In Kenneth Thomas’s science fiction thriller VANWEST: THE PAST, highly trained supersolider VanWest wins the year 3000 Universal Red and Blue Games and is selected by the powerful governing body of Earth to prevent a terrorist organization from changing history. The Utopians believe that all technology after the 20th century is evil: excessive radiation decimated the planet and made the air barely breathable. Utopian agents travel back in time to 1951 Paris to stop the development of CERN, which launched the centuries of scientific advancement that led to this destruction. The Universal Council sends VanWest back in time, too, to stop the Utopians from achieving their goal and changing the future.
VanWest is a worthy hero, having trained his entire life to compete and win in the Universal Games. His determination to win and his strength and quick thinking were hammered into him in the brutal lessons he was taught in his training. He knows the Universal Games are essentially propaganda, but he’s willing to take part for honor and pride. When he is sent back in time to Paris, he follows his orders with strict obedience, but when he crosses paths with his childhood friend, Iris, he discovers that the Universal Council manipulates and oppresses its citizens just as much as its enemies. VanWest’s changing perspective over the course of the book makes him a dynamic character with much at stake, amping up the suspense as he learns more about the two organizations he is contending with.
Brief shifts outside of VanWest’s narrative perspective develop other characters but do not add to the core of the story, which resorts to stereotypes for some characters, such as the female double-agent only known as The Seductress, as well as VanWest’s hot-headed Games teammate, Alpha. While Iris is important to the plot and to VanWest’s transformation, her personality falls flat. Dialogue builds character and relationships while propelling the story, and phrases like “roaching” as a curse add futuristic flair.
The book is fast-paced and action-packed, from VanWest’s tumultuous journey through the Universal Games to his skirmishes with Utopian agents to his confrontation with Universal leaders. VanWest thinks as he acts, mapping out his paths to success at a pace that matches that of an exciting thriller. His swift moves are easy to visualize and are described with energetic, precise language. The cool technology of this 31st-century world, like the Quantum Accelerator that is used to travel in time and the communicator VanWest uses to transmit his thoughts to his commanders, transforms VANWEST THE PAST from a mere thriller to a pulse-pounding science fiction adventure.
Kenneth Thomas’s VANWEST: THE PAST merges imaginative technology with electric action and a subtle message about technology’s effects on the climate, rising above its use of stereotypical characters to offer an exhilarating, action-packed science fiction adventure.
~Aimee Jodoin for IndieReader