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The Ministry of Time – Sci-Fi-Rom-Com?

The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

This is Jennifer Kassebaum, owner of Flint Hills Books in Council Grove Kansas, for High Plains Public Radio Reader’s Summer Book Club Reading List.

Finding a debut novel that is well-written and engaging is like finding a favorite new recipe: I want to tell all my reader friends about this new creation that offers sustenance and joy to life. The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley is just such a novel.

The Ministry of Time is a debut novel that will appeal to science fiction readers, romance readers, and mystery readers alike. It is an original, time-travel romance that may be the hit of the summer.

Kaliane Bradley, is a Penguin Random House editor who won two prestigious short story awards in 2022, and can she write dialogue!

To be honest, The Ministry of Time is not the type of book I would normally read. But at the urging of my eldest daughter, I picked up The Ministry of Time earlier this spring. I fell immediately into the story. The narrator is an unnamed female civil servant of mixed heritage in London. She is working in the Languages division of the Ministry of Defense when she is hired to be a “Bridge,” a civil servant who observes and mentors (think “handler” in spy fiction terms) time-traveling expats. Our narrator is assigned to the dashing Commander Graham Gore, who served on Sir John Franklin’s doomed, cannibalistic, sea-faring expedition to the Artic in 1845 and who perished in 1847. The time-traveling expats are assigned names which coordinate with the year that they were plucked to travel to current day London, so Commander Gore becomes “1847.”

The relationship between 1847/Gore and our narrator is awkward at first. Can there be such a thing as a “sci-fi rom-com?!” Bradley provides a strong, definitive answer of “Yes!”

The Rom-Com portion of this book sizzles. I do not read many romances, and I haven’t read a spicy romance in a long while, but in my opinion, the love scenes in this story were well-written and …shall we say… “hot!”

The sense of place for the novel is definitely British, complete with certain terms, which I find is necessary to truly bring the reader into the setting. The dialogue is smart, often funny, and moves the story ahead at a page-turning pace. I do not care for the narrator’s penchant for cigarettes, but it fits her youthful character. The story is sprinkled with journal excerpts from the original expedition, which captured the author’s interest during the pandemic. The mystery part of the story is intriguing…and I found myself wanting to discuss the book when it ended.

The author’s bio describes her as a “British Cambodian writer.” I appreciated how she wove the current, and necessary, sensitivity toward mixed race persons and respect for their dual heritage into the story. She was smart and empathetic, and not overly pedantic.

I wish I read more sci-fi to have a story to compare this to, but I think Kaliane Bradley’s debut is so unique that it really cannot be compared to another story. It is brilliant, and uniquely its own. And don’t we want all stories to be original, fresh, and fun? If you agree, you will enjoy THE MINISTRY OF TIME by Kaliane Bradley.

This is Jennifer Kassebaum for High Plains Public Radio Book Club Summer Reading List.

Jennifer Kassebaum
Jennifer Kassebaum

Jennifer Kassebaum is the owner of Flint Hills Books in Council Grove. She met her husband Bill Kassebaum at KU’s School of Law and while she practiced law at both K-State and WSU, she took early retirement to help with the couple’s cow-calf operation at a ranch near Burdick, population 62. She shares a perspective with Thomas Jefferson who said, “I cannot live without books.” And based on that belief, she established Flinthills Books in the historic bank building in the rural community of Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. Jennifer invites all Radio Readers to visit the bookstore as well as neighbors Watts Coffee or the Riverbank Brewing Co. And, since nothing is better than a good book and a great cup of coffee, try the co-branded espresso-flavored gourmet chocolate bar produced in Emporia, Kansas. For more information, see www.flinthillsbooks.com.

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Jennifer Kassebaum is the owner of Flint Hills Books in Council Grove.