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Review: Azarias Tor – The History Maker

Azarias Tor: The History Maker

by Richard Abbott-Brailey

” Remember, whatever you do now, in the past, and in the future —

timing is everything. “

What if there really is more to life?

What if your life truly has a higher purpose? Most members of the human race are locked into two categories: those who like to believe that they are creators of their own destinies and that they also have some profound impact on their own slice of the world, all by their own design, or, they believe in higher powers; in a God or a vision thereof that sets the path for them and from which they cannot remove themselves , no matter how hard they try, as all is predestined by their chosen God. One thing that both classes have in common is that most humans are inherently self-absorbed, believing that they are special. Their offspring are always the “smartest” or the “most advanced for their age.” Their choices are frequently right, and finding a wrong is not common. Or so, we believe.

But what if, you truly were special?

In Azarias Tor: The History Maker, the debut novel by Richard Abbott-Brailey, timelines and purposes are explored and identified with a wonderful flair for the dramatic and a keen sense of imagination. With a nod to science fiction icon Dr. Who and a crime-fighting twist reminiscent of Minority Report, Abbott-Brailey twists and bends the subplot of time travel into something rather unique, allowing endless avenues for the story to continue on while featuring strong characters with curious backstories.

Azarias Tor is a man living his life with one foot planted firmly in the past and another tenuously placed in the present. After the tragic losses of his mother and his  police partner, he was then dealt a final devastating blow when his beloved wife Theresa was killed in a car accident. The lone survivor of his previous life as a content officer-of-the-law and husband, Azarias has chosen a path of education and routine. As a mentor and teacher to a group of young adults that have been seemingly given up on by previous educators, Azarias is attempting to settle into his life as a single man.

But old habits die hard and adjusting himself to fit onto this new path is not easy. He cannot forget or move past the softness that Theresa brought into his life, and the memories that they shared together continue to haunt him, years later. He sends her text messages on a regular basis and frequently tricks his mind into believing she is simply on vacation or at the store picking up groceries, while juggling the realization and reality that while vanity is prevailing, she really is gone. Trying to manipulate his grief into something more manageable, Azarias relies on routine and a solitary lifestyle to get him through. But despite his attempts at a quiet existence, something keeps poking through the canvas, needling him like a  perpetual thorn in his side — he keeps having these dreams where he’s caught up in some other part of history. . . and they feel so real. And why does this strangely beautiful green-eyed woman keep popping into his life, seemingly caught on the periphery of both his dream life and his awake one?

” ‘Of course, that goes without saying. Client confidentiality is guaranteed. Professional courtesy,’ the man in the rumpled suit concurred. ‘Drawing up a contract regarding the work, conditions, expectations, and so on, would be part of the first session. And, is there anything particular you want to discuss at the first session?’ he added. 

‘Dreams, to start with,’ Azarias said. 

Alan stood up, and began walking around the room, as if the activity aided his thought processes, before speaking again. 

‘Okay. Here’s what I am going to ask you to do. Write down anything about dreams you want to talk about. Keep a record of any dreams you have between now and your first session,’ Alan proposed, before finishing with, ‘And think about anything else you might wish to discuss related to this topic.’ 

Azarias pressed his hands down on the desk, pushing the whole of his weight upwards. He moved away from the chair, placing his hands behind his back, walking towards the windows. A pause, before turning, looking directly at Alan, and clasping his hands under his chin, and then said, ‘That’s easy. Any other discussion? Easy.

There are times when I cannot tell the difference between reality and dreams.’ “

In another facet of history, Saluki has risen up the ranks of the company her father manages rather smoothly, and she’s a more than capable Commandant. As per her duty under the careful watch of the Superus Gabriel Damarov, she has come across something rather bizarre — a person who should not be. Azarias Tor should technically not exist, not according to the laws that govern time traveling. It would appear that someone has broken one of the commandments and procreated with a person in the past to produce a child born to travel through time, and it is her job to ascertain the required measures and steps to bring Tor up to date with his new purpose. The Emergent has no clue that the emerald-eyed Saluki has been walking through his dreams with him, or that in fact what he perceives to be dreams are actually leaps through time, and that she is responsible for his current well-being. Bringing Azarias from the place of Emergent to Established is Saluki’s mission, and one that she readily accepts, eager to continue proving herself to the powers-that-be.

