This Week's Book Review - Time Trials

Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contain ideas worth reading.

Book Review

A Battle in Ancient Africa

Reviewed by Mark Lardas
March 5, 2023

“Time Trials,” by M. A. Rothman and D. J. Butler, Baen, 2023, 368 pages, $25.00 (Hardcover), $9.99 (Ebook)

Marty Cohen was into Egyptology even when he was a child. Back then he invented his own hieroglyphics. When he got into academia he found it so rife with politics and backbiting he decided to pursue a more honest living and became a furniture maker.

“Time Trials,” by M. A. Rothman and D. J. Butler opens with Cohen’s woodworking business in crisis. A client stiffed him on a custom dining room set. Without the money Cohen cannot make payroll. His employees are counting on him. On top of that he is having weird dreams about being in Ancient Africa.

Then Gunther Mueller, an old friend, calls him and offering 20 thousand Euros, paid up front if Cohen will come out to a dig site in the Sahara. Mueller’s boss needs someone to translate some hieroglyphics at the pre-dynastic site. The employer, an eccentric European, does not trust academics. Mueller insists the find is incredible, and that only someone wih Cohen’s skills can decipher them.

To make payroll, Cohen accepts, takes the money and flies out to the site. It turns out to date to the time of Narmer, the reputed first pharaoh of Egypt, who united it into one kingdom. When he is taken to an impenetrable barrier that has stymied further exploration of the dig site, he discovers something startling. The hieroglyphics on the wall are written in the language he invented as a child. They contain instructions. When he follows them, things get really strange.

They are no longer in Egypt. They are in Morocco. According to the stars at night, they are in ancient times, not the 21st Century. Cohen and his companions discover they have become involved in a war with monsters who view humans as livestock. If Cohen’s team loses, there may not be a future to get back to.

“Time Trials” takes readers on an adventure through ancient Africa set at the time of the legendary Narmer. Yet it also involves a time traveling and space traveling race, which are testing the human race to determine their fitness for existence. Cohen and his companions have become humanity’s champions.

“Time Trials” is also a first book in a set of adventures set in Earth’s past, set throughout the globe in periods when recorded history was beginning. If the sequels Rothman and Butler write prove as good as the opening book, it will be an entertaining series.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is