Review: “Timecaster,” J.A. Konrath

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.

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2 comments on “Review: “Timecaster,” J.A. Konrath
  1. J.A. Konrath says:

    Hi Heather.

    Thank you for the review. 🙂

    Normally I don’t comment on reviews, because every reviewer is right; your opinion is 100% valid. If a book failed you, that’s my fault. But I would like to talk a bit about the non-consensual sex scene you didn’t like.

    The future in Timecaster is Utopian. Prostitution is legal, and sex workers are among the highest paid professionals in the country. The hero of the ebook is married to a sex worker, whom he loves. While she has sex with many people, he chooses to remain monogamous, even though they have an open marriage.

    The conflict, and humor, in the aforementioned scene is twofold. First is role reversal. In our modern society, it is unfortunate (and disgusting) that women are treated as sexual objects by men. All women have been objectified, harassed, and abused. Many men don’t understand that no really means no, and we live in a culture which perpetuates that nonsense. The term “friend zone” is derogatory (every woman should be able to tell a guy–no matter how much he thinks he loves her–that she doesn’t want more than friendship). Hollywood and books abound with men whose single-minded pursuit of a woman is considered heroic, when it is actually stalking.

    It’s sad, and it continues to perpetuate. Sex should not only be consensual, but each participant should have equal power, and equal enjoyment from the experience.

    In Timecaster, in a future where there is no more violent crime, and sex is very casual and accepted, people are very relaxed about sex. There are no sex crimes in the future. Women have control over their bodies and who they share them with, and this is celebrated.

    My hero, when in a non-consensual situation, isn’t harmed or threatened–in fact, he feels if he doesn’t participate, it would be rude. So he does consent, in a way. But he doesn’t want to have an orgasm, because he feels–antithetically to how most modern men feel in today’s sexual climate–that having an orgasm with someone else would be a betrayal of his marriage. Even though his wife has many orgasms a week with other people.

    Making a man the object of unwanted sexual attention–something women today have to deal with on a daily basis–was a reversal on the typical modern narrative and meant to show how far the roles had reversed in my future society. It also is a parody of the typical male fantasy. Normally, a man would love and welcome the attention of four enthusiastic ladies, but Talon’s reaction is opposite, going against type. James Bond can have sex with four women per book, and in some cases they’re vulnerable or even resist at first, and we find that acceptable. My scene made fun of heroes like that, because my hero doesn’t want to use woman. He doesn’t consider them conquests like Bond does. He respects them, just prefers to save himself for his wife. In books, conflict is introduced to test the character’s moral core.

    There is a definite double standard, and things need to change, which is something I wanted to explore in Timecaster, but perhaps I didn’t do a good enough job with the scene to make readers aware of my intent, and I apologize.

    Again, thanks for reading, and for the review.

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