Raphael Antinori also has a mission, albeit a private and self-assumed one. He has had his suspicions about the Gabriel Damarov for more time than he would like to admit, and things are finally coming to a head.  In his role as Vice-Superus, he’s aware that making any hasty moves might allude to the fact that he is simply after the top job, so he must tread lightly, building evidence and playing by the rules. But that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t taken private measures to protect himself, should the need arise. He has his own thoughts on how Azarias Tor has come to be created, but what he doesn’t realize is that he is more involved than he could ever imagine.

” ‘Soon,’ he muttered into the air. ‘Soon.’

He studied the horizon, to the south, as if searching for something, and then stood for another five minutes, staring into the distance. IT was if he was waiting for something, and he had waited this way every afternoon for four weeks — waiting for something, or someone. At 17:31 the waiting was over. 

Behind him the air crackled, audibly — a bubble-wrap orchestra — and static electricity caused his hair to rise slightly, and his sense of smell picked up a hint of ozone in the air. And when the brief flurry of activity ceased the Vice-Superus turned away from his view. 

‘I’ve been expecting you,’ he said, eyeing the white-clad figure standing before him. ‘Yes, I have been expecting you.’ “

When Azarias is confronted with his ability to time travel, he cannot help but yearn for more time with his beloved Theresa. As intriguing as his newfound teacher Saluki is, she cannot deter his mind from the comforts of his past. Throwing the rules out of the window, Azarias begins to create spurs and breaks in time, unknowingly causing ripples and new paths that will take years to sort out. Winding through the new histories that are spawning for all involved is proving tricky, especially with the nefarious dealings of the Superus and his hired assassin running as a tandem undercurrent to the plans of the heroes. Saluki and Azarius must band together with an unlikely partner and try to change the course of history in a way that will prevent certain disaster from occurring, while saving lives in the process. Can it be done? Will good prevail over evil? Or have the histories already been mapped out by a higher power?

In the sprit of H.G. Wells and Kurt Vonnegut, Azarias Tor is a grand attempt at time travel, and very nearly succeeds. I am hoping that this novel is a beginning instead of an end, as I was anxious for the main character and his female worthy advisor to strike out on more detailed and structured adventures. While the author is very well-versed in the areas of detail and picture painting, I felt that the descriptions of places and actions at times took over the plot and bogged down the adventure; I would have appreciated a heavier hand at editing. I yearned for more plot because I found the baseline story to be so interesting and a fresh take on time travel, and I really found the characters to be strong and complimentary of one another.  Each and every character was different from the other and had their own personalities and nuances. I am always a fan of a sound and spirited female character, and Saluki certainly fit the bill; she is no damsel in distress. The character of Azarias was written with such a sensitive and thoughtful hand that I could feel the sadness and loss that he experienced in an acute manner. I appreciated that the author made Azarias so vulnerable, as that is something hard to come across with strong male leads. In fact, the romance of Azarias holding to his marriage vows even through his wife’s death was a humbling act of romance. The subjects of Superus and Vice-Superus were also distinct and interesting characters, but I was not thoroughly convinced of the reasoning behind the deviant dealings of Gabriel Damarov. His views on power and his intent were not made fully clear, in my opinion, and seemed a bit all over the place as the story grew to its close. I felt that the author went down several avenues of subplot and did not finish them as he seemed to be caught up on further descriptions, which left me wanting for resolutions that I hope will come with future serial novels.

Azarias Tor: The History Maker is a book that I feel quite comfortable giving a solid 4 out of 5 stars. Due to the cliffhanger ending, I am hopeful for a sequel and for further input on the complex personal histories of the other characters and of where Azarias will ultimately end up — will he use his newfound power for good, or for his own personal gain? I’m sure we will find out.

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Recommendation: The Martian

The Martian

by Andy Weir

“Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.”

I just love it when the underdog wins.

Some might not consider Andy Weir, author of the bestselling novel and popular movie, The Martian, to be an underdog because as we all know, his book is a success. The book earned a coveted spot on the New York Times Best Seller List, where it sat for 33 weeks. Matt Damon starred in the movie as the fallible but ever resourceful and likable botanist and engineer, Mark Watney. So on paper, Andy Weir is the picture of accomplishment and triumph.

But he is an underdog. And, he’s a nerd.

A nerd is anyone who willingly chooses to become a scholar of subjects like astronomy, spaceflight, and orbital mechanics in his spare time and someone who readily admits to having seen every episode of Doctor Who. A nerd is someone who decides to write his own computer program just to calculate the orbital trajectory that his imaginary crew might take to get from Earth to Mars and back again. And a nerd is anyone who decides to become a computer programmer at the age of fifteen, that precarious age where most boys are interested in how they look with their shirts off and which girl they can get to go to second base with them in the backseat of their mom’s car.

