TIME IS THE ULTIMATE SAVIOUR
Following an impossible discovery in East London, archaeologist Dr Samantha Lester joins forces with software developer Adam Bryant to investigate the events that led to the disappearance of his best friend, Jennifer, and to bring down the people responsible – Million Eyes.
Before long, Lester and Adam are drawn into a tangled conspiratorial web involving dinosaurs, the Gunpowder Plot, Jesus, the Bermuda Triangle, and a mysterious history-hopping individual called the Unraveller, who is determined to wipe Million Eyes off the temporal map.
But as the secrets of Million Eyes’ past are revealed, picking a side in this fight might not be so easy.
Q&A with C.R. Berry
How would you describe your books? What genre(s) do they encompass?
I would describe the Million Eyes trilogy as conspiracy thrillers, first and foremost. However, they’re also science fiction books and historical fiction books too. The premise of the series is this: what if certain events in our history weren’t supposed to happen? What if things like Princess Diana’s death, the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower and even the extinction of the dinosaurs only happened because of time travellers? The books incorporate themes such as destiny, power, faith, reason and the greater good.
Time travel, alternative history and conspiracy theories all feature in your stories. What interests you about these themes?
Time travel has always fascinated me. I love the idea of being able to go back and see how things were or go forwards and see how things turn out. You can tell bigger stories with time travel.
My love of history and conspiracy theories sort of go hand in hand. History is full of mysteries, and conspiracy theories are used to try and solve them. I think my interest in conspiracy theories could be traced back to Year 8 History when we learned about the shooting of William II in the New Forest and all the people who may have been involved in a plot to have him offed. I loved learning about that, which is how it made its way into the first Million Eyes.
How do you create your stories? Do you begin with the characters, theme, or setting? Why is this?
I begin with the plot—always. I start with a story I want to tell, and then I choose the best characters I can think of to help me tell it. In the case of Million Eyes, it was a story about a corporation using consumer technology to hide the fact that it was secretly tweaking the timeline. And it was about offering fun, alternative explanations for who Jesus was, what lies in the Bermuda Triangle, why Princess Diana was killed, and so on. I then created characters who are just everyday folk that get dragged into a perilous quest for the truth.
I guess I do it this way round because when it comes to selecting a TV series, movie, or book, it’s the plot I’m most interested in. I can’t stand character-driven stories where there’s zero plot progression.
Which part of the writing process is the most difficult for you? Why?
The historical research! I don’t even want to imagine the number of hours I’ve spent reading about how 1st-century Nazareth might’ve looked, or scrutinising architectural plans of the Tower of London in three different time frames, or the fashions of the Middle Ages and the Iron Age and Victorian times. Historical research has, of course, been necessary to help make the trilogy as authentic as possible, but it has also made the writing process a lot longer and more arduous.
What is the best and worst part of being a writer?
The best part is when I complete a chapter that I think is great—most likely a dialogue scene where my main protagonist or antagonist is unleashing some serious sass. The worst part is when I have a serious block. There’s been a few of those while crafting Million Eyes, which is why there’s not going to be a shred of time travel in my next book!
What’s next, another book in this series or something different?
I’m two-thirds of the way through the final book in the Million Eyes trilogy, Million Eyes III: Ouroboros. This one is going to spend more time in the future than the past, and it’s also going to reveal the origins of the titular “Unraveller” in the second book. They’ll be a showdown between my protagonists and Million Eyes, and all the loose ends will get tied up with a timey wimey bow.
After that, I’m going to be working on a conspiracy horror called The Puddle Bumps. I want to write something with lots of blood and gunk (well, alright, Million Eyes has some of that, but The Puddle Bumps will have more).
C.R. Berry started out in police stations and courtrooms—ahem, as a lawyer, not a defendant—before taking up writing full-time. He’s currently head of content for a software developer and writes fiction about conspiracies and time travel.
Berry was published in Best of British Science Fiction 2020 from Newcon Press with a Million Eyes short story. He’s also been published in magazines and anthologies such as Storgy and Dark Tales, and in 2018 was shortlisted in the Grindstone Literary International Novel Competition.
