Review: ‘New Pompeii’ by Daniel Godfrey

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Time travel is very much a reality in New Pompeii.  Unfortunately, a shadowy organization created the tech for sinister purposes.

If time travel were invented today we would like to think that we would all have access to it.  We’d like to think that it could be free or attainable like the latest gadget.  In Daniel Godfrey’s novel New Pompeii, however, we get a more realistic idea of what would happen.  A company named NovusPart (short for Novus Particles) has created time travel tech, but they should be kept the furthest away from it.

New Pompeii has quite the cast of characters but focuses on two characters, in particular.  Nick Houghton is a historian looking to break into the world of academia and research, and Kirsten Chapman is a woman stuck in a kind of time travel limbo.  Kirsten is neither here nor there.  She’s something of a ghost but her fate is complicated.  There’s more to her story than meets the eye. James Harris is another shadowy character determined to bring down NovusPart, but whether or not he’s a good guy or a bad guy remains to be seen.  What is for certain is that he’s playing the long game.

The bad guys are almost Dickensian in their wickedness.  Chief Operating Officer Mark Whelan and Chief Executive Officer Harold McMahon run NovusPart and their evil nature is barely veiled.  Whelan’s polite coldness is even more disconcerting than McMahon’s churlishness.  The Pompeiians aren’t stupid and they are not so easily swayed.  They most certainly don’t like being tricked or treated like children.  Their resentment becomes a tinderbox for NovusPart and all involved.

The Real Pompeii under Mt. Vesuvius
The Real Pompeii via LonelyPlanet.com

Nick’s friend Ronnie is convinced that NovusPart is transporting people from various time periods for sinister reasons.  Ronnie is particularly concerned about the children who’ve disappeared in droves.  There are real repercussions to this because a lot can happen in that time.  What would you do if you were transported many years into the future?  Imagine the difference between 1985 and 2015.  Would you be able to handle the changes upon being dropped into the future?  Would your family be the same?  Would they even be alive?  These are all questions that come up at one point or another in New Pompeii and the reader is also forced to put themselves in the characters’ shoes.

New Pompeii is part sci-fi, part historical thriller.  I’ve yet to read a novel that balances both genres so well.  Godfrey manages to educate the reader about the real Pompeii, ancient Roman customs, and everyday life, while–mainly through Kirsten–painting a vivid picture of time travel and what could (and does) happen when corporations use the technology at their disposal to influence the world regardless of the outcome.

If you’ve ever read Michael Marshall’s The Intruders and loved it, you would enjoy New Pompeii because as with the former, Godfrey makes you think out loud about the way we understand the misunderstood; the unexplained.  What would we do if we had time travel technology today?  What would we demand from whoever holds such power as a society?  Would we demand that someone go back and kill Adolph Hitler or save Abraham Lincoln?  Would it change the timeline for better or worse?

There are parts of New Pompeii that lagged a bit, particularly when Godfrey really delves into comparing the real Pompeii with the Pompeii experiment Nick is lending his expertise to.  However, Godfrey picks up the pace after the first couple of chapters, right about when Nick makes his decision to work for NovusPart, and just keeps building and building.  Nick is something of an anti-hero in that he doesn’t rage against the NovusPart machine and its evil, Machiavellian emissaries as quickly  as we would imagine ourselves doing, but when he finally gets fed up, he goes full bore and it is incredibly satisfying to read Nick’s progression from laying low to taking matters into his own hands.

I really enjoyed New Pompeii and I say this as someone who wasn’t that attracted to ancient Roman history.  In the end, I learned quite a bit and realized that I wanted to know more.  What I really can’t wait to find out is what happens next.  Unfortunately, we won’t find out until June 2017 when Godfrey’s Empire of Time, the sequel to New Pompeii, debuts.

Note: This book was sent to GeekMundo in exchange for an honest review.  We were not compensated in any way.  Trust me, if it sucked, I would have told ya.