The publicity material describes author Daniel Godfrey’s debut as “Jurassic Park meets Gladiator”, which is pithy but misleading. A fearsomely powerful company learns how to snatch people out of the past into the present. To avoid changing history it focuses on transporting the victims of disasters (an idea also used in the 1989 film Millennium). The company’s biggest project is to save the Roman victims of the volcanic destruction of Pompeii, bringing them into a copy of the city for study – and other reasons.
It’s not an action-heavy novel, instead playing up the conspiracy/mystery angle, with a subplot about a woman sliding helplessly through time in a Cambridge college. The historical detail is impressive, the mystery is interesting, and there’s a chewy time-travel puzzle for fans of the genre.
However, the characters aren’t vivid enough to make the story emotionally gripping: in particular the hero, a nervous research student who ventures into New Pompeii, is only adequate. Perhaps it would have been better to tell more of the story through the eyes of the time-transported Romans, who are having a far bigger adventure. Additionally, some of the final plot revelations are B-movie bonkers. Andrew Osmond
In 1958 horror Curse Of The Faceless Man, the skull-crushing monster is a petrified gladiator found at Pompeii.