Tantor Audio is publishing Steve White’s JASON THANOU (TEMPORAL REGULATORY AUTHORITY) series in audiobook format, so I tried the first book, Blood of the Heroes, originally published in 2006. It’s not great literature, but it’s diverting and even educational (which I can appreciate).
Jason Thanou is a retired agent of the Temporal Regulatory Authority (TRA), an organization that, among other things, monitors and protects academics who use time travel in their studies. He’s been called back to the service for the agency’s most ambitious project yet. He is asked to accompany a couple of scholars to 1628 BC where they will watch the Minoan eruption and its aftermath. Jason’s tired of shepherding pompous academics through time, but when he finds out that one of the scholars is a beautiful green-eyed woman with a “solidly constructed hourglass figure,” he agrees. Too bad the other scholar is a middle-aged beak-nosed man.
(As an aside, here’s a complaint. According to the publisher’s blurb, the two academics both have PhDs yet SHE is introduced to Jason as “Deirdre Sadaka-Ramirez” and referred to in the introductory chapters as “Deirdre” while HE is introduced to Jason as “Dr. Sidney Nagel” and referred to in the same chapters as “Dr. Nagel” or “Nagel.” Jason calls HER “Ms” and calls HIM “doctor.” This might seem like a ridiculous complaint, but those of us who are female academics find it irritatingly common. We could give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume that Deirdre doesn’t actually have a PhD, but that seems unlikely since the text refers to her as “…a recognized expert in geology and vulcanology… and very experienced in fieldwork…” Also, if she doesn’t have a PhD, then the publisher, who says she does, got it wrong. I’m not accusing Steve White of being intentionally sexist. I’m sure he’s not. It’s just that so many men don’t think about this. It may not seem important to them, but it is important to us. Authors and editors should notice and fix it. It’s a matter of respecting women and giving us the same credit that men get.)
When Jason, Deirdre, and Doctor Nagel arrive in the Bronze Age, everything goes wrong. They discover that the probe the TRA sent in a while back to scope things out has become a sacred object and that some unknown personage has taken advantage of the situation to elevate himself to a god. Indeed, this god seems to have supernatural powers and, when he captures Deirdre, things look grim.
The story’s premise is clever. It’s exciting, twisty, and totally unpredictable. There’s an unlikely romance and a beautiful and unexpected heroic act. I learned some things about the Bronze Age, the Minoan eruption, volcanic activity, chariots, and swords. White successfully ties in some ancient legends and mythologies.
While I appreciated the educational aspect of Blood of the Heroes, it took a toll on the novel’s flow and dialogue. The teachniness made the dialogue stilted and the narrative a bit clumsy in places. I was also kind of disappointed that Deirdre spent more time being a love interest than a scientist. Sigh.
Tantor’s audio edition is very nice. Andrew Eiden is perfectly cast as Jason and he does a nice job with all the other voices, too, including Deirdre’s. The audiobook is 9.5 hours long.