First Impressions: The Dent in the Universe

Find out The Space Girls first impressions of SPSFC3 contestant, The Dent in the Universe by E. W. Doc Parris.

As part of the Self-Published Sci-Fi Competition, my team (The Space Girls) has been given 25 books to read. Of this initial allocation (or ‘slush pile’), we are reading the first 30% and then voting Yes or No on whether we’d like to continue reading further. You can see our full allocation in my previous blog.

Here are the team’s first impressions of The Dent in the Universe by E. W. Doc Parris. (You can find all of our first impressions posts here.)

The cover for The Dent in the UniverseBook blurb

It turns out “Move fast and break things” is terrible advice when developing a time machine.

To resuscitate his fading celebrity, tech CEO Stephen Lucas would sell his soul for one more hit. When the subspace network for his holographic gaming empire crashes, his hardware guru makes a discovery proving that Einstein was right once again— information can be sent backward in time.

Lucas sees a dream product for procrastinators. Want a pizza now? Send your order back in time 30 minutes. Forgot to make reservations at that chichi french restaurant two weeks ago? No worries. Buy that PowerBall ticket. Invest in that stock. Make a FaceTime call to a loved one that passed away a month ago.

It’s the time machine for the rest of us.

In a culture built on instant gratification, Lucas knows he has a hit that will seem like a dream come true on Wall Street. But when he rushes into beta testing before fully understanding the power he’s unleashing, he learns that the stuff dreams are made of can quickly become the stuff of nightmares.

The road to Hell is paved with cool inventions.

Goodreads / Amazon

Our first impressions

Nancy: Seems like a mixture between techno thriller, procedural crime fiction… and torture porn. I really liked the semi-protagonist, a firefighter named John Banks, even though he appears very briefly in the first 30% of the book. I also liked the discussions about IT and basic networking. It would have been deeply appreciative if the book had offered a trigger warning right at the beginning regarding the torture porn scene. That chapter felt so out of place in a book that didn’t offer any hints body horror would be an essential vibe of the plot. I couldn’t connect to any of the female characters so far in the book. They seemed to have been initially written as male characters, then switched genders at the last minute to fulfil a Beschel quota checklist. Mansplaining tech scenes also seemed weird to me. Outside of these personal qualms, the book needs editing. The first two chapters are very well polished but later ones have a plethora of grammar and syntax errors. I spent a good chunk of time rereading paragraphs. Story-wise, the book is promising enough to read to the end. (Y)

Katherine: This got off to a relatively slow start by 15%. We’ve been in the shoes of a fire chief who’s meant to be meeting his ex-army friend, but his friend says ‘it started when you died’ and we find out his company has just made an FTL network chip. That hints at the forthcoming time travel shenanigans. The two police officers investigating have been taken off a seemingly unrelated serial killer case for this, and we get taken into a scene with this Monster (the serial killer) with a troubled history, who’s torturing a girl while mo-capping her.

Because he had all these plotlines going on, it felt like he was taking a bit long to get to the point. At 27% the murder investigation, which had just found buckets of body parts, still hadn’t been connected to the other threads. The fire chief was, very annoyingly, out of the equation (to be fair, I missed the five-year jump), but by 30% we at least had stuff developing on the FTL front, with the techies developing an instant delivery system. Everything ties in neatly later, though, so I probably shouldn’t complain too much.

Technically: Every now and then it head hops into someone else’s thoughts (noticed twice in 30%). Can be confusing when it jumps to yet another new PoV but it tends to do this to introduce inciting incidents for new stages of the plot. When the new PoV of the investigator is introduced there are some weirdly consistent errors surrounding ‘that’, where there will be a clause within a sentence beginning with ‘that’ that doesn’t make any sense, like it’s missing a word or two. Also misses ‘had’ where it should be in some places but not all. In some places there are a few too many characters and names to keep track of.

Mostly gets multi-paragraph speech punctuation right but slips up for a stretch here and there where it will mostly get it wrong. Tech/science dumps can be a bit boring, and I do work in tech.

Overall a good book, though for reasons I won’t explain here I got quite angry at the ending. Each of the characters was well fleshed out and distinct. (Y)

Kerry: There’s a number of plotlines running through this book all of which took turns in holding my interest, losing it and then a couple of them hooking me in again. The Prologue and first couple of chapters started off very intriguing and I was thrilled to see there was going to be a murder/killer mystery involved (I went into the book not reading the blurb). Of the percentage I read (45%), it was the chapter’s featuring Julia Swann that I enjoyed the most. The prose, pacing and structure all worked for me. However when it came to some of the business/tech scenes I found them often to be dry and on occasion a bit over my head; whereas the killer’s first scene was gratuitous and droll.

I did enjoy some of my time with the group that invented the time machine – frozen slurpee lol!!

Stephen Lucas, the head of One Company was a mixed bag; occasionally one of lads and at other times the overbearing CEO who thought he was better due to his wealth.

What killed this book for me was the sentence that made it obvious who the murderer was, which made for a reasonable assumption that he couldn’t be found. (I admit here that I skipped to the end and read the last few chapters just to ascertain if I was correct — I was; but I really wasn’t invested enough to go back and fill in the rest that I’d missed.) This will be a no from me for moving onto the next phase. (N)

Claire: So far the story is a bit confusing – there are multiple threads that don’t connect or meet up at all. The switches between the serial killer and Stephen (a tech entrepreneur) feel really jarring. I didn’t feel a connection with the characters so far, and don’t want to continue reading. (N)

Verdict: Cut

Please note that these opinions are the judges’ initial impressions of only a part of each book. A book being cut doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad or not worth reading.