Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Reviews, Science Fiction

Review: How to Stop Time

How to Stop TimeHow to Stop Time by Matt Haig

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I understand that the way you stop time is by stopping being ruled by it.

Thank you to Goodreads for the opportunity to read Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time. Rarely do I come across a book as potentially life-changing as this one. How to Stop Time is the story of Tom who has a rare but not, he learns, a unique condition where he ages slowly – like only 1 year to every 15 years of an average human’s life. More than 400 years old and Tom still struggles with how to live his long life. Heartbroken and scarred by the loss of his love during the Elizabethan era, the only thing that keeps him going through his loneliness and the overwhelming memories is the hope of finding his daughter which he hopes to do with the help of the Albatross Society, a network which claims to protect people with this condition in return for a bit of ‘recruitment’.
There is a deep melancholy running through Tom’s tale but even in the darkest moments, the moments when he must remind himself what he’s living far, the narrative shines with rays of hope. Albeit thin ones throughout most of the novel. Tom’s struggle and fear of a world filled with superstition and prejudice forces the reader to examine not only how they would live if they had hundreds of years to live rather than our brief time here but also to ponder how the world and our relationships would differ with the perspective that longevity would bring. Haig talks often about how little the world as far as the human experience goes changes despite the importance we give each event we experience. Is the 21st century really that different from the 20th? Or the 20th from any of the centuries before it?
The novel gives the reader a lot to think about. My favorite parts of How to Stop Time, though, are the forays into the immense chunk of history Tom has lived through – performing at the Globe Theater with Shakespeare, discovering new lands with Captain Cook, meeting Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald at a Parisian nightclub.
This is not a book made for light reading. While you could pick it up and quickly read one of its short (sometimes only a single page) passages, it is best read when you can curl up and devote a few hours to it and disappear into Tom’s long history. And to absorb its many, many words of wisdom.

I haven’t really read anything else like How to Stop Time but at times it reminded me of Jon Cohen’s Harry’s Trees.  While they aren’t similar in subject matter, they both gave me a sense of hope belied by their melancholy beginnings.  Both novels also spoke of our connections through things bigger than our human lives – history, nature, books, love.  Also, I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to tout Harry’s Trees again. 

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Adventure, Fantasy, Reviews, Science Fiction

Review: The Philosopher’s War (The Philosopher Series #2)

The Philosopher's WarThe Philosopher’s War by Tom Miller

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read the second book of Tom Miller’s Philosophers series, The Philosopher’s War in which Robert Weekes, after having proven many doubters wrong by showing the female-dominated world of Philosophy that males could, in fact, fly fast and well has joined R&E and is sent to Europe to rescue the injured on the battlefields of World War I.
I had some issues with the first novel, The Philosopher’s Flight pertaining to the characterization of the female philosophers and, I’ll admit, I had the same issues with this book but that has more to do with my personal experience than with the writing. Despite this being the second of the series, a lot of explanation is still required of the rules of this world especially of the missions and the special equipment that the flyers and other branches of philosophy use and those passages tended to get tedious to me. Also, I’m not much of a war story fan and, as it is set in France at the end of WWI, there are several passages with detailed descriptions of casualties and dangerous missions. However, the action sequences did read more quickly than most of the rest of the book. What Miller does especially well is to delve into Robert’s evolution from excited/nervous young man ready to prove himself in the war to the battle-tested and battle-scarred man torn between two loyalties.
The Philosopher’s War is yet another book with an interesting and unique concept that explores pertinent ideas it just wasn’t necessarily for me.

If The Philosopher’s War is for you, definitely read The Philosopher’s Flight first to get a better understanding of the rules and branches of philosophy.

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Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Reviews, Science Fiction

Review: The Philosopher’s Flight

The Philosopher's FlightThe Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

We’ll call this a 3.5 stars because any book that makes the reader think about how they see the world gets extra points. In truth, I’m still trying to decide exactly how I feel about Tom Miller’s debut, The Philosopher’s Flight, an ARC of which I received through Goodreads.com. Miller’s unique world is intriguing but, in what I imagine is only the first book of a series, it requires a lot of explication so it reads rather slowly for the first 100 pages or so.
The Philosopher’s Flight is an interesting look at a man trying to break into what is essentially a female-dominated section of society during what we now know as World War I. Miller explores themes that are very much relevant today – sexism, war and the arms race, and religious mania. The reversal of roles as the male student is increasingly discriminated against as he proves quite capable in the traditionally female-dominated field of philosophy (not what you think), specifically hovering (they can fly!) certainly makes one take a long look at the forms of discrimination we still find in the world today but, I must admit, his take on it didn’t always sit well with me. I can’t say for sure why but some of the women’s reactions to Robert’s presence and success didn’t always ring true. Specifically, the crude and destructive ways the women act to get Robert to give up his area in the locker room. While I’m certain college-age men would stoop that low but I’m sure young women would. Then again maybe they would and I just haven’t come across one that would.
If it turns out that this is just the start of a series, and though there is a somewhat satisfying end to The Philosopher’s Flight, I really believe there will be, I would probably read subsequent books.

A combination of fantasy, history, science fiction, and coming-of-age genres, The Philosopher’s Flight is difficult to categorize and therefore it is difficult for me come up with a similar book to recommend.  If you enjoy Miller’s unique, alternate history world that truly makes you think, I recommend Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series.  If you like Miller’s strong women set in a period of history when women weren’t expected to be anything let alone fighters and leaders, you might enjoy Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate.  I wouldn’t say that either of these series are very much like The Philosopher’s Flight but they’re the closest I’ve yet read.

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