A couple days ago I finished reading the young adult novel, A Matter of Time, by Michael J. Bowler. It’s an historical suspense novel that centres its story around the sinking of the Titanic.
Here’s how the publisher Outskirts Press describes the story: “The world’s greatest evil stalks the world’s greatest ship, and the only one who can stop him hasn’t been born yet.
Jamie Collins is a junior at Santa Clara University in 1986. He has friends, a professor who mentors him, and a promising future as a writer. Then the dreams begin – nightmarish memories that transport him back to a time and place fifty years before he was born: Titanic’s maiden voyage in 1912.
When Jamie discovers a foreign cell in his blood that links him to the famous vessel, the two timelines begin to overlap and he realizes an unimaginable truth – something supernatural stalks the ill-fated ship, something that will kill him if he can’t stop it first. And the only way to stop it may be to prevent Titanic from sinking.
But even if he can figure out a way to do that, should he? What will be the effect on history if he succeeds? And what about the lady he wasn’t supposed to fall in love with? As her destiny becomes entwined with his, Jamie discovers the value of friendship, the power of love, the impact of evil, and the vagaries of Fate.”
It took me a little while to lose myself in this story. The novel started slowly but built up to some gripping scenes as the climax of the story neared. When I began reading, I wasn’t always convinced by the conversations between the college students. Some scenes didn’t feel authentic. But the interaction between the characters felt much more real later in the book, especially as Jamie encountered people from the past then returned to his own era.
The premise for the story, that time travel is possible, was developed in an interesting way and I was intrigued by how the author explains it and fits it into the novel. He also handled well the moral dilemmas the ability to travel through time created, which added depth to the story.
There was an interesting cast of diverse, entertaining characters and I had clear images of each of them from the author’s descriptions and the characters’ interaction with each other. Jamie, Maggie and Kate were portrayed particularly well and I was drawn into their predicament. I thought that the author dealt very well with Jamie and Kate’s relationship, in the past and the modern era, though I was disappointed that we did not see more of them together in the modern era.
I thought that the story might have explored too many of the characters’ life stories. This distracted from the central story and diluted some of its power. Although many of the characters played pivotal roles at various points in the plot, we did not need to know as much about them as the author revealed.
The author has obviously done considerable research into the events that unfolded on the Titanic in April 1912 and this is reflected in the vivid scenes he paints when Jamie finds himself aboard the ship.
Although I suspected as I read that I knew how the story would unfold, and I foresaw one of the twists to the plot, I still enjoyed the novel. The ending was a bit clichéd and I’m not sure it was the strongest way to wrap up the book but it didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the story.
Overall I enjoyed this novel. It was an entertaining tale with an interesting slant on a well-known event.
About Michael J. Bowler: He is an award-winning author of nine novels––A Boy and His Dragon, A Matter of Time (Silver Medalist from Reader’s Favorite), and The Knight Cycle, comprised of five books: Children of the Knight (Gold Award Winner – 2013 Wishing Shelf Book Awards; Reader Views Honorable mention; Runner-Up Rainbow Awards; Honorable Mention – Southern California Book Festival), Running Through A Dark Place (Bronze Award Winner – 2014 Wishing Shelf Book Awards), There Is No Fear (Finalist – 2015 Wishing Shelf Book Awards), And The Children Shall Lead, Once Upon A Time In America, Spinner (Winner – Hollywood Book Festival; Honorable Mention – San Francisco Book Festival; Bronze Medal from Readers’ Favorite; Literary Classics Seal of Approval; Runner-Up – Southern California Book Festival; Honorable Mention – Halloween Book Festival; Finalist – 2015 Wishing Shelf Book Awards), and Warrior Kids: A Tale of New Camelot (Honorable Mention in the London Book Festival and The New England Book Festival; Finalist – 2015 Wishing Shelf Book Awards.)
His horror screenplay, “Healer,” was a Semi-Finalist, and his urban fantasy script, “Like A Hero,” was a Finalist in the Shriekfest Film Festival and Screenplay Competition.
He grew up in San Rafael, California, and majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University. He went on to earn a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and another master’s in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.
He partnered with two friends as producer, writer, and/or director on several ultra-low-budget horror films, including “Fatal Images,” “Club Dead,” and “Things II.”
He taught high school in Hawthorne, California for twenty-five years, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities, in subjects ranging from English and Strength Training to Algebra, Biology, and Yearbook.
He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to eight different boys with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a thirty-three volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles.
He has been honored as Probation Volunteer of the Year, YMCA Volunteer of the Year, California Big Brother of the Year, and 2000 National Big Brother of the Year. The “National” honor allowed him and three of his Little Brothers to visit the White House and meet the president in the Oval Office.
He has finished writing a novel based on his screenplay, “Like A Hero,” and another book aimed at the teen market. He hopes to find a publisher or an agent for both.
His goal as an author is for teens to experience empowerment and hope; to see themselves in his diverse characters; to read about kids who face real-life challenges; and to see how kids like them can remain decent people in an indecent world. The most prevalent theme in his writing and his work with youth is this: as both a society, and as individuals, we’re better off when we do what’s right, rather than what’s easy.