Newton's Sleep by Daniel O’Mahony is a well-crafted, very entertaining (though at times confusing) time-travel adventure set primarily in historical England during the era of King Charles onwards. It is, to quote the back of the book, “a stand-alone science fiction novel set in the universe of Faction Paradox.” You may ask yourself, just what exactly is “the universe of Faction Paradox”? Fans of the Dr. Who novels will likely immediately know, because the group of rogue Time Lords come from the pages of these books. The rest of you - no worries, as they say in Australia (and at Outback Steakhouses); prior knowledge of the Dr. Who novels is not at all required to thoroughly enjoy Newton's Sleep.
All of the signs seem to point to the fact that it’s the end of the world. It’s 1651, and a dead angel is found in a tree in Lincolnshire. A nymph rises from the waters of Kent. And in 1642, a dying man is miraculously healed in the grave and rises to live again. He is Nathaniel Silver, and after forming a religious commune of his followers (which fails), he is visited by creatures he believes are angels. Silver saw the dead angel fall when he was a boy, and a part of the angel lives on in him, instructing and guiding his entire life. Silver is to be a sort of port for the dead angel, who also gave Nathaniel a mysterious egg which he keeps in a small wooden box and carries with him wherever he goes.
Different storylines interweave and cross in Newton's Sleep: that of Nathaniel Silver, for instance, and a female spy (Aphra or Astraea) for a organization known as the Service from England. There’s also le Pouvoir of France, who seem to be interested in world domination and are after the secrets of the Mage (Nathaniel Silver), his egg, and anything else that might aid their nefarious plans. Also, there’s the Faction Paradox, who, like Dr. Who, travel to different times to resolve paradoxes and fix potential problems that arise which threaten the course of history.
The Faction Paradox are humans (humanoids, at any rate) who for some reason wear skull-shaped masks and call each other “cousins” - like “Cousin Hateman,” “Cousin Amphigorey” and “Cousin Suppression.” Their leader is named Mother Sphinx, and a newly introduced cousin in this novel plays a vital role in its plot: Little Sister Greenaway. The other members of Faction Paradox travel to London during the Plague to rescue her from it, believing that she can become an important recruit in their battle against beings from the Homeworld.
Confused yet? Don’t worry; the novel will straighten everything out for you, and I’m sure far better than I could in this review. Suffice it to say that Daniel O’Mahony handles the intricate plot lines very well, writing with a detailed realism about the historical eras of his characters that indicates he must have done much research into the times he describes. There’s a lot of action and adventure, and fans of Dr. Who and anyone who loves the sub-genre of scifi which involves time traveling should find Newton's Sleep a book they’ll want to add to their home libraries. It’s published by a company from New Zealand (Random Static Ltd), the land that brought us the TV series Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess, as well as being where the Lord of the Rings movies where filmed, so what can you expect but to find out that an excellent book like Newton's Sleep also had its birth in book format there?