Reviews

Literary Titan – 5 Stars by Thomas Anderson

VanWest The Past by Kenneth Thomas is a thrilling intergalactic, dystopian space adventure taking place in the year 3000. Captain VanWest is our infallible protagonist. His mission is to escape the authoritarian society under the control of the Universal Council in order to reach the year 1951. The scenes and settings of all the years and places are extremely vivid and detailed, whether it be the futuristic Black Mirror-esque 3000 or simply 1990s Florida. VanWest has to prove again and again the strength of his character as he battles impossible odds, so that the restoration of the Earth to an earlier, brighter time may be possible.

It wasn’t a stretch for me to imagine that this would be our world in a few centuries or so. The author has created an extremely believable dystopia, simply by extrapolating the consequences of mankind’s current issues: everything from the deteriorating state of the environment or an increasingly unstable global political atmosphere. The best and scariest dystopian novels are those which aren’t too far from our reality.

The side plots are also well-developed. Even though VanWest is single-minded with his mission, he faces numerous other personal issues, including a complicated romantic situation that poses a threat to his goals. The way he navigates his moral, social, and ethical dilemmas is also presented in a very interesting way. Even though he had to make some tough choices along the way, VanWest remained consistent to his character and had me rooting for him throughout.

A lot of the creepy crawly creatures and characters of this book reminded me of a variety of other great stories I had read in the past. It harkens back to everything from Brave New World in the way it portrays the nature of the ruling body and Percy Jackson in the way its action scenes are jam-packed and relentless. I thought it was the mark of  great science fiction noveol the way it incorporated the best elements from some of the best examples in the field.

The pace is extremely fast, but it is suitable for the nature of the plot. Even though it ended in a cliffhanger, it felt like a well-rounded end to an enthralling story. I cannot wait for the next in the series.

Readers’ Favorite

Reviewed By Asher Syed for Readers’ Favorite. 5 Stars

VanWest: The Past by Kenneth Thomas is the first book in the science fiction VanWest series. Set in the year 3000, humanity has eradicated the fragile balance of the earth’s ecosystem, destroying all of its natural resources and pushing those ‘lucky enough’ to survive either deep below ground or to the bitter expanse of the Antarctic tundra, the latter of which is ruled by an unforgiving authoritarian regime called the Universal Council. Below an echelon of despotic oligarchs stands Captain VanWest, who is their will and service, having been trained meticulously for any situation as an Enforcer. As VanWest proves his loyalty and suitability, he is transported back in time to thwart all attempts of a Utopian uprising; a revolution that transcends space and time and is the catalyst in a mind-bending technological war to preserve the grip of the Universal Council.

Kenneth Thomas does a wonderful job laying the foundation for a series that has the potential to go in many different directions with The Past. As far as science fiction novels go, this installment is compact and teeters on the length of a novella; a paradox that works wholly to the story’s advantage in this case. The development of life in the year 3000 and the contrasts made through the eyes of VanWest, who takes on the French name Jacques, in 1950s Paris is incredibly well executed. Despite his training, VanWest is still caught off guard by how different life was then versus how life, or rather what is left of it, is in his native time. Small pleasures of both the mind and the flesh, and the relative freedom from the control of the Universal Council, make a fierce soldier of the regime more malleable to the Utopian mission. This exploration of growth is where the narrative really shines, watching as VanWest stretches out in a substantive character redemption arc driven by those who surround him.

Reader’s Favorite

Reviewed By K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite. 5 Stars

VanWest: The Past is a work of fiction in the dystopian and science fiction sub-genres and was penned by author Kenneth Thomas. The opening book in the VanWest series, this first adventure focuses on titular character Captain VanWest, who currently works as an Enforcer for the all-encompassing leadership of the Universal Council. When the captain is tasked with a time travel mission to stop rebels from changing the past (and therefore the future), he comes to learn much about his own dark history, as well as the desires of the heart which may change his allegiance to the dystopian world he knows.

Author Kenneth Thomas presents a stylish and solidly built science fiction work with plenty for fans of hard sci-fi and dystopia to get their teeth into. There is also a great deal of drama and emotional involvement throughout the plot, which makes for a well-rounded read and helps to place the characters realistically in their fantastical setting. One of the things which I particularly enjoyed about the tale was a blending of new futuristic science fiction with classic sci-fi ideas from the past, which were meshed really well by the 1950s setting. As we visit many familiar places and times in Earth’s recent past, so realism and surrealism blend to perfection: we are in safe hands with a capable narrator who holds the story together well. Overall, I would highly recommend VanWest: The Past for dystopian and space-and-time adventure fans everywhere: an exciting start to what promises to be an excellent new series.

