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Kaliane Bradley

Autor(a) de The Ministry of Time

1 Work 415 Membros 17 Críticas

Obras por Kaliane Bradley

The Ministry of Time (2024) 415 exemplares


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Our narrator (whose name we never learn) is applying for a top-secret role in the Ministry of Defence in London, where she has previously been working as a translator. So secret that she can't be told exactly what the role is until she is successful:

‘Your mother was a refugee, wasn’t she?’ she said, which is a demented way to begin a job interview...

‘She would never refer to herself as a refugee, or even a former refugee,’ I added. ‘It’s been quite weird to hear people say that.’
‘The people you will be working with are also unlikely to use the term. We prefer “expat”. In answer to your question, I’m the Vice-Secretary of Expatriation.’ ‘
And they are expats from … ?’
Adela shrugged. ‘We have time-travel,’ she said, like someone describing the coffee machine. ‘Welcome to the Ministry.’

In order to avoid accidentally changing the past by removing people who still have a part to play, what the Ministry has done is to collect a number of people from the past who were about to die very imminently, soldiers from the English Civil War and the First World War, a woman from the time of the Great Plague, and in particular, Commander Graham Gore, a member of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition, who all died in the Arctic at some time around 1847. The narrator is assigned to Commander Gore as a 'bridge', someone to help the ex-pats come to terms with the twenty-first century. But as her year long assignment continues, the narrator finds herself gradually falling in love ...

This book had rave reviews, and I was expecting great things from it. And it did start well, but the romance element didn't quite ring true and it went downhill rapidly in the final third. I found the ending deeply unsatisfactory. I really don't understand all the hype.
… (mais)
SandDune | 16 outras críticas | Jun 16, 2024 |
I was excited to read this as the premise is brilliant. Sadly, I found it a bit of a dud. The story got progressively less engaging and incorporated a “twist” I found trite, and the middling resolution made the whole story weaker. No characters were particularly engaging and I found the arctic chapters and the musings of the main character more of a distraction than an enhancement. I didn't particularly care for the writing style, and also lampshading something doesn't magically make it not bad. All told, an ok read but not a book for me.… (mais)
73pctGeek | 16 outras críticas | Jun 11, 2024 |
I've never really had much faith in the output of the contemporary publishing industry, which has always seemed to prioritise formulaic, repackaged pulp, workshopped, self-congratulatory guff and the racial, gender, sexual or celebrity identity of authors over unfashionable things like quality of writing, depth of thought, self-respect and the awareness of objective standards. But every so often in my reading I will tear myself away from the higher-calibre writing and mores of previous generations to try something of the current year that seems compelling or has been lauded. Whenever I do so, it's always with vain but genuine hope that I will find something of real worth. But even though the industry encourages and cultivates a battery-farm of middling, formulaic, identity-driven Creative Writing and YA dreck that people depressingly and unthinkingly process as 'consumers' rather than as 'readers', it still staggers me when I think of how many writers manage to whack their heads against a bar set so low.

Kaliane Bradley is the latest to sport a bump on her forehead; when she writes of the enthusiastic tweeting "about debut authors of colour who never seemed to publish second novels once the publicity cycle ended" (pg. 181), she is writing (hopefully with some self-awareness) about the climate in which she was able to bring about her own recent offering: the disappointing The Ministry of Time. The fatal flaw in the book is that it tries to be three completely different things at once: a meet-cute romance, a speculative sci-fi story and a mysterious thriller. It fails at all three, and that's before you also add in the book's half-hearted attempt to work through the protagonist's angst over her mixed Anglo-Cambodian heritage.

'Half-hearted' is the key word here, or perhaps 'unfocused'; The Ministry of Time doesn't satisfy from any of the angles it attempts. The speculative sci-fi angle is the most disappointing, and the laziest. Author Kaliane Bradley makes no attempt to construct an internal storytelling logic, telling the reader as early as page five: "don't worry about it. All you need to know is that in your near future, the British government developed the means to travel through time…" She sticks to this brazen lack of storytelling care throughout the book; the time-travel device is merely described as "some kind of machine" that creates a glowing blue door (pg. 198). That Bradley has enough self-awareness to describe the blue door as "a low-production cliché" (pg. 323), just as she began that early page-five caveat by admitting the logic of time-travel is "a crock of shit", in no way makes it acceptable that the author isn't bothering to adequately put together the ingredients of a story. Readers, even readers who lap up this low-grade stuff, deserve better.

This time-travel plot unravels later in the novel when Bradley clumsily tries to liven things up by turning The Ministry of Time into a thriller. Apparently, there are time-travellers from the future who are "trying to change history" (pg. 308) by disrupting the Ministry. Their motives are never expanded upon. What's worse is that the characters we have been spending time with – the unnamed protagonist, Graham Gore, and their friends – are rather underwhelmingly written too, so when the stakes are raised artificially high in the book's final third, we feel no jeopardy and little interest.

