I promised Joe I’d get the review out before the end of the year. I know, I’m cutting it close.
What the publisher says:
Barnabus’ nephew is behaving oddly.
Calling upon Doctor Humphrey for assistance has not been particularly helpful, because the good doctor’s diagnosis of demonic possession is clearly preposterous. Even the demon currently ensconced on the front room couch agrees it’s preposterous. But then, how else to explain the portal to another world through which his nephew and Humphrey have just now disappeared? Barnabus knows their only chance of rescue is for Barnabus J. Wildebear himself to step up and go through that portal.
Thus begins an existential romp across space and time, trampling on Barnabus’ assumptions about causality, freewill, identity, good, and evil. Can Barnabus save his nephew—and incidentally, all of humanity?
I liked A Time and a Place and there’s a lot to like in Mahoney’s novel. I loved the T’Klee, the race of alien cats (distantly related to felis catus) with opposable thumbs. At one point in his journey, Barnabus inhabits other animals (including a T’Klee) as part of his education and it reminded me of Merlin teaching Wart about the responsibilities of power in T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone.
At another point, Barbabus uses his new ability to time travel in an attempt to save his wife before she died. Replaying the events of the night again and again, Barnabus fails, no matter what he attempts to change. This trope alludes to Groundhog Day and serves to reinforce the hypothesis that the past protects itself from interference. But then, Barnabus discovers that others have successfully messed with the timeline, throwing him and that hypothesis under the bus.
Unfortunately, Barnabus seems pulled through the events of the story by external forces and lacks the level of agency I like to see in a protagonist. Much of the time he comes across as bewildered. I actually thought B. Wildebear a clever bit of wordplay until the author disabused me of the notion.
A Time and a Place is a complex story and an ambitious novel, but I found that the execution wasn’t quite up to the premise. It’s still an entertaining and worthwhile story and I hope you consider giving this Canadian speculative novel a read over the holidays.
Three out of five stars.