Friday, September 8, 2017

ARC REVIEW: Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Author: Ryan Graudin
Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Date: September 26, 2017

My Ratings:
4/5 stars
PG-13 for some violence, made-up swear words, and a few non-graphic make out scenes.
Recommend to everyone. It's the kind of science fiction that will appeal to even non-science fiction readers.

Summary (via Goodreads):
Time flies when you're plundering history.
Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far's birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he's ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.
But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far's very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

The Review:

With backdrops of exotic locales, infamous historical settings, and swashbuckling adventures, Graudin gives us a gripping story with vibrant characters. Hint: Time travel is just the tip of the iceberg. Of course, I can't tell you how big that iceberg is without spoilers, but Graudin has managed to take a fairly standard concept and redefine it with her own flair.

I love this book. Set in 2371 AD (at least some of the time), Invictus shows us the future -and thank goodness it's not another hopeless, dystopian one. Instead we find a future Rome the capital of a time traveling society. Time travel is used only in the name of science and education and with every successful mission into the past comes 'a day in the life' style data streams of one era or another, edited and distributed to the clamoring public. Not only do we get a society fueled by time travel, but our main characters are TIME TRAVELING PIRATES!

Invictus centers on five main characters, which sounds like a lot and, honestly, in most other books would be too many focal characters. But within the folds of a fast-moving plot, Graudin manages to weave in enough time to flesh out each of these characters individually, familiarizing readers with their distinct personalities, quirks, and unique voices. And she does it all in less than 500 pages, without dropping any of the story's action or tension! This is not a skill to be taken lightly. (In fact, it is the complete lack of this in Star Wars: The Force Awakens that continues to grate me to this day. They should ask Graudin to proof The Last Jedi script before it's too late!)

This character work is FUNDAMENTAL because the story doesn't see any major developments or growth for most of them. Usually, this is a deal-breaker for me, BUT because Graudin gave me a front-row seat inside each of their heads, I completely understand these characters. This is very much a plot-oriented story, so the characters did not need major developments, but it is Graudin's ability to paint them so clear and vibrant that is truly satisfying.

Take Farway McCarthy, for example. Far is cocky, but this arrogance bemoaned by his crew mates doesn't wind up causing some catastrophe or heartache he has to mend or live with; instead it's used as one of his greatest strengths. The same is true for the rest of the characters. Priya, Eliot, Gram, Imogen -they might butt heads and bear the brunt of each other's flaws but they also know exactly who and what they can rely on when the tables turn. And while I love stories about people overcoming their weaknesses, I really enjoyed seeing this depiction focusing on the strengths of their flaws.

Eliot is probably my favorite character. She throws herself in with Far and his crew on less than amiable terms. She is the only person who's ever managed to best Far and everyone knows she has a hidden agenda. But what I like about her is the underlying Eliot we get to see -a bitter and desperate girl hiding enough pain to fill worlds- outside the facade she shows everyone else.

Time travel fiction is one of the hardest sub-genres to master (especially without half the community shouting 'That's not how time travel works!') but Graudin makes it look like child's play. She's managed to find a tightrope on the lines of popular schools of time travel thought and balanced right there between them. Plus, she writes the type of sci-fi I love -she cuts out the tech talk without sacrificing the big concepts. Everything is explained in layman's terms or by example, so even us less geeky nerds can still understand the science behind what's going on. ;)

This is the kind of science fiction that will appeal to everyone. Fast-paced and character driven, it's got a little bit of everything, and Graudin excels at penning this fantastic read that at once feels close and personal and far-reaching and mind blowing.

Be sure to grab Invictus when it hits shelves September 26.

And before you go, let's chat!
What's your favorite time travel story?
Personally, I'm horrid at picking one favorite, but I love Frequency, Timeline, Shadowed Glass by Charlie Pulsipher, and, of course, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L-Engle (though that's a different sort of time travel).


  1. I have to admit I haven't read many time travel books, or at least the only one that comes to mind is A Wrinkle in Time.

    1. Same! It took me a while to think of other time travel stories; two of my favorites are actually movies. I guess I need to start looking for my time travel books. ;)

  2. I love time travel, and I've been seeing this one around as reviews start to come out. And 2371- I LOVE far future settings, because it seems like we don't get them that often? Also, it is a skill to write sci fi with big ideas but not burden it with techy-ness, I totally agree.

    This sounds like a great one, I'll be definitely adding it!

    As far as favorite time travel story, I don't even know. I liked the recent Time Salvager. Of course as soon as I hit enter on this comment I'll probably think of a favorite lol.

    1. That's typical, isn't it? You think of a way better title once the conversation is over. :P

      This is definitely a winner in my book! I'll be interested to hear what you think of it.