Plato’s Labyrinth: Dinosaurs, Ancient Greeks And Time Travelers by Michael Carroll (book review).
To many, Michael Carroll, not to be confused with the Irish writer of the same name, is best known as an astronomical artist and a very good one. In this field, his work is always accurate and realistic. Perhaps a little more ‘painterly’ than the famous Chesley Bonsetell, but just as realistic and compelling. But he has also published over thirty books, mostly non-fiction, such as ‘Living Among Giants’, about the exploration of the outer solar system and this is his fourth novel.
Sub-titled ‘Dinosaurs, Ancient Greeks And Time Travelers’, this does indeed cover all those subjects, but in a highly imaginative way. It starts, as we might expect, with dinosaurs. But these are sculptures, made by Waterhouse Hawkins in Central Park, New York in 1871 and about to be smashed. We find out why, and whether he had got those dinosaurs right, in due course. Were they slow, armoured, crawling monsters or were they feathered and active? Does it matter? His original sketches also feature in the story.
In the modern day, some people decide to find out and discover a way to travel backwards or forward in time, using coffin-shaped capsules called ‘pods’. To explore and exploit this they set up, ChronoCorp, an organisation in which the main characters are scientists Xavier Stengel, Katya Joshi and Todd Tanaka, along with Bradley Glenn.
But what is the mysterious Primus Imperium with its leader, known only as ‘The Ambassador’ and who is the wealthy and beautiful Mila van Dijk? Why is Rex Berringer so interested in their activities and where do his loyalties lie? Along the way, this results in doppelgangers, with all the confusion that this can cause. Their journeys take them from 19th century New York to ancient Thera, known to us as Santorini.
You do need to concentrate, because in lesser hands you could easily get lost in time and space but Carroll shows a masterly control over these! This is definitely ‘hard’ SF, but he proves himself able to weave in believable interpersonal relationships and people. There is even some love-interest! If you enjoy a really good, satisfying but unusual story, I cannot recommend this too highly.
David A. Hardy
(pub: Springer, 2022. 410 page paperback. Price: £17.90 (UK). ISBN: 978-3-03091-708-1)