Score: 89+/100 (8.9+ out of 10)
The Angel Theory is an ambitious and wide-reaching novel by John Morelli that combines elements of legal drama, sci-fi, and time-travel genres.
The book's most fascinating aspect isn't the wonky, timey-wimey science-fiction stuff, it's actually the character of Bill Arena and his captivating career as a lawyer. We were all on board for that! Unfortunately, Bill Arena himself wasn't. After a long-winded yet interesting diatribe about his career in law, Bill expresses the desire to branch out and try new things. One of those things is to finally start his own Facebook page, which reconnects him with some of the brilliant (and not-so-brilliant) people he encountered in his life.
Among the most interesting and intellectually brilliant of those people is Peter Swanteck, now a professor. Peter was ostracized in college because of his staunch, relentless, and crazy-seeming advocacy for the creation of a time machine using Einstein's theory of relativity. He actually published a paper on it that caused an outcry for him to be booted as an embarrassment to the school and the department.
Well, surprise, surprise, Peter Swanteck is back in Bill's life ten years later and has apparently finished his time machine. Peter also has a legal matter on his hand as he and his family are supposed to be receiving large portions of an estate mentioned in a will.
This book proceeds to explore many of the ethical issues of using a time machine (such as going back to kill Hitler, stop the Holocaust, or help Lincoln to win the Civil War sooner) and things like the butterfly effect. It's actually quite par for the course in terms of time travel novels go.
What's more interesting is what's going on behind the scenes while Bill is stepping away from the courtroom. It seems like an unscrupulous, corrupt businessman named Michael Campbell is out to ruin things for our protagonists. Campbell is said to have stolen a computing innovation from his colleagues and made himself a fortune with it. What would a man this corrupt do with a time machine?
Can Bill and company stop him?
Now, this book has one key flaw: it's all over the place. Sometimes the narrative is talking about some guy's tennis career/hobby. Sometimes the narrative is talking about time travel. Sometimes the narrative is talking about someone's last will and testament. Sometimes the narrative is talking about misadventures with strippers in a bar. Sometimes the narrative becomes action-oriented and starts featuring action-hero-like shootouts complete with s 6'5 sniper, private military company, and special forces. It's almost as if this book has schizophrenia at times since it can't decide what it's trying to be. Instead, it tries to be everything all at once. It's like they say: when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.
Now, that's not necessarily true since this book is exciting and enjoyable at times. Who hasn't thought about what they'd do with time travel? Who doesn't like sniper battles?
However, the book just seems to lack focus.
This book would have been so much more interesting if it set aside all the Doctor Who/Back to the Future homages and just focused on being an excellent legal drama. It really could've been. At times, it was. The times when Bill Arena was talking about all the things he's been through to win cases in the courtroom were some of the best parts of the book. However, those things take a back seat to the action-adventure element of the book.
Another thing is that the title and cover art are a bit misleading. This has very little to do with angels, angelology, supernatural, or spiritual topics. So, if you're getting this book to satisfy your Supernatural fix, then this isn't for you.
With all that said, this is a solid and enjoyable novel that allows the protagonist (and the author) to spread their wings and explore.
Check it out on Amazon!