C.R. Berry, Million Eyes (Million Eyes series book 1). Elsewhen Press, 2020. Pp. 336. ISBN 978-1-9114-0948-9. £9.99 pb / £2.99 e.Reviewed by Andy Sawyer
Why the book is important, and the nature of the conspiracy, eventually comes clear, though how and why a Norman-French speaking individual is able (on page 12) to understand what is inside a book written in late 20th Century English is not revealed to us until a burst of blatant hand-waving on page 291. Million Eyes is a fast-moving thriller about corporate power which is the first part, it seems, of a trilogy; but as soon as you stop to ask why these people are set on a course to take over Britain, you start scratching your head and deciding that never mind, it will all be explained in further volumes. We never really find out much of what is going on. At one point, Who-fan Jennifer recalls the “wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey” catch-phrase of the David Tennant/Matt Smith eras, and that seems to be the centre of Million Eyes’ vision of time travel. One waits in vain for one character to turn to another and say “As you know, Carruthers, time travel works by means of…” Half-drawn characters appear, and then vanish; we shift from point-of-view-to point-of-view, and other equally sketchy characters turn out not to be who they seem. Even the famous History of Computer-Aided Timetabling for Railway Systems seems to be a red herring by the time you get half-way through.
And yet… and yet. This is the oddest book I’ve read for a long time, because the last few chapters take us back into what we’ve read up until then in a series of time-twists of great ingenuity. Things (at least, some things) fall into place. We understand the role of the agents who have been zipping up and down the timetrack and at least some of what the Grand Overall Design of Miss Morgan might be. Bits of the story that we thought were digression or melodrama or costume-drama come back to us, and large chunks of the plotline all come clear. We’re still no further in explanation or motive, and at one point we want to step outside the world of the story and find out just what is happening outside Million Eyes’ enclave, but Berry knows how to deliver a sucker-punch to his readers just when they least expect it. There’s clearly more to come in the next volume. It’s a risky strategy and I’m not sure if, overall, it works, but if you start this book don’t, don’t give up on it.