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Twilight of the Past: A Rift in Time
Michael Parziale
Nightengale Press, 236 pages

Twilight of the Past: A Rift in Time
Michael Parziale
Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Michael always enjoyed writing, but never realized his story writing dreams until now. He has taken up many hobbies besides writing including horsemanship, cooking and video game playing (mostly RPGs of course). He is also pursuing a Nutrition degree with plans of becoming a Registered Dietitian in the near future. Michael was married in the summer of 2005 to his beautiful wife, Amanda.

Michael Parziale Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Hebblethwaite

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When science fiction and fantasy collide, the result can often be a magical fantasy society located on an alien planet or far future Earth. The setting of Michael Parziale's début novel (the first in his planned Twilight of the Past series), though, is pretty much the opposite: a Fantasyland "gone all sci-fi." The map at the front of A Rift in Time and the place names would be right at home in an epic fantasy; yet Parziale's Aldurea is a futuristic world of hover-cars, energy swords and "dark matter" gateways. It's a set-up full of possibility; so how does the author approach it?

Our protagonist is one Newl Rift, who is (as far as I can tell) the leader of Guntra De, a nation at war with neighbouring Spero. Although, physically, he appears to be in his thirties, he is actually a hundred years old; and he can't remember his life before Guntra De. He also wonders what this war is really all about. Whilst travelling to the country's capital, Templis, he is set upon by a mysterious individual calling himself Lone Hybrick, who suggests that Newl might want to visit distant Melis. Newl follows this advice, accompanied by the rulers of Saetraz, Amate and Mishell Luminata (whom he doesn't entirely trust). Unfortunately for Newl, though, he is being expected...

And so incident follows incident, and Newl travels around Aldurea, until the final page, where the author leaves us hanging; but fear not, Volume Two is on its way.

The problem at the heart of A Rift in Time is that (whether intentionally or not), Parziale has taken his cues from computer role-playing games. Hence plot mechanics like going somewhere on the suggestion of someone who just turned up in the middle of nowhere and attacked you. Hence a protagonist who, effectively, can travel the world as he likes with no ties. This is all fine in an RPG, where you expect regular clues that send you off somewhere else, and where interactivity demands that the player-character can wander back and forth across the map at will. But they don't work in the context of a novel, which operates in an entirely different way.

Still, this alone should not stop A Rift in Time being a successful entertainment; and, indeed, so much goes on so quickly that the book's sheer narrative momentum carries it some distance. Unfortunately, though, Parziale's writing frequently tends towards the corny: for example, someone says out loud, "Now, power will be mine!" (and there's no one there to hear him say it); and there's a character called Efil H. Taed (try reading it backwards). There are further problems: the fight scenes often feel like mere pyrotechnics rather than drawing us in. And there's a lot of clumsy infodumping (even veering between present and past tense in the same description). And Parziale quotes the characters' direct thoughts rather too often (and, annoyingly, presents them in both italics and quotation marks).

Despite all these criticisms, A Rift in Time is not particularly bad; certainly, there are many worse books you could choose to spend time on. The trouble is, there are also many better books out there, and no real reason to recommend this one. Of course, it's too soon to tell what the complete Twilight of the Past series will be like; but the first volume does not encourage me to find out.

Copyright © 2006 David Hebblethwaite

David lives out in the wilds of Yorkshire, where he attempts to make a dent in his collection of unread books. You can read more of David's reviews at his review blog.


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