Outskirts Press (2015)
Reviewed by Judy Derby for Reader Views (08/16)
“When Is Sylvia Wallace? from The Janus Project files,” by Brad Anderson is a roller coaster ride from the time U.S. Marshall Sylvia Wallace wakes up in an abandoned mine. The Earth has undergone a geomagnetic shift and is tilted on her axis, sending most of the planet into an ice-age when, in a Western-style shootout, friends Robert Mackie (from the “Guardians” trilogy) and Colonel John Callan (from “The Janus Project”) attempt a retrieval to take her back to her own time.
Brad Anderson does a wonderful, thorough job at describing this cold, nearly barren world Sylvia now finds herself in. The dystopian society she is surrounded by is so believable and realistic that one shudders to think how easily circumstances could devolve into the very struggle for day-to-day existence he so graphically portrays in this tale. With a style reminiscent of Stephen King, note how he describes one of his protagonist’s actions.
Escaped criminal and self-appointed mayor Rich Witkowski has realized that he must dispose of the bodies of his abducted victims quickly and chooses dismemberment:
The ulna and the radius just above the left wrist were exposed because that was where he had first grasped this corpse. He slipped the joined bones into the cutter opening. “Good. Just wide enough. I can save the hatchet and the hacksaw for the larger bones.” He lay the used shop towel on the concrete near the hand. “But first, the fingers.”
This novel is not just for those who wonder about the possibility of time travel, but also for those who enjoy dystopian tales, psychological thrillers, or high drama. Personally, I’ve always been fascinated with science fiction and time travel in general. But, what I most enjoyed about this story was the minute details concerning survival itself. With both John Callan and Sylvia, Anderson goes into extensive description of just what is necessary to survive in an arctic environment. From the character’s step by step thought processes on deciding how to wrap one’s head for protection against the harsh elements, to the lengthy descriptions of ice walls and submerging into below-freezing water, to the panoramic detail of the physical environments the characters encounter.
Without having read The Janus Project, the connection, the familiarity and loyalty between the main characters nevertheless came through loud and clear. “When Is Sylvia Wallace? from The Janus Project files” works perfectly as a stand-alone novel, and will encourage readers to seek out the original story. However, in my opinion, the author could spin this into a series of its own: “From the Janus Project files, volume XX,” because this is a topic and genre that could garner an increasing fan base. With the blurring of genre lines, Brad Anderson has written an engrossing story that will grab readers of science fiction, action and adventure, and psychological thrillers.