VanWest The Past

Fiction - Dystopia
196 Pages
Reviewed on 04/21/2022
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Author Biography

British author from Windsor, home of Windsor Castle. Currently live in the Netherlands, loves science fiction & dystopian books.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

VanWest: The Past is a work of fiction in the dystopian and science fiction sub-genres and was penned by author Kenneth Thomas. The opening book in the VanWest series, this first adventure focuses on titular character Captain VanWest, who currently works as an Enforcer for the all-encompassing leadership of the Universal Council. When the captain is tasked with a time travel mission to stop rebels from changing the past (and therefore the future), he comes to learn much about his own dark history, as well as the desires of the heart which may change his allegiance to the dystopian world he knows.

Author Kenneth Thomas presents a stylish and solidly built science fiction work with plenty for fans of hard sci-fi and dystopia to get their teeth into. There is also a great deal of drama and emotional involvement throughout the plot, which makes for a well-rounded read and helps to place the characters realistically in their fantastical setting. One of the things which I particularly enjoyed about the tale was a blending of new futuristic science fiction with classic sci-fi ideas from the past, which were meshed really well by the 1950s setting. As we visit many familiar places and times in Earth’s recent past, so realism and surrealism blend to perfection: we are in safe hands with a capable narrator who holds the story together well. Overall, I would highly recommend VanWest: The Past for dystopian and space-and-time adventure fans everywhere: an exciting start to what promises to be an excellent new series.

Asher Syed

VanWest: The Past by Kenneth Thomas is the first book in the science fiction VanWest series. Set in the year 3000, humanity has eradicated the fragile balance of the earth's ecosystem, destroying all of its natural resources and pushing those 'lucky enough' to survive either deep below ground or to the bitter expanse of the Antarctic tundra, the latter of which is ruled by an unforgiving authoritarian regime called the Universal Council. Below an echelon of despotic oligarchs stands Captain VanWest, who is their will and service, having been trained meticulously for any situation as an Enforcer. As VanWest proves his loyalty and suitability, he is transported back in time to thwart all attempts of a Utopian uprising; a revolution that transcends space and time and is the catalyst in a mind-bending technological war to preserve the grip of the Universal Council.

Kenneth Thomas does a wonderful job laying the foundation for a series that has the potential to go in many different directions with The Past. As far as science fiction novels go, this installment is compact and teeters on the length of a novella; a paradox that works wholly to the story's advantage in this case. The development of life in the year 3000 and the contrasts made through the eyes of VanWest, who takes on the French name Jacques, in 1950s Paris is incredibly well executed. Despite his training, VanWest is still caught off guard by how different life was then versus how life, or rather what is left of it, is in his native time. Small pleasures of both the mind and the flesh, and the relative freedom from the control of the Universal Council, make a fierce soldier of the regime more malleable to the Utopian mission. This exploration of growth is where the narrative really shines, watching as VanWest stretches out in a substantive character redemption arc driven by those who surround him.

Jessica Barbosa

VanWest the Past by Kenneth Thomas centers around Captain VanWest, a relatively young, recently promoted Enforcer who is one of the contestants in the Universal Red and Blue Games. The games are done to show the best and overwhelming capabilities of its contestants, a way for the Universal Council to project an imperious façade. However, at the end of the Games, something unexpected happens and it makes him doubt his own past and his ‘gift’. VanWest is placed in a tight spot and he begins to question everything he knows and believes under the Universal Council. When he is given an important task to stop a renegade sect, he does not know who or what to listen to. In the moment when the mind and the heart are conflicted, what is the right choice?

VanWest the Past is a tightly-packed, action-filled novel. Kenneth Thomas succeeds in creating an impressive, futuristically imagined setting wherein the Earth’s health and population decline because of the explosive growth of long-distance space travel. I found this book to be highly creative, fast-paced, and exciting. I really enjoyed the development of the story and its characters. I also anticipated every interaction between the iron-fisted autocratic governance, the Universal Council, and VanWest. With every exchange between them, I was able to understand and see the Universal Council’s true motives and learn a bit more about the mysterious VanWest too. This book has done a good job of sweeping me along in the exciting and nerve-wracking journey of Captain VanWest. I was so immersed in the story that I could feel VanWest’s uncertainty exuding from the pages as he was forced to make difficult choices. I found this novel to be a thrilling page-turner and I truly enjoyed reading it!