Cover Image: VanWest The Past

VanWest The Past

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As the many overwhelmingly positive, helpful reviews will tell you this is a very good read. A very solid scifi tale, which is the beginning a likely-to-be excellent series.

Thanks very much for the review copy!!
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VanWest The Past, by Kenneth Thomas, is a dystopian scifi novel. In 3000, the battle between the haves and have-nots on Earth has become a divide between genetically enhanced, long-lived Elites and working Citizens.

Our hero, Captain VanWest, is a competitor in the worldwide war games, something between our real Olympics and a dark Hunger Games. If VanWest can succeed here, he'll join the Elites. I enjoyed the references to Roman myth here, and this battle allows readers to see VanWest's character.

Although we quickly come to admire VanWest's strength and discipline, it takes a while to see much of his emotions and internal thoughts. VanWest's challenges take him into the past, where we see his strength and quick-thinking again and again, and he's finally challenged to take a stand between obedience and rebellion.  Most importantly, by this point, I cared enough about VanWest to worry about him.

The worldbuilding highlights many familiar problems in our own world, and posits a dystopian outcome to these worries. All of today's worries about climate destruction and social inequality have intensified, creating a dark but believable future.  Since the story takes place hundreds of years in the future (well... VanWest timetravels, but the story begins far in the future), spoken English has undergone some changes. The characters in VanWest have their own slang, which adds to the worldbuilding whenever they speak.

Without revealing too much about the ending, I'll just say that a sequel is clearly coming.
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This was not really a book for me. It is written in short paragraphs in the present tense, sometimes with fragments rather than full sentences, interspersed with sound effects like 'boom'. This creates a comic strip like effect,  which is fair enough but not really for me. In keeping with that style, the characters are all superficial and sketched,  with a high degree of stereotyping. Especially for the female characters, I was not enchanted by this. All that could have been made up for by some gripping action or vivid imagination,  but unfortunately I really didn't experience either. There was one bizarre aspect which intrigued me; the book featured an actual philosophy professor from the University of Twente, where my daughter is a student. But that detail wasn't enough. 
Disappointing.
Disclaimer: I obtained my copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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3.5 stars

Thanks to the author, BookBuzz, and NetGalley for providing a copy for review.

This book was a hard read for me, which is a shame because the story here is actually good. Kenneth Thomas does a good job introducing the reader into the world they've created, starting off with a genre typical battle-royale esque tournament, but soon after spinning off into a much more engaging time travel narrative. Make no mistake that the story beats on display here are good enough to carry the novel. If you can get past the way the words are put down on paper.

In my opinion, all this book needs to really shine is a couple rounds with a decisive editor. The only thing stopping me from being truly invested was the way I was constantly pulled out of the story. It's really just little things that add up. Run on sentences going on way longer than necessary. Multiple independent clauses in the same sentence with no punctuation. Dialogue starting in the middle of a sentence on the same line. Some grammar, punctuation and syntax issues crop up as well from time to time, but those are the easiest to ignore.

I wouldn't go so far as to call the writing juvenile but that's the best adjective I can think of to clearly get my point across. It's not that the story is bad (on the contrary, like I said, the broad strokes are quite good) it's that the way it is conveyed to the reader gets in the way of the overall presentation and, despite everything, does bring the book down a bit for me.

I will say that I am not at all hesitant about picking up more of Kenneth's works in the future, but hopefully their future novels go through a few more rounds of proofreading and editing first.
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This was a highliy enjoyable distopian novel! The setting is 3000 years after civilization as we know it ends, but with technological advances, our protagonist, VanWest travels through time from the 'present' which takes place in Antactica as the only part of Earth that is inhabitable above ground, to the past. He is torn betwen his loyalty to the Universal (the current government) and a rebel faction where he has personal ties linking to his erased past. The book has a lot of action sequences and it keeps moving at a brisk pace that is engaging. I wanted to know what would happen next and as the book ended, I am only disappointed that I have to wait to read the next one! The only detractors for the book are some proofreading errors, while the language is intended to be somewhat stilted and different, of a different time, I really wanted to edit parts of the book! An upside to the interesting choice of language is that this book is appropriate for young adult readers and has no traditional cursing or inappropriate content, aside from fighting scenes and violence. This was an interesting opener to a distopian series and I am looking forward to reading the next installment when it comes out!
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