eBook, ComiXology, Paperback
November 9, 2016
Reviews by Chris Fried
Clio is the eldest daughter of Kate and Kiernan Dunne, time travelers who helped save the world from a diabolical Cyrist plot. As a result, they are over-protective of Clio given what’s happened in the past. But since she’s nineteen and heading off to college to live life on her own for the first time, focusing on developing her artistic skills.
But since she lives in Chicago, 1931, she winds up being a sketch artist during the trial of Al Capone! Then, she thinks she spots a time traveler who looks like he’s up to no good. When confronted by this mysterious person, she’s coerced into going on a time travel road trip so dangerous, it’s unlikely Clio will survive the treacherous situations she’s thrust into!
Whether Clio travels to the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, the middle of a battlefield during the American Civil War or other times and locales familiar to Chronos Files readers, her ability to think on her feet comes in handy with each encounter. And she’ll need it, as this is a non-stop roller-coaster ride with a lot of unanticipated twists, especially for a novice time traveler like Clio. This journey firmly places the reader in Clio’s shoes as she’s whisked through many different time periods and you feel her apprehension and fear with each perilous experience. Mixed in with that is also the joy and wonder Clio feels with her time traveling.
Clio is a fully-realized character, as I really liked her empathy and her desire to do the right thing and help others despite the risks she was taking in each time period. Since she has no real-time travel experience, she’s improvising as best she can and her mettle is tested like never before. When she begins to figure out how to manage the situation to her own advantage, it all culminates in an unexpected ending filled with some very unpredictable moments.
Clio has some great character beats in between the rollicking adventures she takes with each passing page. Her pluckiness and courage are on full display as someone who’s out of her depth but tries mightily to find her footing despite the precarious circumstances. And as for the other characters we’ve met before, they look and sound like they do in the novels, with the sparkling dialogue and repartee between characters, as well as the charming malice that comes from the antagonist in this story.
The collaboration between Rysa Walker and Heather Nuhfer felt seamless to me, as the dialogue seemed like Rysa wrote it with her usual emotional authenticity. The artist Agustin Padilla also brings their wonderful written words to life, translating characters and time travel technology to his artwork that aligns closely to the images I conjured in my mind’s eye when I was reading the prose novels.
You might be wondering whether this can be read and enjoyed by someone who’s never read any “Chronos Files” prose stories before. The answer to that question is “yes” as this stands alone from previously published tales and can be read without any other prior knowledge. However, if you have read them, certain scenes, events and characters here will have an extra depth to them, working on another level and adding resonance to what you’ve read before.
Given that I’ve read all the previously published “Chronos Files” stories to date, I found this was another truly delightful trip in this universe that I really enjoyed, especially in the graphic novel format. For those that don’t know, this graphic novel collects issues one through four of the “Time Trial” comic book miniseries into one paperback, published by Jet City Comics. It was really a lot of fun to see these characters and time traveling illustrated, along with meeting Clio and seeing how she responded to the sheer craziness that time traveling can bring. I hope the future will bring us more stories with these characters and situations, as I would welcome it.
December 17, 2016
In 1905, Kiernan sees an injured and bleeding duplicate version of himself blink into existence. As he tries to reconcile his memories of the past after this event, he struggles with a conundrum about a crucial moment in 1893 where someone he cares about died, Kate. Can he actually save her from a serial killer and at what cost to himself or his duplicates? In Kiernan’s attempt to change the past, we are treated to a dark and horrific story filled with intrigue, clever uses of time travel, some sly humor about so many duplicate Kiernan’s running around and exciting, unpredictable twists. A thoroughly delightful time travel tale that uncovers the details of how Kiernan tried to accomplish his mission as depicted in the author’s novel “Timebound.”
I read this short story when it was originally published in “Clones: The Anthology,” a collection filled with much more excellent short stories about clones just like this one!
Also, if you found either of these reviews to be helpful, please take a moment to click on the link and head on over to Amazon to let them know by marking it as helpful. You can do so here for “Time Trial” and here for “Splinter.”
Special Feature – an interview with Rysa Walker:
1.) “Time Trial” feels like “Chronos Files: The Next Generation” with smaller, but no less important, stakes. What made you decide to have Clio be the main character of this adventure? And how did you decide upon the plot and characters for this particular story?
Rysa Walker: When I wrapped up Kate’s story in Time’s Divide, the final CHRONOS book, I wanted to leave her with her happy, if somewhat bittersweet, ending. There were still many readers with questions about Kiernan, however, along with requests that I tell more about his life after the main series ended. I always knew that Kiernan had a daughter–at one point, I even thought Clio might make a brief guest appearance at the end of Time’s Divide. But the characters decided against that when I sat down to write, and in retrospect, I think it was a good choice.
The tricky thing with time travel stories, however, is that it’s so easy to unravel what you’ve already fixed. CHRONOS still exists in Kate’s future, there are still a few time travel devices out there, and things could easily get screwed up again. I knew that any stories I told within this universe would need to be in the past, by characters who have a strong commitment to not messing up the future that Kate, Kiernan, and the others worked so hard to attain. And even if Simon is out of the picture in Kate’s present, he’s still bouncing around in the past thanks to his addiction to time tourism, and anything that changes his history even slightly puts their victory over Saul and the Cyrists at risk.
It was also fun exploring Simon a bit more in Time Trial. I think there’s a tendency to make villains one dimensional…and I think readers do this when they interpret the story at least as much as writers do when they create it. It’s easier to simplify a villain, to just think of him or her as the baddie, without looking at motivations and the underlying humanity that might be mangled, but still there. Simon is a character who remains very vivid in my mind, partly because of his complexity.
