Have you ever abruptly woken up in the morning and have no idea where you are? Your discombulated mind working hard to interpret the fuzzy images slowly coming into focus. Luckily, after you give your head a few shakes, the cobwebs disappear and clarity returns. However, what if it does not? Lucidity replaced with obscurity. This is the case in the novel Clean Slate by author Amanda June Hagarty. A good pick for lovers of imaginative cyberpunk science fiction which explores time travel within an atmosphere of self-discovery and mystery.
Interestingly, this short story begins in a dark and lonely morgue in 1800’s London. Leland Kelly awakens in this creepy setting, dazed and confused. His memories are jumbled and the only thing which he is actually sure of is the presence of a penetrating blackness which seems to be probing his very soul. As Leland exits the morgue and wanders the streets it becomes starkly apparent that he is a wanted man. Shouts of anger and fingers pointing in his direction. Having no recollection of what he could have possibly done to warrant such negative attention, he manages to board a ship and passage to Ireland. It is upon this ship where he is visited by two mysterious figures who actually turn out to be time travellers. They have been sent on a mission to collect Leland and return him to a life which he cannot fully recollect or fathom. Will he accompany the strangers and hopefully begin to piece back his broken memories? Or is there something far more sinister and devious going on here?
Undoubtedly, the author manages to pack a lot into a relatively short story. We are given some background into Leland and his predicament, which are all ultimately tied to the time travel theme of the story. I particularly liked the way the author is able to have her readers time warp through the ages while managing to keep the element of believability intact. Also, the work is quite imaginative and original. It has a much different feel than a lot of the time travel themed books I have read previously. All that being said, I did find the story to be somewhat confusing at times. In fact, I read it through three times to get a full understanding of the events. Perhaps this is due to the propensity of the author to meticulously spell out the actual mechanics of time travel. I must admit that this went somewhat over my head. I much preferred the actual story events and character interaction which takes place instead.
When the story is allowed to flow, the reader is rewarded with an engaging tale which has interesting characters. However, as the main player, Leland comes across as a bit too enigmatic and leaves the reader yearning for more in regards to his development. Obviously, the short nature of the story does not allow for in-depth development. Nevertheless, we are given a small taste of what may be yet to come.
Overall, I did enjoy Clean Slate. It has some very promising aspects and is both imaginative and creative. Parts of the tale were too complex for me however, but I am sure a devoted science fiction fan with a head for such material would fully appreciate the description.
3 out of 5 Enigmatic Stars for this one!