Book Review

A Spy In Time by Imraan Coovadia

a book that disproves a rule: this could have been longer!

I wasn’t sure what to expect from A Spy In Time, because although the author bio and blurbs imply that Coovadia is a successful and respected writer, the physical quality of the book – including numerous conspicuous typographical errors and layout mishaps throughout (for example, almost every accented letter in the text is in the wrong font as they were clearly copied over from a different document/the internet) – evidence that the publisher was (let’s be generous) careless with the production of this book.

Of course of course of course – is many things but no longer naiveté-led – books that have been set badly in InDesign or Canva or Google docs or whatever aren’t guaranteed to be badly written books, just as a flawless design team and proofread doesn’t guarantee any literary or cultural merit. A badly-made book isn’t a bad book; it feels strange that it seems worth stating this, as only a genuine fool would try to argue the opposite!


A Spy In Time is also, like, a Sci-Fi text, and I’ll-

Obviously I am no longer fundamentally opposed to genre writing to the point where I refuse to even have it in the house (I was never literally that bad but probably close), but I do still have a residual initial disapproval (a dismissive tendency) to texts of this style. I am continuing to on unravelling this ingrained prejudice every day 🙏🙏🙏

Why then, did a copy of A Spy In Time arrive in my hands? It was a gift, one from my lover, who gives me a novel about time travel at my birthday and at Christmas every year now. So it is, so it shall be.

——-+-+– So, though I noticed the problems, I didn’t judge the book by its cover, by its graphic design and typesetting… I instead judged it by the context of its gifting. No, that’s not true at all either… I judged it by reading it.

And it’s good!

I think, I think it’s good!

I’m not quite 100% certain, because I’m not quite 100% sure that I understood all of it, that I knew what was going on, when and to whom, in what order and – crucially – why. But that’s fine. I think.

Enver Eleven is a time spy, sent from the future to the twentieth century to find evidence of the conspiracy allegedly underway to thwart his agency’s attempt to maintain the sanctity of the established timeline and prevent the creation of a multiverse… Enver is shown a video recording of his mission where nothing goes wrong… But when he lives the mission, things do go wrong, and he ends up having to bury himself while in a special semi-permanent coma where his body doesn’t rot so he can be collected in his own time, but he is left buried for a hundred thousand years and is instead picked up by one of the last teams of archeologists scouring the Earth before it’s totally destroyed by a dinosaur-killing-style meteorite crash.

In this book, to send someone into the past requires a big machine and a huge amount of energy… to return them to the future simply requires securing them in a bank vault or a grave or a locked box and giving them this special drug. Nice.

Enver bounces back and forth through time – into the distant future, back to his own time (hundreds of years ahead of now, where most people live underground due to the high radiation on the surface and where basically only sub Saharan Africa has any people left alive), to 1960s Rio de Janeiro, to 1950s Marrakesh, to a future between now and his own time where white people are being hunted down to near-extinction in the aftermath of the planet-damaging radiation event as a revenge for centuries of colonialism (kinda justified), to just before the radiation releasing event where he has to decide whether or not he will harness the power to send himself further into the past or embrace total destruction…

A lot happens, Enver goes to a lot of places and to a lot of times, and so do the friends and enemies he meets along the way (there’s another spy he meets who’s been stationed in Rio de Janeiro for decades non-linearly, who has lived through the same two years over and over again (in a spiral, not a loop, as the spy explains – the body moves, not just the mind)); there are – as one would expect – twists and revelations, enemies become friends, strangers are revealed to be younger versions of people already met, the significant become insignificant etc etc etc etc etc etc etc

A lot happens.

There are many characters and many settings and many different societies and realities evoked in a text that is little more than two hundred pages long…

It’s too short, I think – every chapter could have been twice as long, there could have been more locations and more times and more interactions between Enver and his agency and their rivals…

I mean, it’s good, I think…

I certainly would have read more!

I’d like to have read more, I would have liked it to have been a denser, longer, bigger, text. But does that mean I didn’t like it? No, it doesn’t. I did like it!

A Spy In Time is good, it’s fun, but it’s too short. But it’s good, and that’s – I think! – the thing that matters…

Worth a go! is 10 years old! Celebrate by sharing this post – or others – with friends (if you have any), family (if you have any), lovers (which I presume you have because this website isn’t for children), or by donating to the site via the below link so that I can maybe take a day off work some time and enjoy being alive for a few hours.

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