The Cutting Room by Edward W. Robertson

A DRM-free sci-fi thriller. Travelling through time, one episode at a time.

The Rating:
Mature Content Rating: PG (Moderate to strong language)

Every episodic adventure that I have seen out there gets flack.  There is this idea that somehow each episode should be stand-alone enough to make an impact all on its own.  Let me ask you a question.  If you read the second, third, or fourth book in the series without reading the first, does it always make complete sense?  There is always that feeling that you are missing something (well, most of the time… some series keep each book as a stand-alone).  Now, let’s think about television.  The idea behind episodic content is that it is episodes in a series.  Yes, there are those TV shows that you can just jump right into and it doesn’t really matter whether you have been following it, but I find this to be more the exception than the rule.  The beginning of a season usually starts off pretty slow as some new concepts or characters are introduced, but as the episodes ramp up to a conclusion, things get a little harry and you just have to keep going to find out what happens next.  This is the case for The Cutting Room.

For simplicity’s sake (and the fact that I will say no more about the tired debate of episodic content) I will treat the complete season of The Cutting Room as a single entity.  Yes, you can read a single episode, just like you can watch a single episode of a TV show… but is that really satisfying?  Okay, enough of that. What is this book/season about?  Time travel.  After reading it, I briefly thought, “it this is about time travel, could I read the episodes in any order I want?  Can I travel back and forth through the season and still have it all make sense in the end… as much sense as time travel makes anyway?”  Sadly no, but this has nothing to do with the book.  Enough idle rambling.  Let’s get to the review.

The Good:

The Cutting Room consists of six episodes.  Each episode tells a different portion of the same story, in the same way that a book split into “parts” or “sections” would. Edward W. Robertson uses this episodic style and mixes it with time travel in a way that sets each episode apart from the last yet still tied together to tell the same story throughout the season.  Each episode has a different setting as Blake Din travels through the different parallel dimensions of the earth in search of nasty time travelling criminals.  Little does he know that there is more to his job as a Cutting Room employee than catching the baddies.  Every episode brings a fresh feel of its own as the reader is taken through settings spanning from the wild west, to a post-apocalyptic wasteland, to outer-space.  How can the same story be told in so many different settings?  Find out by reading The Cutting Room.

After reading the first episode I was intrigued by the concept and so went out and bought the whole season.  The story continued on, almost as if the first episode was a prologue of sorts and had no real lasting effect on the rest of the season.  This troubled me somewhat, but I set it aside as a minor gripe… until I finished The Cutting Room.  The mystery is in how this first, seemingly disconnected episode fits into the over-arching plot.  That is a mystery that I will not spoil for you, but suffice it to say, though Episode One seems disconnected, it is not.  The season concludes beautifully, tying everything together with just enough left over to keep the reader interested in a Season Two ends up coming to the shelves.

There were a few times that some witty humour came through in the dialogue and I found myself laughing as I hope was intended.  (What other intention would humour have?)  I would have, however, liked to see more of this.  Most of humour came in the dialogue exchanges between characters, and Robertson’s writing style opted out of choosing to include lengthy dialogue section, which I feel would have been quick enjoyable if they were present.

The Bad:

I wasn’t sure to put this under “the good” or “the bad” so just consider it a general comment I suppose.  A lot of the nitty-gritty of events that happen in The Cutting Room are glossed over.  Days will pass within the span of a single paragraph, not allowing the reader to be as invested in the world that they are to be placed in.  Granted, world building must be difficult when each episode essentially has a different world, and purple prose could easily bog down the action and plot element, but I would have liked to see more description of the world around Blake Din and the other characters in the season.

Even though there isn’t a lot of description, there are still times when the story seems to slow to a near crawl while the characters figure out the mystery of everything going on.  Often times the characters are left clueless as to what to do next, so they wander around aimlessly and take the reader with them through meaning strolling until something happens.  Some episodes move along faster than others, and the slowest portions come in the middle, which is honestly the best place for them.

It seemed like the scope was a lot larger than maybe it needed to be.  Entire sections are dedicated to particular elements that have little bearing on the over-arching plot.  They aren’t poorly written, but get a lot more focus than seemed necessary.  The plot is the driving force of this season, but sometimes I feel like it took a back seat while the characters ran around figuring out what it actually was.  Granted, this allowed for some character development moments, but they were short-lived and detracted from the focus of the season as a whole.

Conclusion:

All in all, I don’t have many complaints about this book/season.  Usually specifics stand out to me about what was exceptional and what was not so great, but nothing really stood out to me while reading The Cutting Room.  I enjoyed it, and the use of the episodic model added an interesting element to things that really worked in the favour of the writing style.  If you like all things time travel, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

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