Plot: Oleksiw’s searching literary novel focuses on an inexplicable childhood incident that forever connects two friends and bridges the past and future. Sci-fi, fantasy, and coming-of-age elements richly intermingle within a framework of literary fiction.
Prose: The prose in Time’s Musicians is vivid, tense, lyrical, and rich, with memorable and unnerving insights.
Originality: Deeply philosophical, ambiguous, and profound, this narrative starkly defies genre categorization and stands apart as exceptionally unique.
Character/Execution: Oleksiw’s novel presents a continuum, of sorts, between the childhood and adulthood of the primary character. The puzzling, thought-provoking exploration of identity will perhaps best be appreciated by adult readers.
Date Submitted: July 17, 2020
Review: Time’s Musicians by Mark Paul Oleksiw
A bizarre, mind-bending story unfurls on the pages of Time’s Musicians by Mark Paul Oleksiw, an author with an imagination only matched by his delicate and authentic style. In this decade-spanning novel, the idea of connections across time and space mix with our boundaries of mental health, love, and reality itself.
When Billy meets Dieter, a young boy with an unfinished comic book who claims he can travel through time, he has no idea that it will set him on a life-defining course. Dieter disappears under mysterious circumstances and Billy’s family moves to give him a fresh start, at which point he meets John, and their teenage connection grows through the years into an exploration of meaning behind the universe and the consequences of personal choice.
John saves Billy’s life in a potentially paranormal encounter, and years later, they both find themselves studying at the same university and chasing the same captivating woman, Kate. When Billy jealously finds a way to undercut John’s growing reputation, it sparks a firestorm of drama, and draws Dr. Carrie Woodson into Billy’s life.
A decade later, Kate steps back into Billy’s very different existence, explaining that something is going wrong with John – sleepwalking and talking in his dreams, saying strange things, much as he had done years earlier. The disparate threads of the story begin to weave together, and the lives of Billy, John, Kate and Carrie once again collide in a dialogue-heavy plunge through deep and heady waters.
The blending of reality, dreams, and the unknown potential of the mind make this book somewhat undefinable in terms of genre. The edge of paranormality and discussions of a higher universal consciousness give this novel a decidedly philosophical vibe, at times, but it is also a suspenseful and surprising thriller. Dr. Woodson is one of the most interesting cogs, as readers are rarely privy to a therapist’s personality in such a way; they are usually tools for other characters’ development.
The mysterious core of the book surrounds the power that has affected these characters – Where did Dieter disappear to? What actually happened the night Billy’s life was saved? What song is the universe singing to John, and is he answering? As esoteric and strange as this plot turns out to be, there are relatable narrative elements that carry throughout, as well as clear thematic goals and intentional writing. The descriptions are unique and the imagery is vivid, while the plot twist near the end of the book makes for a stunning turn.
It is difficult for an author to captivate an audience with such a nebulous plot, but Oleksiw patiently unspools this strange story, eventually making it clear that all the loose ends do have a greater purpose. That sort of draftsmanship is impressive and essential for a book that dives so confidently into cerebral and obscure ideas. Readers are often encouraged to release their inhibitions and suspend their disbelief, but Oleksiw’s writing makes it easy to give in.
Despite the dialogue occasionally feeling stilted and unnatural, the plot itself is unlike anything else. Time’s Musicians is a suspenseful musing on existence, relationships, truth and purpose, offering a satisfying conclusion, along with plenty of profound questions that will persist long after reading the last page.