Hexad: The Factory is a delightful time travel comedy which centers around Dale and Amanda who struggle to come to terms with time travel and using time travel to save the universe.
Hexad asks the question: What if everyone could time travel? It’s almost a blindingly obvious question and yet somehow I’ve read very little about it. Al K. Line takes a very interesting view on one of the possible outcomes – with lots of twists and turns along the way.
The opening chapters really set the scene by introducing the main characters – Amanda and Dale. These two are a lovable couple who have a believable and healthy relationship. Both have strengths and weaknesses and these come into play in how they relate to each other and to the problem at hand – saving the universe.
The first chapter in particular had me smiling at the ignorance of their cluelessness about time travel but at the same time an awareness of the paradoxes that can arise. Since they didn’t know what was going on for a long time, it likewise took me quite a while to figure out what the story line was and I suppose I felt like Amanda and Dale did – having things thrown at me and not knowing where I was going.
This isn’t a bad thing – Hexad is for the most part very light-hearted, and written with the ease and wackyness of Douglas Adams’ Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s good stuff! 🙂
The time travel device is the “Hexad” which Dale digs up from his back yard. It’s a small hand held device and allows 6 jumps in time (hence, presumably, the name). How it’s invented is the ultimate causal loop; instructions being sent to the past from the future.
A brief nod was given to the danger of travelling in time to a place below ground or to where a cat, for example, already occupies the space. Whilst novels such as Nathan Van Coops’ The Chronothon go to great lengths to deal with problem, it was shrugged off here. However, that’s in keeping with Dale’s character and in the style of the novel.
“It’s already happened so it has to happen”
Predestination (having no choice because the future is already determined) is the underlying motivation for much of the novel and is both a strength and a downfall for Hexad: The Factory.
At times the theme is used cleverly to move the plot forwards or to get out of tricky situations (the future me will come back to 2 minutes from now and do something to help us out). I especially liked how Dale and Amanda make efforts to close time loops and make good in the future the actions of the past. Unfortunately the theme did start to get repetitive and conversations about the nature of time travel tended to fixate on causal loops paradoxes. After a while it simply got stale.
Dale / Amanda: “I don’t know if we should do it…”
Amanda / Dale: “Me neither but we do it anyway don’t we?”
Dale / Amanda: “What do you mean?”
Amanda / Dale: “The future us has has already done it so no matter what we do, we end up doing it.”
Dale / Amanda: “I don’t get it. This time travel is really doing my head in.”
Amanda / Dale: “Me too. Let’s have a drink.”
To be fair, there are slight variations in how these situations come about. Indeed, there are many terms which relate to them; “ontological paradox”, “causal loop”, “predestination”, “bootstrap paradox” and the “self-fulfilling prophecy”. I googled each of them – and there are very subtle differences in very subtly different circumstances, but it pretty much amounts to the same thing – there’s no creative origin.
The basis of Hexad: The Factory centres around a fantastic idea – what happened to the universe that it needed saving? Al delivers this smoothly in bite size chunks throughout the novel and lets it unfold slowly instead of spewing it out in one unrealistic go.
However, I can’t help thinking that there’s a flaw.
Al writes clearly and in an easy to read style, whilst at the same time conveying some tricky concepts regarding time travel. But I did get a bit confused over two key points:
The first is why hexads were manufactured with certain ingredients. This is an important point, because the way in which Dale saves the universe is related to the ingredients (I’m deliberately keeping this vague to avoid spoilers..) and it wasn’t in keeping with his character. That said, it was a ‘good’ solution to the predicament that the universe found itself in.
I also didn’t realise the full horror of the factory which manufactured the hexads until towards the end of the novel, i.e. the second time that it was written about. The first time, Amanda and Dale are shocked, but we don’t really know why. The second time it is very clear…and horrific.
In retrospect I can see why the novel is named “The Factory”, but with that in mind I think more clarity would have been welcome. This is an important point because when further details are given over to the factory towards the end the humorous aspect vanishes and the novel takes on a very different tone which is distinctly separate from the earlier part. It was quite horrific in some places though I must admit that I am probably over-sensitive when it comes to blood and guts.
Hexad The Factory is a wacky – but structured – novel. Just when I was getting ‘settled’ into thinking “OK, I think I know what’s going to happen here…” it turns out that I didn’t. Al kept me on my toes by continually hurtling curve balls at me. This makes for a fast moving novel and one which stands out from others with insightful ideas and conclusions to “What if?” scenarios. Here’s one: Can you have an affair with a different version of your wife?
Rating * * * * *
Four and a half stars. That’s the first time I’ve given a non integer star value!
I thoroughly enjoyed Hexad: The Factory – lots of thoughts about time travel and Amanda and Dale are good eggs. The story line is original and there’s plenty to keep the reader wondering what’s going to happen next. The loss of half a star is that many of the time travel discussions ended in the same way – ideas of predestination, a statement that time travel does your head in and a suggestion to get a drink. It got to be a bit too repetitive, but this is only one aspect of a multi-faceted novel
Hexad The Factory: a great comedy time travel novel with looping in time of characters, objects and a resourceful (though sometimes over-used) application of the ontological paradox.
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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of “Hexad: The Factory” to read and provide an honest review. This is it!
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