In 2021, he bought his first house with his girlfriend, Katherine, in Clanfield, Hampshire, discovering whole new levels of stress renovating it (not helped by a rogue builder running off with most of their budget). The couple are now in the fun stage, going full-on nerd and theming all the rooms—their bedroom is a spaceship, their kitchen a 50s diner.
Now that the dust is settling, Berry is refocusing on the final book in the Million Eyes trilogy and getting back to writing his first collaborative novel with Katherine: a space-set adventure with aliens, terrorists, a mysterious wall that surrounds the universe and—of course—conspiracies.
Extract from Million Eyes 11 C.R. Berry
[Excerpt taken from Chapter 1 – the two main characters in this chapter are Edward and Richard, the Princes in the Tower]
66 Million Years Ago
“So how do we get back to 1483?”
Edward thought about this for a moment. He remembered the first time they travelled in time. He remembered being in the realm of ghosts, after swallowing the pills, feeling like he was floating. Their bedchamber was suddenly filled with strangely dressed people—transparent people—walking through, literally through, one another. He could see through the walls, through the furniture, through the floor to the room below. He could see beyond the Tower to the river. Everything and everyone were eerily ethereal and blurred together in front of his eyes. And Edward remembered that when he concentrated on one thing amid the haze, it sharpened into focus, all the other ghosts falling away. There was a painting. A painting that looked like it was of him and his brother. It was transparent at first, like everything else. But as Edward stared at it, it became clear, and everything else started to fade. A moment later, they were back in their bedchamber and all the ghosts had gone, but it was four hundred years later.
Things happened in much the same way when they ate the second pill only minutes ago, standing on the streets of London in 1888. Edward remembered returning to the realm of ghosts, the streets filled with shiny horse-less carriages, people in eccentric clothes and giant structures all around. All transparent of course. Ghosts, like before.
Only Edward couldn’t remember fixing on anything that time. He couldn’t remember seeing anything shift into focus while the rest fell away.
So how did they get here?
He told his brother his theory on how they ended up in 1888, that his focusing on one thing in particular seemed to pull them out of whatever it was they were actually in and into a specific period in time. But he admitted he couldn’t remember what he had focused on before they arrived here.
“That’s because it wasn’t you,” said Richard after a moment’s thought.
“What?” said Edward.
“It was me. I looked at something. I focused on it. It became clear, like you said. Everything else—all the ghosts—started fading away. We were holding hands at the time. A moment later, we were here.”
It was presumptuous of Edward to think that he was the only one with the ability to plot their journey, as though time itself was only going to respond to him. Richard had brought them here.
“So what did you see?” said Edward. “What was it you focused on?”
It was like two tiny flames went out in Richard’s eyes. His face paled and his throat bulged with a swallow. An aura of fear had come over him like a deep shadow.
“What’s wrong?” said Edward.
“I saw… a monster,” replied Richard, looking down at his feet. “It was coming towards me. Charging at me like a bull. I was terrified. Did you not see it?”
“I saw creatures. I saw a lot of things. None could see me, though. What did the monster look like?”
Richard sighed, raised his head and looked at Edward. He opened his mouth to answer, then the direction of his gaze shifted slightly and his whole face dropped.
“That,” he whispered, rigid.
Edward spun round, following his gaze.
Lord have mercy.
Not far from where they stood, standing partly shaded beneath a cycad and trampling a large patch of hornworts, was a creature three times as tall as them, with dark green, brown-flecked skin that was scaly like a snake. Dangling from its bulbous middle were two small arms with three-fingered hands ending in sickle-shaped claws. Its two legs and feet were similar, only much larger and longer, and along its back was a row of tall, bony spines linked by skin. It waved a long tail that was as thick as a tree at the base and tapered to a point, and looked like it could propel a carriage into the air with a single whack. Its long head bore two horns and a tapered jaw, the hot sun gleaming off multiple, tightly packed rows of ravenous-looking teeth.
Edward’s heart was pounding as they watched the creature lean forwards, its two eyes—like yellow billiard balls—staring straight at them.
Neither boy moved. Richard whispered, “What do we do?”
Edward swallowed hard. He plunged his hand into his satchel and pulled out the pot of red pills.
“We have to—” started Edward.
“Edward!” his brother screamed.
The creature stooped low and launched into a run.