John Heldt’s The Mine is an enjoyable contemporary take on historical fiction, mixed with the time-travelling aspects usually found in science fiction novels. The novel has a strong opening chapter which offers context and interest to the novel as a whole, and has a clear and concise structure which is always appreciated by a reader. In particular, Heldt makes good use of descriptive vocabulary. The location and time setting of chapters set both in the past and the future is well researched, regarding the eras chosen and fits well with the chosen characters.
The characters throughout The Mine come across as easy-going and laid-back, making it a lighter and therefore easier novel to read. However there is also enough of an authoritative tone so that the plot does not get lost in being too laid back. There is also a sturdy and continuous flow between events.
Despite all the above positive traits of this novel, there are some syntax issues which occasionally spoil an otherwise good paragraph. One such example can be found in Chapter 8, ‘Helene proper did nothing’– but there are not enough of these errors to warrant writing off this novel. It is still very much worth reading. I also picked up on a few colloquial terms which were either written incorrectly or were too specific to the American culture, so that they put distance between the two most important relationships forged in a novel: characters and the reader, and the reader and the author.
Character development is somewhat hit and miss in The Mine. By Chapter 11 although the plot has developed smoothly and consistently, at this point the character development, specifically of the main character Joel Smith, is still very limited. It is as surface deep in chapter 11 as it is was when the reader is first introduced to Joel. I enjoyed all of the characters I was introduced to through the novel, but I wish I could have gotten to know them on a deeper, more intimate level. Whilst the supporting roles embodied by characters such as Ginny and Katie were evenly and appropriate developed and explored in fitting scenarios. Although the novel is seen through Joel’s perspective, by the end of the novel I found it easier to picture Ginny rather than Joel. Perhaps this is suggestive that Held has more confidence in his female character. To encompass this point, the development of Joel’s character was slow at best, and although this reflected the other character’s limited knowledge base of Joel; I found it very frustrating to consistently not know very much about him. When I’d reached the end of The Mine Joel Smith was still just a time-travelling stranger- albeit one with an interesting story to tell.
Moving on, the pace of The Mine is consistently quick which does make it more interesting to read. But perhaps it is too quick. It almost feels as though the author was in such a rush to tell his story, which as a result half the details which allow that deeper level of knowledge are left out.
For me The Mine is a good example of a feel good historical romance, not just historical fiction. There are enough contemporary references, such as Back to the Future, allowing the reader to identify with Joel and his 2001 life; even when he’s living in the 1940’s. However for future projects Heldt should be careful of syntax and grammar issues. The discrepancies I encountered would not alter the reader’s understanding of the overall plot, but they could isolate readers from the characters; thus dampening their total enjoyment of the book.
Overall I enjoyed reading The Mine. It has a good and consistent flow, well thought-out and structured plot. Heldt is offering readers a novel which has a slightly romantic view of 1941. I just wanted to carry on reading and find out what would become of Joel and his love interest Grace. The final plot twist of role reversals between Joel and Grace was truly lovely to read. The time-travel concept adopted from science fiction is always fascinating and it’s especially exciting when you’re able to read a new take on it. Heldt stays true to the belief that time-travellers must not affect history too much, but his characters most certainly do not! In short, The Mine is well worth you taking the time to read it. Both the plot and (for the most part) the characters are easily identifiable and the pace reflects the adventures found within- so why not enter The Mine.
© Gemma Feltham 13th July 2013
Check out author John Heldt’s blog here: http://johnheldt.blogspot.com/