I received a free copy of this book to review. However, the following review is my honest opinion.
Joel Smith is the kind of guy who would decide on a whim to explore an old mine. Well, he is a geology student after all. A few minutes in, he comes face to face with a rattlesnake. Curiosity could have killed the cat. Instead, Joel stumbles out of the mine and realises curiosity brought him back. To 1941, that is.
Joel immediately tries to return to the year 2000. When going back in the mine yields nothing, he has to figure out how to survive in a time that doesn’t accept his credit cards and has no cell phone service. The horror, right?
He wanders around homeless (but not totally hopeless) and learns the art of hitching rides on trains and asking shady people for jobs. When he saves some poor sap from a mugging, however, things start to turn around. Said sap is both grateful and well-off. He gets Joel a job in a time where there are no jobs. But Joel’s not out of the woods yet; he meets his own grandmother and knows he has the potential to royally screw things up, timeline-wise. Let’s just hope he doesn’t undo his own birth.
The Quills: 8.5/10
Adam knew damn well that the waitress in Helena had had her eyes on Joel–wink action, my ass–but he enjoyed playing along. That was part of the fun of running in Joel’s pack. Life was a game to Mr. Smith, and he didn’t care if others won.
-John A. Heldt, The Mine
The Mine is historical science fiction (the time travel is based on scientific events) told in third person from multiple points of view. Joel is college-aged, which makes this New Adult territory. I didn’t realise this at first because the voice at the beginning is kind of middle-aged. However, as the book goes along, Joel gains his energetic, college guy voice.
The writing is great and the novel is well-researched. There are a lot of sports references used to characterise and world-build. I have to admit, I wasn’t familiar with a lot of them. I’m not sure how effective these references are (because most readers don’t google things in the middle of reading) but maybe other readers know more famous athletes than I do. Admittedly, the only ones I know are figure skaters and those that have been on TV recently.
The characterisation is both so, so good, and so, so bad. The characters’ actions speak for themselves. I got to know them well because they are real and vibrant, and everything they do tells me something about them. That’s why, whenever I came across whole paragraphs loaded with adjectives describing the characters, I winced. They are awkward, clumsy, and completely unnecessary, especially for this target audience.
The book begins slowly, picks up speed, and then flops a bit in the middle. The middle section loses tension because there are no stakes. Joel’s just going with the flow. However, it quickly picks up again once you struggle through the middle bit, so don’t lose hope. The end is the tiniest bit dragged out, but it does tie up all the loose ends fantastically.
The world is old, new, and classy. It’s beautifully crafted and the characters fit perfectly. It’s much less reading the book and more living in it.
The Roses: 8/10
By the end, I really enjoyed this book. During the slow middle, however, I wasn’t entirely sure.
I loved watching Joel grow and develop throughout this book. The whole “omg I know these people’s fates but can’t mess with it” thing was also really sad, especially as I got to know all the characters. I do wonder how many things Joel screwed up for the future, or if his actions acted in one of those infinite loops.
I’ve never been a huge fan of time travel in any medium because usually, it involves a lot of cliche things (I’ve seen getting involved in wars, involvement in the crowning of famous peoples, and being part of your own conception quite a bit). However, this was a really refreshing romance/slice-of-life/coming-of-age thingy.
Conclusion: The Mine will really suck you into its world, leaving you missing the characters on the way out. It’s a good thing this is the first of the Northwest Passage series.