Tide of Stone by Kaaron Warren science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsTide of Stone by Kaaron Warren science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsTide of Stone by Kaaron Warren

As usual with DNFs (Did Not Finish), this will be a quite brief review as I have too much respect for the achievement of finishing a novel to belabor its bad points. Or, in this case, bad point really, for what caused me to give up on Kaaron Warren’s Tide of Stone, twice actually, was voice.

In Tempuston, Australia, the town has taken to punishing its worst criminals in two ways. The first is relatively mundane — they imprison them in the Time Ball Tower set across a small stretch of water. The second way is the fantastical aspect of the novel. The prisoners are “preserved,” given a long-ago concocted cocktail that gives them eternal life but turns them into withered, desiccated bodies that can’t move themselves and talk so slowly many can’t understand them. In short, not really life but death-in-life. Since the late 1800s, a townsperson acts for one year as a Keeper, a difficult job but one that offers up a lot of reward if, and that’s a big if, the Keeper can last out their year-long term.

We open with a first-person POV from the newest Keeper, Phillipa Musket. Then, once Philipa is there, the POVs switch as we read, along with Philipa who is looking at the records, the logs kept by each Keeper, beginning with the earliest. These logs vary from a single sentence or two to several pages.

The opening section was a struggle for me as I just didn’t care at all for the first-person voice of Philippa, which I found too Young Adult and, honestly, just annoying. That was the first time I gave it up.

Then, I read something about how the POVs switch to the Keeper Logs, and I thought I’d give it another shot since a) I knew I wouldn’t have to deal with Philippa’s POV anymore and b) I love linked stories and this sounded like what it would be.

Unfortunately, if the logs become varied I didn’t reach that point. One after another felt not all that different from the prior one and eventually (about 35% into the book at this point) it became too tediously monotone, and I gave up yet again. To be fair, the snippets of logs did show some difference among keepers in some ways, but tonally, stylistically, and in their overall viewpoint toward the prison and its prisoners, there just wasn’t enough variety there for me.

Others clearly had a differing view given its Locus nomination, so there’s that to consider.

Published in 2018. The Time-Ball Tower of Tempuston houses the worst criminals in history. Given the option of the death penalty or eternal life, they chose eternal life. They have a long time to regret that choice.


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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