What attracted me to this book is its cover, which now seems to be the best part of it. After learning about the premise of the novel, I decided to buy it. Unfortunately, while I love the concept of being “excused from time”, digging through family history and revealing secrets, very quickly into reading The Lost Time Accidents, I realized this is not the kind of book I hoped for.
The first of many problems I had with this novel is the narrator himself. Waldemar Tolliver, the youngest family member of the Tollivers, is the person who is guiding the reader through the deepest secrets of his family. However, he is so unbearably pretentious and uninteresting as a character, that he makes a what could have been a fascinating family story into a story about his own inadequacy. His narration aimed for epic history, and landed somewhere between boring and dragged out. Honestly, if literally any other character in the book was in charge of narrating this story, the tale would have been much more successful and engaging.
This book is filled with wasted opportunities. The science behind the specific method of time travel performed in the book could have been fascinating, but it is introduced through unnecessarily long and complicated passages that read like a real-life physics textbook. This approach overwhelms and confuses the reader, causing a huge problem for a book that heavily relies on science. It is frustrating to see a writer clearly passionate about the topic, present it in such a dry and bland way. This could have easily been solved had Wray employed a more engaging and fun way to explain scientific concepts that govern the method time travel. Changing the approach would not only make the book better, but cause the science to be more approachable and interesting.
For a family novel that depicts four generations of a highly unusual family, I expected well-developed characters, but that simply is not the case. None of them feel like a real people, as their actions are predictable and serve only to keep the plot going. Every single character in the novel has a lot of potential, but never truly reaches it. Instead, it seems that Wray is sacrificing his own characters in favour of plot, while theorizing about the nature of time. Still, I have to ask why the author introduces so many characters only to leave them all shadow of what they could be?
I tried to find some redeeming qualities in The Lost Time Accidents, but I simply could not. Even its relationship with history, which I massively looked forward to, failed to impress me. In the first part of the novel, Wray shows his skill and describes Vienna and parts of the Czech Republic in late 19th and early 20th century. But as the story progresses, Wray uses history only to be able to write in a few famous names, which have little importance to the story. History can be a powerful tool in fiction and once again, Wray does not fully utilize the potential. This is especially disappointing for a book about time travel.
Wray starts off strongly, with a good idea, but somewhere half way through, his writing becomes repetitive and uninteresting. The main problem I have with this book, is by trying to pack a sci-fi, family, philosophical and tiny love novel all in one, the author lost his way and control of his own work. I would love to see this novel re-edited, so that the story of Tolliver family can be presented in a way that allows these characters to fully shine.