Unburning Alexandria by Paul Levinson (book review).

A couple years back I reviewed Paul Levinson’s time travel story ‘The Plot To Save Socrates’ which I enjoyed. ‘Unburning Alexandria’ is the sequel. Time traveller Sierra Waters has set herself a new mission to rescue the Library of Alexandria which is a lot harder than it looks. There were three major fires spread over three centuries. That’s not a problem for a time traveller except that she also has to contemplate that Heron, the inventor of the time travel chairs from a far distant future, doesn’t want her to, especially as he has hidden the secret of how to build the time travel chairs in said library. Therein lies the conflict.


Neither Sierra or Heron are the only time travellers and she invariably visits the future of 2061 to garner support and knowledge from her allies. Sierra isn’t out to change the past as such, just preserve the library’s books from the devastation to be picked up at a later time. I should also point that in the past, Sierra poses as Hypatia, after the original has been killed and continues the pose when in the past.

When there have been problems in the past, she and Heron have invariably changed little details to preserve the lives of various team members which can make for some odd reading on occasion. To tell you too much more will involve me changing your past so you can’t remember it and have to buy the book the book to find out what happens next.

There are other little quirkinesses where you wonder if a little more detail could have helped like giving a helping female looking android without a name a name for easier identification.

I wasn’t that convinced that Levinson should have had the last chapter of ‘Socrates’ as a lead in to this book when a précis of past events would have been more helpful to the new reader. A couple chapters in and I was up to speed but the transition could have been a lot smoother.

There is still a lot of clever ideas here but I think a little more polishing could have raised the level of this book a little higher to balance out towards the level of the ‘Socrates’ book. Sierra Waters is clearly an interesting character but her aims should certainly have been aided by showing more of her thinking and how she can get so much co-operation in what she does. Heron or Hero isn’t an all-out villain neither but his cloudy choices likewise blur. I mean, here you have the maker of these time machine chairs who wants their use limited but still has them available for other people to use but hasn’t figured out a way for them not to get into other hands.

I do hope Levinson has something in the works to explain things that are missed out here as there are indications that it needs a third book.

GF Willmetts

September 2013

(pub: JoSara MeDia. 232 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $12.99 (US), £ 8.50 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-56175-014-6)

check out website: www.josaramedia.com


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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