New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey
Published by Titan Books
New Pompeii is a young adult, sci-fi/history novel by Daniel Godfrey which transitions between two protagonists: Nick Houghton who is a historical researcher that works for Novus Particle in New Pompeii to advise them on historical details; and Kirsten Chapman, a ghost that experiences jumps into the future. This novel starts off with Nick getting his research proposals turned down by universities. He takes a job offer after a change encounter in a museum as he views the Peking Man Bones. The ideas in this novel are based on the real Pompeii and research about what life was like during the Roman Empire.
The characters are interesting because each person has different personalities that clash with one another such as Nick being nervous about finding a new job, Kristen being cautious about being discovered by other students, Harold being lazy, leaving most of the work to Whelan, Maggie being constantly concerned about her child, Noah being easily excitable about New Pompeii, Robert being prideful about his buildings, Patrick being calm while taking a tour, and Whelan being serious and hardworking about doing his best for his company.
The characters are built up with minimal background but interesting dynamics. Their personalities leap out at you to make up for the lack of background. Still, I don’t feel attached to these characters because I only see things from Nick’s perspective most of the time, so I don’t get a sense of what the other characters are thinking. Godfrey intentionally left the other characters out to focus more on the protagonist’s struggle with his life.
Generally, the plot flows by connecting various events such as Nick getting a job to him flying on an airplane to New Pompeii to exploring New Pompeii. I would say that the plot eases you into the life of Nick quite well and it also builds up quite neatly throughout the novel. A flaw with the plot is Kristen’s story to give some insight about how Novus Particles (a company that has the technology to time travel) and some background about what Whelan and Harold were like in the past–it just doesn’t fit in with Nick’s story. I feel that her story is a separate, smaller story that is not well integrated into the main plot.
Godfrey’s use of descriptive words helped me imagine what the world of New Pompeii is like, especially his descriptions of the different buildings that Nick sees in his quick tour of New Pompeii:
“Astridge’s buildings rose to different heights all around the square, but the arrangement of columns, porticos, and flanking walls gave the illusion that the area was fully contained by a single interlocking structure.”
This novel seems to tell me that written history doesn’t tell the whole story of what the people were actually like. People are vastly different from how old texts describes them because of everyone having their own personalities and a structure of how things work in their city. People have the capacity to build grand buildings and talk about politics.
New Pompeii was enjoyable to read as it has lots of plot twists that you won’t expect. The story turns into a long adventure with some bumps along as Nick tries to uncover the background behind Novus Particles. This book is one that explores how time travel could be used to exploit people of the past with knowledge of the future. It is an interesting novel that will make you want to read the sequel, Empire of Time that was released in 2017.
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