Henry Trade is a cowardly carpenter, who after drinking a mysterious tea given to him by a supposedly Chinese man, wakes up eleven thousand years earlier in the body of a Native American twelve-year-old. Modern man and prehistoric boy must work together to defeat a cosmic evil. Taking cues from Tolkein and Olaf Stapledon, Sometime After The Equinox is an overlooked fantasy classic with only a few major flaws.
One of the book’s great strengths was how Bent alternated between first person narration for Henry Trade and second person for Triad-of-Songs, the young hero of the story. There are a few moments where the two struggle for control over the same body, where the exact mode of narration changes multiple times during a single paragraph. Although I’m certain that this sort of thing goes in more experimental literature, this technique works great here.
I also enjoyed the prehistoric North American milieu of Sometime After The Equinox. Triad is explicitly described as looking and dressing as a Native American, reminding me of Atreyu from The Neverending Story. The Land Triad travel through contains sasquatches, dwarves, dinosaurs, cannibals, faeries and the remnants of a lost supercivilization. This is refreshing compared to the Middle Earth knock-offs in which many fantasy books seem to be set.
But that isn’t to suggest that this novel is entirely free of Tolkein’s influence. Henry Trade burrows deep into Triad’s subconscious once he realises the situation he’s in, and as prophecy states the man from the future is essential to defeating the aforementioned cosmic evil, Triad must got on an epic journey to the scribes who can unlock him. He goes on this journey with ten, not nine, but ten people. Two of them are dwarves. I don’t know, but that reminds me of the Fellowship of the Ring. And later on one of the dwarves shows the party a shortcut through a secret dwarven cave. That said, this influence might just be a coincidence, and it certainly doesn’t hurt the story.
I should also mention that there was one chapter which was essentially a retread of Olaf Stapledon’s Nebula Maker, which explained the origins and motivations of the cosmic evil. As if that wasn’t enough, the bestial ape-like cannibals that best Triad’s expedition are referred to as First Men, as in Last and First Men. Maybe I’m grasping at straws to link a book I enjoyed to an author I idolise, but these interjections of mind-bending science fiction into an otherwise sword and sandal fantasy are most welcome. Although Henry Trade admits to enjoying Zelazny in the first chapter, so who knows…
It bothered me how this book seemed to be all middle and no end. By that I mean that it had an episodic plot that gave no sign of a satisfactory conclusion until the last chapter. Towards the end I was seriously worrying that I’d read the first book in a trilogy. Maybe this book could have done better with more of an overarching narrative.
Characterisation is another weak point. While Henry Trade, Triad, and other important people are all vividly drawn, most of the ten member of Triad’s expedition crew felt interchangeable. There was one guy called Marcher who showed up every fifty pages or so, but besides that I’d forget his existence. The names were cool though. I’ll always remember a certain woodsprite called Rumbledump.
To my knowledge, Sometime After The Equinox is the only book that Jorj Bent has written. My wild guess is that he found getting published a stressful experience, and this guess is mainly based on a few typos and layout errors I found in the book. According ISFDB, Bent owns a wood working shop and is involved with the Methodist Church, which makes sense given some of the terms Henry Trade uses to describe the cosmic evil. I really think it would be amazing if Bent wrote another book, especially since this one leaves considerable room for a sequel.
Sometime After The Equinox is a book well worth reading. I’d recommend it for fans of every author mentioned in this review. The spacier elements make the fantasy aspect palatable to scif-fi lovers, while the bodily possession stuff could appeal to New Age fans. This is simply a memorable book with an unconventional setting.