If you could travel back in time, where would you go? What would you do? Would you take advantage of your situation for gain? Would you visit loved ones long dead and gone? Or would you travel back as far as the inception of time to meet with your God to ask, “Why?” Kronos Duet is about possibility and potential and the energetic connectedness between us and nature and God, but it is no light beach read.
The novel is a deeply insightful study of the human spirit - where the philosophical ideas are postulated thorough metaphorical and evocative writing - and would be a justified addition to the syllabus of an advanced English lit course. But if you are a reader who is willing to dig deep, patiently uncovering the book’s gems with each read, you will love Kronos Duet. The first time I read KD I would have rated it a solid 4 stars based on the lively story that had the pages turning themselves in my eagerness. The second time I read it, when I took my time to let those more elusive ideas percolate to the top of my consciousness, I was astounded at what I had missed the first time. The writing is gripping and suspenseful enough to pull you through the story quickly, but I would urge you to read the book more consciously to really appreciate the lessons that Kronos Duet has to share.
The wisdom of Kronos Duet comes in a marvelous package. It is a gritty and epic story following the passionate and eccentric, expert “mind astronaut,” Gareth Pugh, and his daughter Adrianna, who is daring and beautiful, yet something of a lost soul. Tension is deliciously created as Gareth and Adrianna adventure through time via the consciousness of others. They are looking to heal past traumas, mend their disconnected relationship and find their place in an increasingly discordant world, all with the thugs of “The Foundation” (aka the Bad Guys) hot on their heels. This really simplified plot summary is all that’s needed for a review, as I believe the story is really just a vehicle for the author to showcase his intriguing philosophical ideas, which really, are the main feature. And while average readers might take issue with its reflective nature, there is so much charm in the book’s eccentricities that the dedicated reader will delight in the challenge this refreshingly non-predictable story offers.
The novel is beautifully written, at times lyrical, and often disturbingly violent. But, in spite of its intelligent and thought provoking philosophy, neither the characters nor the story takes itself too seriously, with enough fantastic moments of levity and wonder to keep the text readable. This is a story where God can't remember stuff and must be having an off day. And Gareth and Adrianna's meeting with the Prime Mover is majestic and fantastical, as it should be. It's like a literary Pink Floyd Concert; incomprehensible and larger than life: literarily psychedelic. But what else would one expect when meeting God? Richards pulls this scene off beautifully.
Elements of the book remind me of the trendy Steampunk genre (Gareth and Adrianna live in an old warehouse, there is a leather, brass-studded helmet used to assist with mind travel, etcetera), but purists of the genre would likely say it is more closely related to Cyberpunk. Like a typical Cyberpunk novel, KD takes place in near-future earth, a high-tech society where the inhabitants are socially isolated, all very film-noir-esc. And while the main action of Kronos does not happen "online," veteran Cyberpunk readers will have no trouble equating the story's mind–travel to electronic virtual reality that is a mainstay of the Cyberpunk genre.
My feeling is that the book is a nice cross between the acclaimed Gibson Cyberpunk novel Neuromancer, or even the more widely consumed, Bladerunner (though less techy), and the 1993 novel by James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy. Stay with me here, I know I am making a leap. Like Celestine Prophecy, Kronos Duet urges us to find our deeper meaning, be our authentic selves, though not through lecturing the reader or providing simple platitudes. We learn these important life gems along with the main characters as they struggle to work through their challenges. So while KD is decidedly packaged in a Cyperpunk frame, at its core, I believe the novel is attempting to show us the potential in each of us to manifest an entire amazing world if only we are open to accessing the majesty within ourselves; through nature, our loving connections with each other, and ultimately, through truth. Kronos Duet mutates from Cyberpunk into something complicated and beautiful with the author’s use of what I would call quantum philosophy (quantum, because the author’s philosophy applies to the smallest droplet of water and the largest, grandest of things) that has been woven into the story. Richards has done something truly unique and engaging here and I fear I am not properly doing the novel justice.
There is so much to marvel at in Kronos, but the most memorable moment must be Gareth’s brief stay in the mind of the infamous Rasputin. Rasputin has been murdered and Gareth, as a hitchhiker, in the now decomposing grey matter of the Russian mystic’s brain, floats down the river waiting for a means to escape from his current vehicle. Gareth, tired of the physicality of being human, contemplates the horror of our world. In this scene, Richards writes for Gareth the smartest, most frighteningly poignant critique of our society you will ever encounter:
This world, entire, is uttering its death rattle through shaking sabers, tramping feet in puttees, white ribbons and soul-killing scorn, the choking throats of teenage boys in mustard-gassed trenches. The entire world has entered the pornographic realm, heralded by two festivals of carnage, and dragging itself out of that mire, finds that it has gained plastic and the atom bomb, and decimated its soul. The human soul has been blown to pieces, shredded, crippled and amputated, and still the body jumps and gyrates, dangling like a marionette pinned to the wall, praying to be fertilized again.
As this quote illustrates, Kronos Duet is a devastatingly beautiful and intelligent read, but it is not a pretty, comfortable story for the faint of heart. It is about the “determined hardness of the absolute present.” KD shows a frighteningly real world future, not some sterile, Star Trek version, but the real, gritty true-to-life-version expressed so masterfully by Richards; and that, along with its smart philosophy is what makes it a spectacular addition to any serious reader’s book shelf.
(reviewed 89 days after purchase)