This book was sent to me for free by the author in exchange for an honest review. Time Crawlers by Varun Sayal is an anthology of six short stories depicting alternating universes. Varun Sayal discussed at length what it means to be human and how our humanity, flawed or not, can affect our lifestyle be it in the past or the future.
In this review, I will take a different approach to review the book because it is so short, 120 pages or so. I will talk about each one of the stories without giving away any spoilers and whilst remaining honest. Before I start talking about the book, I want to say that these are MY opinions, not yours. I am speaking solely from the way I see and read the book and this is in no way meant to offend anybody. Without further ado, here’s the review.
Time Crawlers by Varun Sayal
“Billions of universes run slightly parallel to our own universe; worlds full of infinite possibilities. There are many humans living in those parallel worlds, leading their lives, in a very similar way to how we are leading ours. But their respective realities differ from ours in some very peculiar ways.
Inhabitants of some worlds have already been visited and are being ruled by aliens. Some travelled through time, back and forth, and some have taken their space exploration to advanced stages using their powerful spaceships. Some created ruthless artificial intelligence that are fulfilling dark, human desires. Some developed advanced weapons technologies thousands of years before we did.
I believe a writer’s brain can somehow tap into this multitude of universes and take a peek into the events happening in each of them. This book, comprised of six stories, is my attempt to narrate to you tales from six different parallel universes. These stories are events that my brain somehow tapped into and captured in detail.
Let me know if your unconscious mind visited the same universes as mine. “(Goodreads)
#1. Nark-astra, The Hell Weapon
“The weapons he possesses make him the destroyer of worlds, and he burns for revenge. A high-tech take on ancient Indian mythology.” (Goodreads)
One of the first things I noticed about this little story is how imaginative it is and how easy it is to picture the events in my mind. Even though the story is short, the description makes it so that all the characters are well rounded and easy to follow through their decision making. Another thing I noticed is how dialogue-heavy this short story is. I understand that is because it’s a short story and thus it needs to be packed full of information, but I think the dialogue was overwhelming and gave everything away too easily. This might be because I am not used to reading such short stories. Another thing I didn’t really like was how things were handed to our main character with a smile, I would have liked him to work harder for said things but once again, the author probably didn’t want the story to be too long.
#2. Death by Crowd
“The dark desires of the masses; darknet websites fueled by a crypto-currency. What lurks in the background – an advanced artificial intelligence?” (Goodreads)
This story is my favourite by far, even though it’s the most gruesome out of all of them. The long dialogue fits perfectly with the interview style and makes the abundance of information digestible, which I enjoyed very much. I also enjoyed the concept as a whole and how the gruesomeness of the person being interviewed was not approached with disgust and resentment but rather with curiosity – I think it makes for a better discussion about the human instinct and the dark web. The A.I. theory also gave me an existential crisis, that’s how you know this was GOOD!
“He rubbed a lamp alright, but what he got was the shock of his life. An entirely sci-fi take on the djinn myth.”(Goodreads)
I get the feeling from other reviews that a lot of people enjoyed this story for its humour which I can appreciate, but I think I was so involved in the second story that I couldn’t enjoy the light, breath of fresh air this story was meant to give the reader. I know for a fact that my opinion of this story is based solely on the type of reader I am, so I am now going to talk about the things I liked and disliked. I really enjoyed the character of the genie, she was funny and smart and witty and I like the sci-fi take on the whole djin myth, I think it makes the entire concept more interesting and easy to believe. I disliked the character of Marco, who I think was symbolic of the greed of humanity and to an extent how society objectifies women. I do wish there was a bit more prose but I think since the story is meant to be a short, funny story Sayal gets away with all the dialogue and in the end managed to produce a great story.
#4. Time Crawlers
“There are individuals who existing in multiple time periods at once, and there are those who know about them….” (Goodreads)
I think this might be my second favourite story in this anthology, simply because I appreciate the plot twist. I’m not gonna lie, I actually giggled when I read that twist, I was that impressed. This story was interesting and fun so much so that I wish it was a longer story so I could read more about these characters. I like how this one ties elements of the last three stories together and thus creates a bigger picture for us readers as well as the LGBTQ+ representation which was not made a big deal out of, just normal characters being normal human beings. Furthermore, I really love how detailed these theories are, it goes to show of Sayal’s ingenuity. I am looking forward to his next book!
“No attacks, no blood-shed, yet there was an invasion and a conquest. Who are these shape-shifting aliens being hounded by an eclipse?” (Goodreads)
I think out of all the stories, this was my least favourite stories simply because I don’t really like the main character. I dislike main characters who put so much work into something only to give up with no fight *cough*Winston from 1984*cough*. However, I did enjoy how action packed it was and it did have me gasping and wanting to see the resolution of this short story so that is a big bonus.
#6. The Cave
“The fate of an advanced imperial race hangs in balance as a dark celestial entity meets a legendary protector.” (Goodreads)
Lastly, I quite enjoyed this story and I like the concept of this one I like the gender representation in The Cave. The imagery is nice and easy to picture however I do find Kaaljeevi a bit unrealistic. She’s meant to come across as all powerful with no flaws but while she’s fixing Earth’s problems she’s explaining everything eloquently, without breaking a sweat. I think that’s rather unrealistic, and yeah, I know this is a sci-fi story but it doesn’t allow the reader to connect to this amazing character at all so while I enjoy the gender representation, I think she could have been written better – kind of like the hero from the first story.
So here it is, my honest review of Time Crawlers by Varun Sayal. I have to say that I really enjoyed this book, even though I am not a big sci-fi fan. I liked how easy it was to discern the mental state of the characters, their morals and values just through these six short stories and I liked how all the stories, although different, linked together in some way or another to create a big universe. One thing I think can be improved is the lack of well written, strong female characters – up until the third and sixth story there were few female characters and they were always either mistresses, virgins or prostitutes – even the genie, although smart and witty was treated badly by the man she was granting three wishes for. While I understand how this can be a creative choice, I don’t think it was done on purpose but it is something to keep in mind. Overall, I really enjoyed all the stories and I really think it doesn’t read like a debut book!
Star Rating out of 5: ★★★★☆
Thanks a lot for reading my review, which you can also check out on *Goodreads*. Also, make sure to check out my bookstagram *here* and my last blog post which is all about spending more time with family. Have a lovely day!