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THE BEAUTIFUL LAND by Alan Averill

THE BEAUTIFUL LAND

By Alan Averill

Pub Date: June 4th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-425-26527-7
Publisher: Ace/Berkley

Time travel thriller, complete with suicidal hero, crazy girlfriend and mad, bad scientist: Averill’s debut.

Tak O’Leary made a name for himself as the daredevil host of a TV reality show where he would tackle extreme environments accompanied only by a knife and a cameraman. Eventually, he lost everything. He’s ready to hang himself in a crummy New York hotel room when the phone rings: It’s Judith Halford, executive of the Axon Corporation, offering him a job as an explorer. What she doesn’t yet tell him is that he’ll he exploring alternate realities, courtesy of a time machine invented by evil supergenius Charles Yates. Tak takes the job. Four years later, Tak understands that Yates is uninterested in exploration; instead, he wants to destroy all the timelines, leaving only one called the Beautiful Land, where the occupant—Yates himself—can create his own reality by the power of thought. Yates has already destroyed most of the alternate timelines by bringing in weird and apparently unstoppable birdlike entities whose only purpose is to kill. Tak wants to save the world, but he also wants to save the love of his life, Samira Moheb, an Iranian-American driven mad by the horrors she witnessed as a translator during the Iraq War. So, he steals a portable version of the time machine and sets off to find Samira, who thinks he hanged himself four years ago. Much of this, and what ensues, is exciting and often touching, although the semicomic tone sits uneasily among the horrors. There’s a huge structural problem, too; Averill constructed his backdrop to fit the plot, with the result that the time travel ideas lack logic and rigor. Yates is an absurdly stereotypical figure. Where do the mysterious bird-things come from, and what makes them impossible to defeat? And what does a wish-fulfillment reality have to do with time travel?

Overall, half enjoyable, half unpalatable.