Running out of Time by Simon Fox: A Book Review

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British Publisher Nosy Crow is smashing it out of the park at the moment. First it brought us Alastair Chisolm’s thought-provoking sci-fi novels and now it’s added the equally thought-provoking sci-fi Running out of Time. Author Simon Fox has delivered a tale of refugees and time-bending; a brilliant and engaging thriller for our times. 

What is Running out of Time?

Alex hails from an unspecified country, somewhere on the fringes of Europe. He and his father have traveled to England, bringing with them documents that can shed light on atrocities perpetrated by the government of their country. They’re being chased by special forces. On English soil, Alex has been separated from his father. He has no idea if they both made it onto the boat. No idea if his dad got off the boat. No idea if his dad escaped the border patrol. Running out of Time uses two alternating narratives. One that builds up to the time Alex arrives in the UK and another that leads away from the point of his arrival. Using these two perspectives Simon Fox weaves a terrific thriller. 

Alex is alone and hunted. He has fallen in with a compatriot but the setup is dodgy. He needs to escape; needs to get to a post office in London where there are documents waiting that could blow his country’s secrets wide open. The odds are against him, but Alex has a special power. Alex can turn back time. 

Why Read Running out of Time?

This novel is a timely novel about time. This year, the UK’s refugee policy is increasingly under scrutiny. Thousands of people are desperate to land on our shores, using perilous boats, run by unscrupulous people traffickers. One strand of Running out of Time is to shed light on this awful truth. Looking beyond the lazy stereotyping used by sections of the British media (and politicians) to maintain levels of fear and mistrust of the world’s most dispossessed. Running out of Time shares much in common with books like The Boy at the Back of the Class and No Man’s Land

Simon Fox uses Alex’s plight to not only examine the awful process of navigating the English Channel, but also the lives of those who make it. Those who are forced to eke out an existence on the fringes of society; the ease with which they can slip into criminality. The short equation being “Treated inhumanely = behave inhumanely.” Books like Running out of Time are vital to ensure that the next generation of voters, policy-makers, and decision takers see the world with more compassion and from multiple perspectives. 

Beyond the politics in Running out of Time is an excellent story, with a very elegant twist. One that you really feel like you should see coming, but is so cleverly hidden, that you don’t notice until the floor has been swept out from under you. 

In his quest to find his father and safety, Alex has to trust a Border Force agent, Rachel, and her daughter, Hayley. Helping Alex puts both their lives in danger, but equally, Alex can help Rachel uncover corruption within the police. Is it worth the risk?

Simon Fox uses Alex’s time travel gift with deftness. There’s only so much Alex can achieve in 15 seconds, though it is important to note that by exercising his power Alex can increase its effectiveness. It’s fun to read Alex going over different iterations of an escape plan, resetting each time he fails. He can also use his abilities to gain additional insights into the people he’s interacting with. He can seem to read their minds. It is this skill that makes him attractive to the criminal underworld and leads to his first meeting with an undercover Rachel. 

Running out of Time is a well-executed novel, that compels from the very first page to the last. There are surprises aplenty. Married to this, is the novel’s strong social conscience. It should provoke young readers into considering the plight of refugees across the globe. Anything as effective as Running out of Time at raising empathy levels towards the dispossessed should be applauded. Everyone involved with this book should be very proud to have brought such a wonderful story into the world. 

If you’d like to pick up a copy of Running out of Time you can do so, here, in the US, and here, in the UK

If you enjoyed this review check out my other book reviews, here. 

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to write this review. 

 

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