Fiction - Science Fiction
454 Pages
Reviewed on 02/23/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

The end times might be the result of a catalyst by a New Yorker named Sam Cattan in the science fiction book Artefactum by J.E. Tobal. Bartender Sam and his tattoo artist girlfriend Una are a near-perfect match and the finding of a fertility figure among Una's things heightens their experiences as that very model is the key to a portal to different dimensions. Sam has an affair within an alternate reality and Una ends their relationship as a result. Emotionally destroyed, Sam starts to explore the almost limitless alternate realities he can jump through to facilitate a second chance with the woman he loves. While doing this, Sam's understanding of dimensional tourism expands and Tobal's science fiction romantic tragedy evolves into a recipe for Armaggedon.

Artefactum by J.E. Tobal adds a distinctly human element to this science fiction novel that usually gets lost in the tech side of books in the genre. I think the majority of the science fiction readership would agree that characters like Sam with true emotional depth are the exception rather than the rule, and it is for this reason that Artefactum has the potential to be the success that it deserves to be. Tobal's character development is rich and the nuanced way the author probes Weltanschauung is exceptional. Sam's justification for what he is up to and his looking for ways to fix a relationship he screwed up is completely disproportionate to the apocalypse his tampering with alternative realities can cause. Sam's morality is questionable at best but Tobal has the chops to still make Sam likable and that's why Artefactum works. Overall, this is a remarkably singular novel and worth the time investment times infinity. Very highly recommended.

Jamie Michele

Artefactum by J.E. Tobal is a science fiction novel that revolves around a young man named Sam Cattan and his discovery that he is able to transport himself into alternate dimensions. Sam is a bartender in New York where, after a failed first attempt, he ultimately gets the girl. Una and Sam's relationship flourishes and the pair do what every couple ultimately does. They transport themselves into alternate realities that are molded by the porn they are watching. Wait...what? It gets better. Watching is acceptable, but participating with women of the non-Una variety is not. Sam cheats on Una, Una walks out on Sam, and Sam is so desperate to get her back that he zips across dimensions to find the one where he and Una are still together. As Sam discovers that there are others who venture beyond the here and now, the repercussions of what this means and what Sam is truly capable of start to reveal themselves.

The first thing that I loved about Artefactum that I was not expecting at all is how funny it is. J.E. Tobal writes with intelligent wit and it instantly humanizes Sam, particularly when it comes to the banter he has with others. Una is possibly the coolest woman in the world, which makes Sam an absolute idiot for royally screwing things up. A part of me never, ever wanted him to be able to get to a place where he has her back because she's too darn good for him. From a literary standpoint, Tobal is a highly skilled writer, and the sarcasm softens a lot of the heavy lifting we inevitably encounter. I mean, the book has to have a plot, right? I imagine Sam as a Paul Rudd hybrid where he is kind of a goof and irresistibly normal. He's not though. In the same way that any man who could casually vault from one of a gazillion realities to another, Sam is not normal, and as a reader it is in discovering the real Sam that makes all of the incredible world-building so much more delicious.

Juan Lynch

Artefactum by J.E. Tobal is a masterpiece thriller reminiscent of The Time Traveler’s Wife. Samael, the protagonist, is startled the first time he and his girlfriend, Una Malia Owens, travel to a different dimension. Tobal recounts the story of a universe where this event causes the couple to break up. But this is not the universe of primary focus. The center of attention is on a universe where Samael and Una continue to date until she storms out of Sam’s apartment after a heated argument and ultimately dies after being struck by a car. Unable to let go of his beloved, Samael sets out on a cosmic adventure through the multiverse to find Una. The ensuing adventure is both heart-wrenching and heart-warming.

I thoroughly enjoyed Artefactum by J.E. Tobal. He beautifully intertwines the sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, action, and adventure genres. The story is well-paced. Tobal’s use of foreshadowing cleverly hints at characters and events and made me excited to continue. The characters are so well fleshed out that I found myself emotionally invested to the point of tears. I cried. I laughed. I am sure that I will remember Samael and Una for a long time. The theories proposed for traveling through time and space were brilliantly explained and the different worlds that were explored were interesting. For example, Samael spends months trapped in a fear world where he is put into a mental institution. Of note, this novel includes explicit language and sexual scenarios. Overall, it is a well-thought-out, thought-provoking novel.