An exciting page-turner (4.5 stars)
Source- personal copy
Published in February 2010 by Puffin
Paperback- 432 pages
Oh TimeRiders, how I love thee…
This is another book I’m a bit late to the party for, but a series that I’m very glad I’ve finally started, after receiving the first few books for my birthday a couple of months ago. Time travel books always leave me wrinkling my brow in confusion and over-thinking in the end, I can’t get my head around parallel dates, dimensions and time loops, and safe to say that this was still the case here on a couple of occasions but I absolutely loved it, complexities and all. The notion of ‘what if…’ regarding certain events in history has always genuinely fascinated me and this book explores that on a whole new level.
The premise behind the story itself is simple but thoroughly effective: TimeRiders are recruited by a mysterious agency with the sole purpose of travelling back in time and ‘fixing’ broken history. In book one we are introduced to three brand new TimeRiders, all teenagers who are taken, moments before their own death, and brought to September 2001 with that sole purpose. Readers meet Liam, saved from drowning on the Titanic in 1912, Maddy Carter rescued from a plane crash in 2010 and Sal Vikram, pulled from a fire in 2026. At the same time as the three are getting used to their new circumstances, a man with his own time-travelling aspirations decides to head back to Nazi Germany…
This was a well-written, fast-paced adventure that I found incredibly absorbing. Liam, Maddy and Sal are all vividly depicted (though a lot is left unsaid about their back stories, which I hope will be developed in future books) and the world-building was very well done. I had chills when Sal found herself wandering in Times Square on 10th September, knowing just what was around the corner. I think for me, Liam was my favourite character in the book though; I enjoyed his interactions with the others, particularly with Bob ‘the meat robot’ and how out of depth he sometimes felt in a more modern world. Feeling displaced is an emotion I’m sure a lot of people can identify with. I did however think his ‘Irishness’ was perhaps over-played on occaision and some of his speech and phrases appeared a little bit stereotypical. Foster, who rescued the three teens from death is another great character- I am keen to learn more about him and I enjoyed the dynamics between he and Maddy here very much.
I also found some elements surprisingly dark within the novel, which made it all the more engrossing. Characters are continuously faced with difficult choices that would perplex anyone, but given the circumstances they are placed into, become triply as complex. I am looking forward to seeing if such moral dilemmas become commonplace in future books in the series. Also, it was much more graphic than I had expected, not that it’s a bad thing- but there are some quite gory, violent deaths in there- a few in particular made me shudder a bit! For a book aimed at young adults, this surprised me. I did appreciate however, the historical elements developed in this book; aside from WWII, a ‘test’ for new TimeRiders involves a journey back to see the shooting of JFK. Having recently read Stephen King’s 11.22.63, I absolutely loved this story thread. I would like to know a bit more about the agency itself too, for example- where all of the fancy equipment comes from; again, I hope to find out more about this in book two.
This book has some subtle humour, it isn’t all just fast-paced action and on more than a couple of occasions I found myself laughing out loud. Bob the robot has some brilliant one-liners, but there were also allusions to a future President of the United States who is somewhat unexpected… or maybe not?! Given the jump back to September 2001, I shuddered at the notion that George Bush was back to being president too!
Before I was even half-way through this novel, my mind had already turned to parts two and three sat waiting on my bedside table, wondering what exciting plotlines awaited inside- then before I knew it I had nipped online and ordered books four to seven as well- just so I have the luxury of reading them one after the other. So much for my insistence that I wouldn’t be buying any books this month!
I am a huge Michael Grant fan and I really love his Gone series, but dare I even say it… part one in the TimeRiders series gripped me even more than Gone did! I am going to “try” and pace myself with reading these and (reluctantly) squeeze in a few other books whilst working my way through them, but something tells me that it won’t be too long before I am reading book two: ‘Day of the Predator’ and you know something? I can’t wait.