding the Elephant by Jim Steinmeyer, but Masters of Mystery: The Strange Friendship of Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini by Christopher Sandford added dimensions to the era of spiritualism that the former book only touched on. I had never known that Doyle and Houdini had corresponded extensively despite their differing views on spiritualism. Nor did I know that, Doyle–creator of the scientifically-minded detective Sherlock Holmes–was an outspoken advocate of mediums, seances, spirit guides, and the afterlife. These aspects were fascinating, but I think I was able to appreciate them better because I had read Hiding the Elephant first.
Timecaster is more of an action/adventure story set in the future than a hard science fiction novel. Nevertheless, J.A. Konrath (writing as Joe Kimball) puts some interesting what-if ideas out there, and they help the story to good effect. It’s a fast read–one cliffhanger after another. Overall, it was a nice mindless escape with the usual Konrath humor, lots of imaginative action sequences, and downright over-the-top violence and sex.
I have a few minor quibbles with the plot, which I’ll leave out to avoid spoilers. There are some anachronistic cultural references that should be long forgotten by the time of the story, but, as those are mostly just punchlines to throwaway jokes; they don’t adversely affect the story.
The book felt short, both in actual length and in the sense that the ending leaves you hanging. It’s as though Konrath held back the final act in order to sell a sequel. Someday, I might read the next one in the series, but it’s not high on my list.
Formatting for the nook was pretty good, with just a few missing characters and a couple of backwards apostrophes. I wish the legacy publishers wouldn’t put so much front matter in their ebooks; the reader has already bought the book and shouldn’t have to click through pages of jacket copy. It felt like padding, as did the useless glossary at the end. Perhaps if there were links to the glossary wherever the futuristic terms are used, it would have been useful. But, honestly, the meanings are clear enough in context, and, by the time you get to the end of the book and realize there’s a glossary, it’s too late to make a difference.