Reviewed By Jessica Barbosa for Readers’ Favorite. 5 Stars

VanWest the Past by Kenneth Thomas centers around Captain VanWest, a relatively young, recently promoted Enforcer who is one of the contestants in the Universal Red and Blue Games. The games are done to show the best and overwhelming capabilities of its contestants, a way for the Universal Council to project an imperious façade. However, at the end of the Games, something unexpected happens and it makes him doubt his own past and his ‘gift’. VanWest is placed in a tight spot and he begins to question everything he knows and believes under the Universal Council. When he is given an important task to stop a renegade sect, he does not know who or what to listen to. In the moment when the mind and the heart are conflicted, what is the right choice?

VanWest the Past is a tightly-packed, action-filled novel. Kenneth Thomas succeeds in creating an impressive, futuristically imagined setting wherein the Earth’s health and population decline because of the explosive growth of long-distance space travel. I found this book to be highly creative, fast-paced, and exciting. I really enjoyed the development of the story and its characters. I also anticipated every interaction between the iron-fisted autocratic governance, the Universal Council, and VanWest. With every exchange between them, I was able to understand and see the Universal Council’s true motives and learn a bit more about the mysterious VanWest too. This book has done a good job of sweeping me along in the exciting and nerve-wracking journey of Captain VanWest. I was so immersed in the story that I could feel VanWest’s uncertainty exuding from the pages as he was forced to make difficult choices. I found this novel to be a thrilling page-turner and I truly enjoyed reading it!

Reviewed By Aimee Jodoin for IndieReader. 4.5 Stars

In Kenneth Thomas’s science fiction thriller VANWEST: THE PAST, highly trained supersolider VanWest wins the year 3000 Universal Red and Blue Games and is selected by the powerful governing body of Earth to prevent a terrorist organization from changing history. The Utopians believe that all technology after the 20th century is evil: excessive radiation decimated the planet and made the air barely breathable. Utopian agents travel back in time to 1951 Paris to stop the development of CERN, which launched the centuries of scientific advancement that led to this destruction. The Universal Council sends VanWest back in time, too, to stop the Utopians from achieving their goal and changing the future.

VanWest is a worthy hero, having trained his entire life to compete and win in the Universal Games. His determination to win and his strength and quick thinking were hammered into him in the brutal lessons he was taught in his training. He knows the Universal Games are essentially propaganda, but he’s willing to take part for honor and pride. When he is sent back in time to Paris, he follows his orders with strict obedience, but when he crosses paths with his childhood friend, Iris, he discovers that the Universal Council manipulates and oppresses its citizens just as much as its enemies. VanWest’s changing perspective over the course of the book makes him a dynamic character with much at stake, amping up the suspense as he learns more about the two organizations he is contending with.

Brief shifts outside of VanWest’s narrative perspective develop other characters but do not add to the core of the story, which resorts to stereotypes for some characters, such as the female double-agent only known as The Seductress, as well as VanWest’s hot-headed Games teammate, Alpha. While Iris is important to the plot and to VanWest’s transformation, her personality falls flat. Dialogue builds character and relationships while propelling the story, and phrases like “roaching” as a curse add futuristic flair.

The book is fast-paced and action-packed, from VanWest’s tumultuous journey through the Universal Games to his skirmishes with Utopian agents to his confrontation with Universal leaders. VanWest thinks as he acts, mapping out his paths to success at a pace that matches that of an exciting thriller. His swift moves are easy to visualize and are described with energetic, precise language. The cool technology of this 31st-century world, like the Quantum Accelerator that is used to travel in time and the communicator VanWest uses to transmit his thoughts to his commanders, transforms VANWEST THE PAST from a mere thriller to a pulse-pounding science fiction adventure.

Kenneth Thomas’s VANWEST: THE PAST merges imaginative technology with electric action and a subtle message about technology’s effects on the climate, rising above its use of stereotypical characters to offer an exhilarating, action-packed science fiction adventure.

Goodreads Selection of Reviews. See more here.

Tatiana rated it 5 Stars

Read it in one go – captivating story, enticing characters and great attention to detail. I originally thought the book would be purely futuristic, so the time travel part and historical bits were a great surprise. Looking forward to the second part to be released!

Melissa Caudle rated it 5 Stars

I love science fiction. So, when I find a book that intrigues I have to investigate it. This book is exciting and paints a new dystopian world coupled with time travel. So, if that is your thing, you this is a must-read.

John Smith rated it 5 Stars

Great writer’s voice, a science fiction book with depth and a well developed story. Will be recommending it to my Goodreads friends.

Viviane rated it 5 Stars

A masterpiece, story is superb. Really love the chapter when VanWest travels back in time to Paris, the setting and the suspense. Enjoyed the ending too, can’t wait to read the next book.

Keith Wilson rated it 5 Stars

Read the free chapter a couple weeks back, Leap to the City of Light, on vanwestbooks.com.

Knew this was a winner. Just finished reading the ebook, this author writes a great book. Really interesting take on how events and technological advancements in the 20th Century have affected our future. And if we do not take care of our planet, this future might come true.

If you like dystopia and time-travel with a slice of romance then this is the book to pick up.

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