"A loose sci-fi adventure that often wanders, but always into delightful territory."– Kirkus Reviews
Tumbler (The Inlooker, 2014, etc.) presents more globe-trotting adventures in his latest novel—this time set in Turkey.
Retired detective Terry Tumbler and his wife, Sandra, are British expatriates living in Spain. Last summer, their grandson, Seb Cage, enrolled in a school run by the philanthropic Sombrella Syndicate, which brought him to Turkey for a special mission. Recently, Terry has been hearing a strange voice in his head telling him to return to Turkey. His Sombrella contact, Skip, suggests that he and Sandra take the trip on the Syndicate’s dime as its emissaries. While touring Turkey’s archaeological and religious attractions, the Tumblers meet Senator Marius, who, it turns out, has been speaking to Terry telepathically. He asks them to report any extremist behavior they might witness in their travels. Soon, the Tumblers find an anonymous scroll that decries the mutilation of people and animals by extraterrestrials (one of Terry’s favorite research topics). At the same time, Terry experiences flashbacks to the life of a 12th-century monk named Gregory, who’s on the run from Turkish warriors. The book’s first portion ends with a shocking revelation from Marius; in the second half, set two years later, the Tumblers and several of their friends tour Turkey in a cushy, futuristic coach known as the Magic Carpet. Further surprises await, especially for fans of the author’s previous Seb Cage novel. This work boasts many of Tumbler’s signature traits, including close attention to historical detail (“The word Byzantine came to have special meaning, being synonymous with intrigue, cunning, deception, greed, and corruption”) and bawdy humor; for example, the protagonist's consistently wily behavior gets him mistaken for a “typical Australian.” There’s even traveling advice, as when Sandra tells her husband, “Just ignore [the vendors] and they’ll get fed up.” The narrative’s main drawback, however, is Terry's frequent complaining about food, travel time, and other issues. That said, an imaginative finale redeems the journey, featuring technological wonders and the truth about Earth’s alien visitors.
somewhat cranky fictional travelogue that gives way to a charming sci-fi
In Tumbler’s (The Inlooker, 2014, etc.) middle-grade fantasy novel, a group of teens receives special training from a mysterious race of dwarfs.
Thirteen-year-old English boy Sebastian and his younger brother, Bart, have come to Costa Blanca, Spain, to spend the summer with their grandparents. The rambunctious boys are a handful for Terry and Sandra, even with tennis, swimming and soccer available for the kids’ enjoyment. Terry, a former police detective, decides to occupy Seb with a research project on UFOs and then reveals to his grandson his belief that people less than 5 feet tall are related to space aliens. Seb begins trailing short people and eventually befriends one named Skip, a representative of the secret Sombrella Syndicate. Skip recruits Seb to join a small group of students studying exotic subjects in classes with names such as “Rocking and a’bonding” and “What Goes Around Comes Around.” The teen quickly learns that the Sombrella teachers are telepathic and that his fellow students, including the lovely Maisie, come from all over the world. Their hands-on courses involve flying UFOs, digging a high-speed train tunnel and visiting ancient battlefields. Seb wonders why he’s been chosen for this special education, and Tumbler explores this mystery in this imaginative, heartfelt tale. At one point, Seb cheekily wonders if he and his classmates will be “used as slave labour by Sombrella,” but when the kids use futuristic gizmos such as a gravity-defying phaser, it becomes clear that the children’s education is Sombrella’s top priority. Frequently, Tumbler’s teachers go on historical or technical tangents that younger readers may have trouble following; the Buster Cruster machine, for example, is said to filter rocks’ “pulverised and chemically-separated components into segregated containers.” The author combines such passages with an easygoing plot that has no true central conflict, which makes the narrative feel as if it’s aimed at both adult and middle-grade audiences. Nevertheless, its noble messages of environmentalism and empathy ring loudly throughout its second half.
A loose sci-fi adventure that often wanders, but always into delightful territory.
A computer manager gains otherworldly powers in Tumbler’s (Seb Cage Begins His Adventures, 2014, etc.) latest novel.
As his prophetic name might indicate, Thomas Beckon is no ordinary man. His everyday life bears all the marks of normality: He’s married and has two daughters and two cats. However, he discovers that he can use the cats as vehicles to observe the behavior of people’s souls, independent of their bodies. It turns out that he’s an Inlooker: a quasi-human, supernatural entity with the ability to examine the contents of anyone’s soul, and he uses that power to carry out his own brand of justice. Soon, and with careful practice, he learns how to transcend his own bodily limitations. He takes possession of an abusive acquaintance, causing him to crash his car and die in a coma. Soon, his malevolent, volatile powers can’t be contained, and he applies them to the pursuit of industry, first mastering the manufacture of an advanced, alien-derived transportation technology and eventually dominating the world’s governments. Tumbler’s strange, even outlandish novel is a highly original remix of standard sci-fi thriller concepts laced with Beckon’s witty, sardonic asides, which guide readers through each chapter. The narrative eventually becomes overly detailed, and it lags when Beckon’s worldly aims become loftier and more complicated. Nonetheless, this is a playful, even funny, book—one with sharp edges, a dark underside, and quirky, metafictional streaks. It also has more than a few things to say about the psychology of sociopaths like Beckon and creates a futuristic version of society that’s neither completely utopian nor dystopian. The protagonist’s habits, which range from acts of violence to sexual reconnaissance and manipulation, will likely prompt readers to consider the limits of power and the importance of privacy.
A thoughtful, eccentric sci-fi novel that’s as creepy as it is comic.