In Humphries’ dizzying debut, which blends sci-fi, crime drama, martial arts and more, a secret government project goes haywire, poking holes in the space-time continuum and setting into motion a series of events that reverberate across centuries.
In 2049, a brick-shaped piece of technology goes missing from a lunar satellite, falling through a portal caused by dimensional damage at the hands of a governmental unit of quantum scientists. The so-called brick lands in seventh-century Korea, where Sainen Chinhung, a vicious assassin from the era, steals the Four Dragons Sword, which seems to have the ability to interact with strange, midair “shimmerings” that, when people step through them, apparently allow for time travel. Sainen steps through one such portal and emerges in Victorian London, where his first act of murder ends up being credited to Jack the Ripper. From there, he traverses through historical settings, attaining power for himself as a crime lord. Meanwhile, a female warrior from the seventh century, Kyung-Soon, who at first pledges to regain the sword, eventually ends up working with Sainen in order to amass power and wealth for herself. Humphries’ novel is extremely ambitious, awesome in scope and meticulously researched. Each time the novel arrives in a new era, Humphries vividly brings it to life, a particularly impressive feat given the book’s deliberately fragmented style. Comprised mostly of very short chapters, the narrative at times jumps between multiple characters and stories. While weaving throughout time may be impressive on a technical level, it comes at the expense of characterization and the ability to follow the narrative. There’s rarely more than a passing glance at any of the characters, and even readers well-versed in time-travel stories might find themselves scratching their heads at the plot’s confusing structure. A number of surprisingly graphic, gory sequences in the book’s latter half might turn readers off, too.
Not lacking in imagination but short on fleshed-out characters to connect with as the increasingly convoluted story develops.