The Servants of Time, Rodney Cooper, Self-Published, PB, 315pp, £7.94
Reviewed by Steve Dean
“Die and learn,” it says in the blurb, “until you succeed. These are the memories [I think he means memoirs, but don’t quote me.] of Úlik, a special agent who regularly dies on a mission and is brought back to life for the next one, now in a fresh body, but with all his memories, skills and teeth intact.”
The world Ulik inhabits is one of dark magic, a fantasy-horror dystopia. As the blurb says, he and his ilk (No, you’re thinking of elk) are regularly sent out on the most desperate of missions in various bodies which usually end very badly. These missions involve taking down various bad guys, mostly dark mages and demonic overlord types. The separate chapters are more like threads, each a collection of short stories following the same story arc. The copyright notice on the title pages gives the two dates 2002 and 2012, and the publication date on Amazon says 2018. I’m assuming these stories were written over a long period of time, certainly over a decade.
When I first started reading, I found the stories to be enjoyable, well written and quite original. The author has created a dark world filled with colour and emotion, and filled it with interesting characters. Unfortunately, as I read further, a sameness began to creep in, then barge in and finally completely take over. The later stories are really very similar to the early ones. I think the author should have picked his favourite fifteen or twenty stories and sold them as a collection. As it stands the book goes on far too long.
The book is actually a POD edition, printed in Poland by Amazon. I applaud the author for going down this route. While not as good as an ebook, at least it stops hundreds of trees being cut down to end up stored in someone’s garage the way they do with vanity publishing.
I’m not sure if this is Amazon’s fault or the authors, but the speech is indented on every line, so if someone speaks for say ten lines, all of them are indented. It’s a minor thing but it does spoil the presentation, which isn’t great to start with.
Overall then, there is talent here, and some good stories. If I’d read some of them in another anthology I wouldn’t have been disappointed. But there just isn’t enough variety of either story or character to fill a whole novel such as this.