Shadows Beneath Second Paradigm by Peter J. Wacks

I doubt I can emulate Peter Wacks’ non-linear story telling. But as a writer, I think Wacks has accomplished something unique in the telling of Second Paradigm. The complexity of the book is so well executed that it can be read in any order. I say that with the caveat that I think the 13 causes can be read in any order but that the scenes within each cause make more sense if read in order.

To clarify, Wacks wrote 13 causes (Relativity Synchronization: The First Cause, etc.), a prologue, an epilogue, and an epilogue II. Within each cause there are several scenes. At first, I told myself I would read it back to front because I’d heard it was possible. And how fun is that? I read the prologue, and epilogue II and then went right on to the last scene of the 13th cause. I worked my way back through the whole cause and while it was readable that way, I think my mind wouldn’t have had to work quite as hard learning the setting and figuring out the characters and plot if I’d read the whole cause in order. So for the rest of the book I read each cause in its entirety beginning to end, reading my way backwards through the causes. It was a good decision because then I was able to connect more with the characters.

There were at least 9 character POVs throughout the book. The main character was Christopher Nost, a mysterious man because most of the time he didn’t know what was happening or who he was. I would, also, argue that Alexander Zarth was the second main character. In contrast to Nost, Zarth knew exactly who he was and what he was doing throughout the whole book. All the other characters revolved around these two men.

The idea of Nost not being able to remember more than a year at a time was intriguing. The whole time sequence was only possible because of it. In order to be able to read the book in any order, you have to treat each chapter as the first, as if the reader doesn’t know anything about the story. Having the main character not know what’s going on allowed for reasonable explanations from the other characters without huge info dumps.

The other major factor in creating the non-linear plot was time itself. Wacks took the view that time is not linear. So events that happened in 2049 AD effected events back in 2016 AD or even 3000 BCE and vice versa. If I followed him right, his point of origin was not what we normally think of as the beginning of time, which is super weird to think about. But each scene took place in a different year. I’d be interested to read the story by the order of the dates, but that might be too much work for me to figure out. Did the time confuse you at all while you read?

Overall, I would have liked the characters to have more depth. I see why they couldn’t. It’d be pretty hard to have complex characters when you have to introduce them in each scene. Wacks did introduce something different about each one in every new scene but it removed the reader from connecting with them. In fact, I found it hard, in the beginning, to know who to root for. Even by the end, I still wasn’t sure who to root for. Even though there was plenty of tension, I don’t think there was one antagonist. If anything, the antagonist might have been time itself. Although, I could see someone arguing that Geo Corp or Time Corp were the antagonists.

In addition to deeper characters, I would have liked more information about how time travel works and all the implications of that. For example, there were a few scenes where time travelers fought each other. They could do some pretty amazing stuff! I wish there had been more of that, because it was just plain awesome!

That’s all I have to say about Second Paradigm. Did you like the book? Would you recommend it to your friends?

This is the point, where I tell you what the next book of the month will be. But, next month is National Novel Writing Month! And I will be very busy trying to write 100k words and be the Writer in Residence at my public library. I’ve decided to give you the month off, in hopes that you will join me in writing your own story or catch up on the other readings you’ve been meaning to get to all year. You can guess what the book of the month will be for December, though! Starsight (book 2 in the Skyward Series) by Brandon Sanderson!

In case, you didn’t catch my last post, I’m participating in Christine Smith’s Know the Novel linkup! So, go read Part 1 and look for Part 2 in November. I can’t wait to tell you how my month of crazy writing pans out.

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