A while back I reviewed Slow Down by Lee Matthew Goldberg, a dark noir novel that really stood out from the crowd. As part of a blog tour by Blackthorn Book Tours I’m now reviewing his latest novel, The Ancestor. Like Slow Down, The Ancestor is a piece of fiction that doesn’t quite fit into one genre, instead offering something very original to its readers as a time slip book with thriller and noir aspects.
***AD: This review contains a press sample but all thoughts are my own***
“A man wakes up in present-day Alaskan wilderness with no idea who he is, nothing on him save an empty journal with the date 1898 and a mirror. He sees another man hunting nearby, astounded that they look exactly alike. After following this other man home, he witnesses a wife and child that brings forth a rush of memories of his own wife and child, except he’s certain they do not exist in modern times—but from his life in the late 1800s. After recalling his name is Wyatt, he worms his way into his doppelganger Travis Barlow’s life.
Memories become unearthed the more time he spends, making him believe that he’d been frozen after coming to Alaska during the Gold Rush and that Travis is his great-great-grandson. Wyatt is certain gold still exists in the area and finding it with Travis will ingratiate himself to the family, especially with Travis’s wife Callie, once Wyatt falls in love. This turns into a dangerous obsession affecting the Barlows and everyone in their small town, since Wyatt can’t be tamed until he also discovers the meaning of why he was able to be preserved on ice for over a century.
A meditation on love lost and unfulfilled dreams, The Ancestor is a thrilling page-turner in present-day Alaska and a historical adventure about the perilous Gold Rush expeditions where prospectors left behind their lives for the promise of hope and a better future. The question remains whether it was all worth the sacrifice….”
The above synopsis immediately made me want to read The Ancestor. What a plot! It’s such a fascinating idea, and I was curious to find out how it would be executed.
Like with Slow Down, two things really make the book stand out. Firstly, its originality and willingness to test the boundaries of genre and fiction and secondly, the beautifully crafted writing style. Goldberg has a very modern writing style… It’s original, and he owns it. I personally love it however, like other styles, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Wyatt, our main character, is a really interesting one. He’s very likable at the start, and it’s funny seeing how he interacts with modern-day inventions that understandably alienate him. As the story goes on we learn more about his past through resurfaced memories in the form of diary entries, and his character starts to really twist and develop into something quite unusual. By the end of the book, my feelings for him were very different indeed. It makes the experience very emotive – my emotions were particularly noticeable at the end.
Travis, our other main character, was the complete opposite for me. At the start I’ll admit I found him a bit dull. He seemed to be going nowhere, and I felt a bit sorry for those around him. However, as I got to know him more I found myself really relating to him. Eventually I was rooting for him entirely.
The other characters were a bit of a mix – all well-developed with interesting stories, but certainly not all likable. I found Callie, Travis’ wife, really interesting, and was glad when she finally got a bit more focus. I easily could have read more about her as I loved her backstory. Travis’ family were all battling demons in some way and I really liked those side plots. Each storyline thread weaved wonderfully into the others, giving the plot a certain richness.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in Alaska before, and I don’t know much about the place. Goldberg’s writing brings in to life, with such a vivid and believable description of Alaskan culture. He doesn’t just write about the townsfolk and their experiences but also the local tribes, and this was fascinating. The bleakness and cold of Alaska is certainly obvious but also the wonders of the place, from the surrounding nature to the realness of the people there. I’d like to read more from the area.
Wyatt’s past is what makes this a time slip book, and this element was so well-written. It was clear that the author has researched this extensively. Interestingly, the majority of this happens all in one go. Whilst it makes sense for the present-day plot, I felt it would have worked better in short bursts spread across the story to keep things fresh. There were many cliff-hanger parts and this could have accentuated the tension further. However, I appreciated the change of tenses and writing style, and did find this part quite gripping.
The Ancestor is quite unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s different from what I was expecting, mostly due to Wyatt’s secrecy surrounding his situation. I thought there would be more exploration of how he survived being frozen and the struggles of becoming accustomed to modern-day life. Instead, the author writes it more as a personal journey, which isn’t a bad thing but a different slant to what I truly wanted.
That being said, it is very well written, and I really enjoyed my experience with it. Goldberg isn’t just a good author but one that takes risks, and they certainly pay off. His writing is refreshing, and I’d recommend this book for readers who need something a little bit different than usual. Yes, it functions as a thriller, but with its historical, noir, and almost sci-fi elements, The Ancestor is an adventurous time slip book that truly brings something else to the table.
If you’d like to purchase a copy of The Ancestor then you can do so here:
“Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE DESIRE CARD, THE MENTOR, and SLOW DOWN. He has published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. The second book in the Desire Card series, PREY NO MORE, is forthcoming in 2020, along with his first Sci-Fi novel ORANGE CITY.
His new endeavor will be as the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe Press and Fringe Digital, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box.
His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests.
After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, Cagibi, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City.”
Have you read a time slip book before or one that involves multiple time periods? Is there a particular time period that you love to read about? Share your thoughts below and don’t forget to like and pin if you enjoyed my review! You might also enjoy these other book reviews: