Pros: Engaging story
Cons: Trivializes rape of men
Rating: 2 out of 5
In the future, crime has been all but eliminated. Timecasters use a device that allows them to view and record events from the previous two weeks, making it nearly impossible to avoid getting caught for a crime. As far as anyone knows, the machines can’t be tampered with or faked in any way. Operating one is more art than science, and Talon is one of the best. Crime is so slow, however, that most of his time is spent doing demonstrations at schools–not exactly what he signed up for. He’s about to get more than his fair share of excitement, however, as he finds out that someone’s been killed… and he’s the obvious suspect.
Timecaster, by J.A. Konrath, tosses us a seemingly perfect crime, in which all (supposedly irrefutable) evidence points to the point of view character, Talon. He–and we–know he didn’t do it, but how on earth can he prove that when his own investigations provide proof that he did it? It’s a classic storyline with a new technological twist that definitely makes things interesting.
The characters are decent. A couple of them seem a little one-note; unfortunately that includes the bad guy, whose motivations never clicked for me. The ever-wilder inflation of what’s at stake did add plenty of tension and surprises. Talon shows great creativity in how he handles the challenges set for him.
I enjoyed the early pages in which we’re introduced to the world. There’s plenty of detail without too much complexity, and plenty of context to make it understandable and believable. There’s some dark material in here, but not too dark. At least once I felt that Talon missed an obvious clue, which can be frustrating. There’s also a lot of evil-villain-explaining-himself, which the author even sidelong acknowledges when Talon says, “…thanks for the info dump.” Unfortunately winking at the cliche doesn’t keep it from being a cliche. There’s some nice silliness mixed in with the tone to lighten it up a bit.
There’s one thing that bothered me, however. There’s a scene in which a woman forces non-consensual sex on a man, and it’s played mostly for cheap laughs. We already have enough cultural baggage teaching us that rape of men is not something that really exists as such, or not something they should feel traumatized by. I wish this book hadn’t contributed to that impression. Without that, I’d probably give this book a 3 or 3.5 out of 5. Now I feel obligated to drop it to a 2, even if most of the book doesn’t deserve that. Obviously, this should serve as a trigger warning for rape.