Million Eyes II – The Unraveller by C.R. Berry
Science fiction, historical fiction and time travel – this unusual book has so much going for it, I am struggling to fit it into one review. After Million Eyes (I) established that time travel is not only possible but entirely reasonable, this book looks at some of the effects of that project. The first book in this trilogy introduced the concept of a way of time travel which depended on small red pills; it also tackled some of the great historical mysteries in the British monarchy, including the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower and even the death of Princess Diana. This second novel features more of the ordinary people who have found themselves embroiled in the whole situation rather than the big names of history, though the ultimate name in Western belief and theology does feature. Again this is an audacious novel in terms of tackling the big questions of historical developments, as well as the basic problem of time travel: what happens when the actions of a time traveller upsets what was going to happen. The ambition of this book, the rich research which depicts how life was for individuals in various historical eras and settings, and the sheer humanity of the characters, make this a fascinating and exciting read, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.
The characters in this book tend to behave as very real people who are trying to deal with incredible circumstances. One of the core themes is the nature of the surveillance society, or at least Million Eyes, “a multi-billion-pound global company with hundreds of thousands of employees” with its many ways of tracking people. One of the time periods featured is the near contemporary 2027, when driverless cars are a daily reality, and much is recognisable. I enjoyed the dialogue between some of the characters, especially Adam, who has many challenges to face, yet retains a sense of humour. As other time periods are featured, the immense research into the daily life of a medieval woman living in a village, for example, makes that section a vivid portrait of the times. The complexities of timelines, in which characters may have acted either deliberately or accidentally and upset subsequent events, is carefully managed, with important life events being handled in sometimes painful detail. Some characters are determined and purposeful, others are more reactive, striving to do what they believe is the right thing.
There is suspense and excitement in this book, and I spent some time rushing through to find out what would happen in particular circumstances. There is some violence, but it is always part of the stories and is never just present for effect. There is some sadness, but also some hope, some contentment, and some actions which are surprising. There is bravery, enterprise and some desperation for the common good when no one really knows what will happen next. This is an incredible and sometimes astonishing book which reminded me of some of the more advanced themes and stories of Doctor Who, but it creates a world of its own. Fantasy, adventure, evasion and tension are a heady mix within this fast paced novel which combines all these things with a reality of characters and settings, and it is recommended as an all action read.