2.) Often times, when a graphic novel has a “Story By” credit and a “Written By” credit, more often than not, the story outline is given to the writer and the writer takes it and runs with it. How little or how much of a role did you have beyond crafting the story? What was the collaborative process like with writer Heather Nuhfer?
Rysa Walker: Time travel complicates everything. When I decided to do Time Trial with Jet City Comics, that was indeed the original idea–I would write a brief outline of the plot and the overall story, then hand off to Heather. Unfortunately, there were many, many things that had to be controlled in this story. Otherwise, we risked unraveling the plot of the entire series. Clio’s travels with Simon take place during a stretch of time that he viewed as a final “binge” before carrying out his role in the Cyrist Culling, a period of time before Clio was even born, at least from Simon’s perspective.
If that makes absolutely no sense, then you have some idea what I mean by time travel complicating things. it’s probably just easier to follow the lead of my favorite incarnation of Doctor Who and say time is a wibbly-wobbly ball and it’s best not to start tugging at the threads if you want to stay sane.
To make matters worse for poor Heather, I’m not a plotter. I know the characters and the general situation when I sit down to write, but that’s it. The “outline” I handed them was pretty much the full story, and thanks to the time travel complications, we couldn’t veer too far away from my detailed plan. Heather did a fabulous job with pacing and helping me to shape the dialogue into a more typical form for a graphic novel, but it was probably a much more constraining process than she’s used to, because I kept having to tweak things to keep the timeline from unraveling.
3.) Bringing characters and technology from the written page to the graphic novel format can be tricky because it needs to conform to what you’ve written previously while also looking familiar to what you envisioned in your mind’s eye. But when it’s done right, it works really well and I feel that was definitely achieved here. So how much did you collaborate with the artist, Agustin Padilla, on some of the familiar characters, the Chronos keys, etc. that we’ve seen previously in the novels and make them look “authentic” to match your written stories?
Rysa Walker: You’re right–it can be very tricky. Luckily for me, I had an incredible team, including my editor, Paul Morrissey. And Agustin was wonderful about tweaking things. We also started out with actual photos of many of the various historical events. I posted dozens of pictures in a private Pinterest board, including images from the Capone trial, the Chicago World’s Fair, and also of the physical CHRONOS keys that we sell on Etsy and give out at signings.
It was exciting seeing the rough sketches come in, and then watching as they morphed into the beautiful final line drawings, and then came alive through the magic of our colorist, Chris Summers. Everyone was incredibly flexible. If something was wrong…eye color, a historical detail, etc…they were always happy to tweak things so that we didn’t have a break with the books or a problem with historical accuracy.
4.) I can see how much fun you must have had in writing this series, especially the scenes taking place in 1893, saying to yourself: “Let’s see how Clio handles THIS situation!” What was it like for you to see this Chronos Files story brought to life the way it has, in this graphic novel format? Was your approach different to writing a graphic novel versus writing your prose stories?
Rysa Walker: For me, it’s all about the characters and situations, so you’re right…having Clio in a situation similar to the one that Kate faced in Timebound was a lot of fun.
My process in creating the story was pretty much the same. I’m a fairly visual writer, and I need to see the setting and characters in my head before I start writing. (You really do NOT want to know how long I spent browsing through the 1893 World’s Fair photo collection at Internet Archive before writing Timebound.)
Usually, however, I have to simply hope that the descriptions I gave in the writing created a similar picture in the reader’s mind. They don’t always, and I think that’s partly because the reader’s mind pulls in that person’s own ideas, desires, and experiences to complete the picture. This time, however, I was able to see the images that the story created in at least a few heads as the team pulled it into the new medium.
5.) I would love to see more of these characters and situations. What are the chances we will see more of Clio and her famous family, either in prose or in a follow-up graphic novel? You left us with an ending that I would like to see a continuation of.
Rysa Walker: I’m thinking we’ll see more of Clio. I don’t know yet whether it will be in graphic novel form, although I’m certainly open to that. It was a truly fun ride and I’d love to partner with this team again.
6.) The story in “Splinter” fits so well into “Timebound” that it reads almost like a lost chapter from that novel. Did you always feel like this was an untold story that needed to be fleshed out more or did you leave this situation well enough alone initially, knowing there was a larger story to be told at some point down the road?
Rysa Walker: Structurally speaking, “Splinter” is closer to a lost chapter from Time’s Echo, the companion novella that’s written from Kiernan’s point-of-view. But Kiernan definitely alludes to these events in Timebound–he just doesn’t go into a lot of detail. That’s partly because the experience is too fresh and raw for him at that point, and partly because it would have made Kate feel horrible to know what he went through in his efforts to save her.
One reason I wrote the novellas in the CHRONOS series is that there were things we couldn’t see in the main books, which are written in the first person from Kate’s perspective. I wasn’t really sure where Kiernan’s story would wrap up at the beginning, however. Would I stop when Kiernan’s story merged with Kate’s or go beyond to their next encounter in 1893? In the end, length made that decision for me. The contract with my publisher said that I could self-publish novellas of 30,000 words or less. They were actually very flexible on this point–Time’s Mirror, the Prudence novella, is 45K–but this was early in the game and I didn’t want to push my luck. So Time’s Echo only explored part of the story. The scenes with Kiernan at H. H. Holmes’s “murder castle” were always clear in my mind visually, however, and it was just a matter of diving back in and learning exactly what happened.