But it is the romance angle which most embarrassingly fails to spark, as it was the book's raison d'être. Bradley has said she got the idea for the book after coming across a photo of Graham Gore, an officer who died in the Arctic on the ill-fated Franklin expedition of 1845. The author thought he was attractive, and so wrote this story: one in which a protagonist (who is a blatant and undisguised author-insert) finds Gore has been brought into her own time and he falls in love with her. It reads like fan-fiction, and apparently started off as that. You look at the commissioning of such rubbish from our publishing industry and it makes you want to throw up your hands.

One inconvenient problem is that this plot scenario has already been done better elsewhere (it's literally the same plot as the Richard Matheson novel Bid Time Return, made into a good film called Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve). Another is that, in Bradley's incapable hands, it is uncomfortable to see the abuse to Gore's character. Matheson in his novel was inspired by an old photo of a beautiful woman but only based his story's object of devotion on her, creating a new character; Bradley, instead, takes the real-life Gore and has him dance like a puppet. What's the problem, you might think, surely that's the bread-and-butter of historical fiction? I agree, to an extent, but I was troubled when Bradley, on zero evidence and seemingly to satisfy her own fantasies and worldview, has her Gore 'admit' to being bisexual and making love to men on sea voyages (pg. 245). When Bradley describes, at length, Gore giving oral sex to her author-avatar protagonist (pp240-1), it began to seem a bit, well, unethical.

You may feel such a charge is harsh. Certainly, I think the minor palaver that has bubbled up online over whether Bradley plagiarised a 2014 Spanish TV show with the same title as her book (and a similar concept) to be a storm in a teacup; both plot and title are generic enough that they could have (and probably were) reached independently. But Gore was no historical figure, at least not in the way that Churchill or Napoleon were. He was a seaman, a regular man whose name is only remembered because he died, along with all of his companions, on an infamous Arctic expedition. Imagine, for a moment, if a couple of hundred years from now someone found a photo of you – for you, like Gore, would be an ordinary person – and created a story in which you fellated them and told them how much you liked it. It would seem wrong; you would not be affected, of course, being dead, but it would still seem wrong for a person, a writer, to take you like that. For Bradley to take the real-life Gore (who died tragically, let us remember, probably of starvation) and describe how he "worked well" smothered between the wet thighs of her author-insert protagonist (pg. 241) seems to be the only depth this otherwise-superficial book will plumb.

But enough on that; the book itself is poor, and that is where it can be more reliably judged, not on my perhaps hair-trigger sense of ethics. Characterisation is often superficial and the writing veers between sketchy and mealy-mouthed, betraying its fan-fic origins. The plot, little more than a sketch as it is, obliterates itself by pulling into vastly different directions – sci-fi, thriller and romance – and lacking the wit to satisfy any one of them. Bradley had good potential in the concept of a straight-laced Victorian man thrown into the undisciplined, Millennial vapidity of the current year, but fails to mine either the fish-out-of-water situation-comedy of this (despite a few half-hearted attempts), or the more sobering pathos of it. To the bafflement of his sloppy Millennial 'handler', Gore exercises, attends church on Sundays and knows their neighbours' names. One almost-rewarding passage of the book demonstrates the potential here, and also how the author threw it away:

"Gore was bored, that much was clear. Despite the amenities and pleasures of the twenty-first century, he was bored. He had been handed a plush-lined life, with time to read, to pursue thoughts to their phantasmagoric end, to take in whole seasons at the British Film Institute, to walk for miles, to master sonatas and paint to his heart's content. He did not need to work, to exchange the sweat of his brow or the creak of his mind for board and bed. And yet, he was bored of having no purpose. He was getting bored of everything. I was afraid that he was getting bored of me." (pg. 61)

Up until that final sentence, that passage demonstrates what The Ministry of Time could have been; the Victorian man who is brought into a supposedly more enlightened time only to find that people are miserable, depressed, lazy, and lacking purpose in a world where every luxury is easy and at our fingertips. In short, it could have been a useful mirror to shine on our own society, an opportunity to reflect on whether the lives we live in this modern world have the integrity and dignity for which our souls crave. Instead, in that final line of the passage, Bradley drags The Ministry of Time back down to what it is: the indulgence of its author/protagonist's neuroses, and the shallow depiction of her sexual and romantic fantasy. It's squandering like this which is why I so often turn my back on the hardbacks that the hype machine assures me are new masterpieces of culture. I feel myself like a man out of my time.
… (mais)
4 vote
MikeFutcher | 16 outras críticas | Jun 7, 2024 |
Funny, sweet, sad, confusing in the way only time travel can be. The first half where they're getting acclimated to the new era is funny, and the second half where the love story, heartbreak, and discovery of future events takes place sends you reeling a bit.
KallieGrace | 16 outras críticas | May 28, 2024 |




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