Andy Weir is a nerd and guess what – nerds run the world. And apparently, they run Space and the Great Beyond as well.

The Martian is the debut novel from a science-fiction geek and meticulously correct and self-made spacial expert, and the story of one man’s quest to make it back home after being stranded on Mars. It is not, as the title may suggest, a book about little green people.

Mark Watney is on a mission with his NASA crew that should be routine, but when a dust storm fouls their plans and the group has to book it out of there in a hurry, he is left behind – and thought to be dead.

But Mark is indeed alive and after waking up on the surface of the planet Mars alone, he begins the slow trek back to camp, only to discover that his crew has abandoned their search for him and has left him with no way to garner communications back to Earth to prepare for his retrieval. He must rely on himself for survival, and begins to take stock of his surroundings and prospects. He knows how much food he has left and he knows how long he can stay alive with it. He knows that he needs to create more food, but to do that, he needs water. Mars isn’t an ideal place to have these problems, and he finds the planet less than cooperative. Mark has to call on every ounce of his ingenuity and skill as a trained botanist and NASA engineer to maintain life.

” LOG ENTRY: SOL 381

I’ve been thinking about laws on Mars.

Yeah, I know, it’s a stupid thing to think about, but I have a lot of free time.

There’s an international treaty saying no country can lay claim to anything that’s not on Earth. And by another treaty, if you’re not in any country’s territory, maritime law applies.

So Mars is “international waters.”

NASA is an American nonmilitary organization, and it owns the Hab. So while I’m in the Hab, American law applies. As soon as I step outside, I’m in international waters. Then when I get in the rover, I’m back to American law.

Here’s the cool part: I will eventually go to Schiaparelli and commandeer the Ares 4 lander. Nobody explicitly gave me permission to do this, and they can’t until I’m aboard Ares 4 and operating the comm system. After I board Ares 4, before talking to NASA, I will take control of a craft in international waters without permission.

That makes me a pirate!

A space pirate! ”

Once he has the problem of food somewhat out of the way, Watney moves on to his second problem – instrumenting his rescue. Readers are privy to his daily schedule and routine via travel logs that he enters into the computer every day, as part of his quest to remain sane. It was great to get insight into Mark’s personality at times like this, because he really is a funny guy.

“ Actually, I was the very lowest ranked member of the crew. I would only be “in command” if I were the only remaining person.
What do you know? I’m in command. ”

In the meantime, NASA has picked up his movements over satellite imaging and they are trying to decide how best to proceed. After all, they have already announced not only to Mark’s family that he is dead, but have also told the Free World – and Mark’s crew is still out there in space, making their own way home. The powers that be decide to withhold the information of Mark’s survival from the crew for the time being, not wishing to distract them.

Eventually though, Mark’s crew is told of his survival and they have a choice to make. Do they go back? How do they go back? How do they even find Mark if they decide to go back?

Readers are given the point of view of Mark, his crew mates, and the NASA headquarters as preparations for Mark’s rescue begin.

What I liked most about The Martian was that at every turn, Watney would hit a snag, and sometimes, it was a major one. More often than not, the NASA engineer seemed almost bumbling, at constant war with Murphy’s Law, and if it could happen to him – well, it did. It helped turn a character from someone who could easily become aloof and unrelatable due to his high intelligence level (I mean come on – NASA engineer, right?) into someone who was common and real. The author did not include a whole lot of character development or description, focusing mostly on the science and orbital function of the missions.

And that brings me to what I did not like about this book. The science. . . oh, the science. Admittedly I am not a scientific sort. I failed high school chemistry and had to retake the course, and still only barely scraped by. I have never been mathematically inclined either, as all of my interests and talents have always leaned towards English and sociological subjects. But I am a reader of anything and I have gotten through many a science fiction novel, although The Martian is more than that. The author sometimes went off on these scientific tangents and it left me so bored and eventually irritated that it took me much longer to get through this book than I think it should have. My advice to any reader who finds this could become a problem is simply this – skip through (unless, of course, you think you may soon be stranded on Mars). You won’t be missing anything, I promise. The underlying story and plot is so interesting and gripping that you’ll find that even with the massive amounts of science, you can get through the book with some ease – as well as find it enjoyable.

All in all, I give The Martian 4.5 out of 5 stars. The book was innovative and original, and I have to hand it to a guy who threw his book up online for .99 and ended up on the New York Times Best Seller List. He’s kind of my hero.