If you’ve been following my content for a while, you’ll know that I am, typically, not the biggest fan of Sci-Fi. Sure, there are some exceptions, but for the most part, it’s a genre that I don’t particularly enjoy. However, I am willing to give most things a go, and when I was given the opportunity to review UNPRECEDENTED TIMES by Lisa Thomas, I took it!
UNPRECEDENTED TIMES is a dystopian Sci-Fi that follows the story of four main characters. Rosa, a nurse, and her husband Ben, a police officer. We also follow the stories of Dr. Vicente, the Director General of W.H.O., and Clara, a “would-be” scientist who works beneath him (and Rosa’s twin sister). We follow them during their pandemic journey and beyond, to what the world became after.
I want to begin by saying that I loved the characters. Everyone felt real. Ben, and his optimistic detachment, Rosa and her grief-stricken emotional distancing. Clara, and her conflicting feelings, and Dr. Vicente being stuck between a rock and a hard place. They were incredibly believable, and their dialogue felt natural and free-flowing.
I imagine most people would approach this book with some hesitation, given that the pandemic is still an ongoing struggle we face. I didn’t know what I was expecting when I started reading this book, but I can safely say that I was pleasantly surprised by the way that Thomas approached the subject matter. She focused primarily on human experience without overburdening it with the harsh realities we’ve all been desperate to escape. As strange as it is to say, it was tastefully done.
As far as a debut novel goes, Thomas did a very good job!
There will always be growing pains and learning curves when it comes to publishing. I will say that this is a book best read by people who are familiar with indie/self-published books and comfortable with the various pitfalls of this branch of publishing.
These include grammatical errors, inconsistent narration (head-hopping), overwriting (sections that can stand to have their word count halved), and repetitious writing (touching on similar talking points in the text).
As we all know, star ratings are arbitrary. Their meanings are completely different, depending on who is using them. It’s been a while since I’ve touched on how I rate, so I’m going to briefly explain my gauge. Five stars are for books I can find no technical fault in. They are structurally sound, the writing is on point, and the story is engaging. Four stars are for books with some (small) issues, but overall, I consider them worth the read. Three stars are for books that, while still enjoyable, required a bit more finessing—sometimes with pacing or character development. Other times with grammar or storytelling structures, etc. I find that most debut novels fall somewhere between three and four stars for me. Which is to be expected, of course! There’s plenty of learning and growing to do, and as far as I’m concerned, that is an incredibly solid baseline and something to be proud of!
I am rating this book three (and a half) stars because the text had some issues that I couldn’t look past. As I mentioned earlier, there were issues with grammar. But the general cadence and flow of the story made it read far slower than a book its size should have. Largely with repetition. I feel like I spent a lot of time reading the same internal monologue/backstory. I also don’t know that the non-linear timeline worked with this particular story. I feel like it could have been told chronologically and been far more impactful. The bulk of the chest-gripping revelations actually happened earlier in the story, so when we got to the second half, we were reading repeats of these moments. And, strangely, we were introduced to concepts early on, only to have them explained more fully in the second half of the book.
Overall, I think that Unprecedented Times is something Thomas should be proud of. It took a tremendous amount of effort to put this book together, and I’m excited to see what she does in the future.
This book’s major drawbacks can be remedied in the next books with a bit of polishing with an editor or working closely alongside a team of other writers/beta/alpha/ARC readers in the future. If you’re someone who struggles to look past some growing pains, unfortunately, I don’t think Unprecedented Times will be a solid fit for you.
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