The debut focussed a lot on character development, as Jonathan Tibbs transitioned from introverted college student into unsung hero against ferocious inter-galactic creatures known as the Ferox. With all that taken care of, The Never Paradox hit the ground running and is much faster paced with a lot more action and plot progression. Halfway through the story, however, the amount of exposition about the Borealis and Ferox felt info-dumpy even though it helped to answer a lot of questions from the first book. As much as a lot of the information is fascinating, the pacing does suffer. Admittedly, some of the explanations around the time paradox are still making my head spin.
The story is quite unlike what I usually read. It is set on Earth (mostly), but it's not urban fantasy nor is it cyberpunk science fiction. It is, simply, a compellingly human tale of courage, sacrifice, tenacity and companionship - aliens notwithstanding. All the characters are quite excellent and well-portrayed. The people around Jonathan and their interactions just feel so authentic. Jonathan himself is a truly empathetic character – all his emotions and thoughts are relatable and realistic.
If he had to risk his life killing interdimensional trespassers while his friends and family continued to become more alienated by his increasing instability and off-putting behavior, well, at least the job came with free self-repairing gear and no clean up.
I loved how Hodges incorporated the most insightful themes and messages from famous movies into the narrative. Two of Jonathan's housemates are huge movie buffs who regularly watch old favourites, as they collaborated on producing a new comic. Although seemingly incongruous with the plotline, the allegories discussed are relevant to the story of our main protagonist. One of my favourites is about the symbolism of rain scenes; two movies specifically mentioned are Shawshank Redemption and The Matrix Revolutions.
"You can see water a lot of ways. It can be a cleansing, hence its use in sacraments like baptism. Sometimes, it's indicative of life, as most living things require water to survive. It's also a force, as the flow of water can break through about anything if given enough time. Rain itself is more specific. Some think rain drops are like tears, and they remind us of crying. But, I think it's more basic than any of that. Rain means change. Change just gets associated with sorrow most of the time, because it's not human nature to embrace it."
The author's writing style is a natural fit for the story. Not overly elaborate nor too simple – it drives the narrative forward effortlessly, with occasional touches of humour. The action scenes are well-written with a great build-up to the climax. And with such an intense and revelatory ending sequence, I am eagerly looking forward to the next book.