Hourglass – Daniel James
“The Ilyushkin 72 ascended through the kingdom of clouds like a steel dragon, powerful and proud. It roared up and away from the snowy private airstrip, leaving in its wake the black ribbon dividing the alpine snowfields of a classified mountain installation.”
A suspenseful and witty novel of life and death.
Hourglass is Daniel James’ second novel, published in 2020. It’s a mix between fantasy and thriller with friendly ghosts and demonic monsters all wrapped up with an iconic friendship between the living and the dead.
Set in Brooklyn and New Mexico, it follows two best friends that can’t even be separated by death as they try to navigate the crazy world they’ve been unwillingly drawn into. It’s entertaining and original and well worth the read!
Clyde Williams and Kev Carpenter are just two normal guys trying to make a living in Brooklyn, New York. Clyde is an aspiring comic book artist, hoping to get into the big leagues. Kev recently dropped out of university after only a year’s study. Kev was also murdered two months ago. Having his recently deceased best friend show up in their apartment is just as shocking as it ought to be, but Clyde makes it work. Until a suspicious agent from a mysterious organisation called Hourglass follows them home that is. They’re given two options; join Hourglass and train their newfound abilities, or else spend the rest of life under scrutiny. For Kev, detached and depressed, it’s an easy decision. For Clyde, not so much. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s also an ex-KGB necromantic monk on the hunt for the afterlife.
- The character development is fantastic throughout this novel. Nerdy Clyde who hates all things military admits that not all soldiers are idiots. Kev, although still very much dead, finds a new lease of life and a purpose. They’re forced to grow up due to this new horrifying world that they’re now apart of. The thoughts, feelings and actions of each character changes by the end of the story in an incredibly realistic manner.
- Despite being dead, Kev has a great sense of humour, and despite the tragedy surrounding him, so does Clyde. There are numerous oneliners throughout this novel that contribute to an entertaining and engaging read.
- The biggest selling point of this book for me is it’s brand new ideas. It’s a completely original story with a fresh plot and interesting characters. It’s been compared to numerous sci-fi tv shows and novels, but it truly does stand out from the crowd.
- Some of the sci-fi/fantasy descriptions can be hard to understand. A few of these paragraphs I had to reread to try and visualize just what crazy magical ability these characters had. It may be frustrating for some readers to slow down in the middle of action-packed chapters to do this.
- The good guys live in Brooklyn, so of course, that’s exactly where the bad guys must attack. As Kev himself said, “Well, isn’t that some serendipitous shit?”. It is entirely too predictable and unrealistic to have the final showdown right in the middle of their homeland. On the other hand, however, locating it elsewhere would have led to a whole truckful of other problems, so it’s understandable.
- As previously mentioned, the stereotypical comic nerd turns macho man by the end of his intense professional super secret agent training… that takes only three weeks to complete? Personally, I think that’s far too short a time to teach a pacifist how to fight, especially since he’s then capable of taking down life-long soldiers.
Overall, I’d give Daniel James’s Hourglass a four out of five. It’s an intriguing story of life and death, friendship, and morality.
I’d recommend it for absolutely everyone. Science fiction and fantasy are usually both genres that you either love or hate, but not in this case. As unrealistic as ghosts and monsters and the afterlife are, it all seems completely commonplace in this novel.
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