Wicked Horror contributor Ricky Ruszin has a new book out from Inkshares, and we were provided a review copy in exchange for an unbiased review.
The time-travel-to-fix-the-past tale is a horror/science fiction sub-genre unto itself. The earliest I remember is a prose adaptation of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone episode “Back There.” In that one, a man in a Washington, D.C., club argues the possibilities of changing time with fellow intellectuals. Soon he is hurled back 100-years, from 1961. He seizes it as a chance to prevent the Lincoln assassination, or to try.
Since then, many more stories have gathered under the umbrella with noble attempts to kill Hitler, save President John F. Kennedy or even the entire world. Time loop variations look at more personal corrections in comedy classics like Ground Hog Day.
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Ricky Ruszin has served up a special variation in his novel, Showtime. It’s a spin on the form made engaging because it’s personal and life-or-death. The conduit is at once fresh and nostalgic or perhaps pop-culture history-rich, depending on the reader’s age.
At the core of this story is Jordan Jones. Family turbulence and financial woes have forced Jordan to drop out of community college. When we meet him, he’s hoping to scrape together the cash to attend art school, which has always been his dream.
Though he’s young, life’s made Jordan bitter and angry. He immediately emerges as a flawed and textured protagonist when we meet him shortly after his grandfather’s death. After ostracizing his negligent mother, Jordan begins to sift through the few items his grandfather left behind.
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We learn Jordan’s grandmother, living in the Los Angeles area, loved to attend live tapings of variety and game shows and his granddad saved VHS tapes for glimpses of Grandma in audience camera sweeps.
We get fun glimpses of things like the old Carol Burnette Show, with authentic details like Carol’s ear tug and Tarzan yell and a guest appearance by a pre-Potter Maggie Smith. Unfamiliar readers just need to take in a streaming episode or two to see how real the details of the old shows are.
The tapes aren’t all nostalgic fun, though. The grandmother, who helped raise Jordan and provided empathy lacking elsewhere, died on the set of a reality show in a horrifying incident Jordan is forced to witness as the story’s conduit for time travel unfolds.
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The old television and video tapes reveal Showtime’s unique method for getting Jordan “back there.” By watching on granddad’s TV, a viewer is transported to the point of the taping whether it’s the studio control room or a rogue videographer’s spot in an audience with a camcorder.
Since his grandmother was such a key figure in his life, of course Jordan’s going to try to fix things aided a bit by a cousin who has problems of her own.
The character texture is rich in Ruszin’s novel, and that draws the reader in as much as the science fiction premise. Jordan’s real-life struggles believably drive him to want a better world.
Immersion in the on-set massacre is rich and shocking. I don’t want to give details away, but they offer a fresh take on public violence with an intriguing antagonist, whose methods slip readily into a carnivalesque reality show.
Of course nothing is going to go easy for Jordan as he attempts to rewrite events. That’s a rule of all time travel tales as well, and that spins the novel in exciting directions.
Because Ruszin is clearly gifted in his prose touch, insightful and a real craftsman. The pages turn briskly here, and readers will keep churning through the quick, crisp chapters to see where Jordan will wind up.
You can pick up your copy of Showtime via Inkshares.