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TimeRiders by Alex Scarrow

November 10, 2010

Publishers: Walker Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: August 31, 2010

Format: Hardcover

Status: First in the TimeRiders Series. Book two, TimeRiders: Day of the Predator, is out in the UK. I couldn’t find a US release date. The third book is called TimeRiders: The Doomsday Code. It will be published in the UK in Feb. 2011. Again, no US release date.

Source: Purchased by self

Genre: Time Travel, Teen

Other Info: This is Scarrow’s first book to be published in the United States. As I understand it, Puffin has signed a deal to published all nine books in the TimeRiders series.

Description: (From Amazon):

Maddy should have died in a plane crash. Liam should have died at sea when the Titanic sank. Sal should have died in a tragic fire. But a mysterious man whisked them away to safety.

Maddy, Liam, and Sal quickly learn that time travel is no longer just a hope for the future; it is a dangerous reality. And they weren’t just rescued from their terrible fates. . . they were recruited for the agency of TimeRiders created to protect the world from those seeking to alter the course of history for personal gain. By reliving the highly documented events in New York City on 9/11, they can closely monitor history for any deviations—large or small. When just such a change is detected, they are alerted that a threat is at hand unleashing the evil of the Nazis to wreak havoc with Earth’s present and future. Can Maddy, Liam, and Sal fulfill their destinies as keepers of time to save the world from utter destruction?

An exhilarating adventure that shifts readers back in time to Nazi Germany and then forward into an ever-changing present.

I was pretty excited about this book when I plucked it from the obscurity of the packed Teen section at Borders last weekend. Stores have already begun their Christmas shopping mass ordering. I’ve never seen so many copies of Mockingjay in one place. Anyway, my excitement wasn’t that I’m a big fan of time travel books. Actually, I’m not. I avoid time travel romances in particular. Don’t like ’em. But I was intrigued by the description on the dust jacket. It turns out that TimeRiders wasn’t a bad book–but I definitely didn’t love it.

As the blurb above explains, Maddy, Liam and Sal are three teenagers pulled out of time at the moment of their deaths in order to become TimeRiders. Except, that’s not exactly accurate. Liam’s the only one who actually rides time. Maddy’s the leader and technician. Sal’s the observer–the person who is able to tell when history has been altered due to time travel. Although she’d have to be pretty dull-witted to miss the changes. There’s also a fourth member of the team: Bob, a clone/droid/humanoid computer. The computer program in Bob’s head allows him to calculate the success/failure of a mission, and also to make strategic suggestions. Bob has superstrength, too, which allows him to act as Liam’s bodyguard when he travels into the past. Bob is probably my favorite element of the story. He’s mostly a computer, but he has a small nugget of human-ness deep inside his brain. His character evolution was by far my favorite.

Having written that last sentence, I realize how funny it sounds. My favorite character arc was the one that involved a human/computer. I think this is because none of the other characters really evolve. That’s okay, I guess, considering that there are eight more volumes expected in the series. Still, the lack of character development made the characters booooring. It wasn’t that I disliked any of the characters. It was that none of them seemed to have much personality. They’re so busy with the saving the world from the altered history that there’s no time left for the fun character building stuff.

I’ve said that I don’t like time travel books, and that’s true. What I do tend to enjoy is alternate histories. They’re fun. I like to think about how the world might have turned out if this event hadn’t happened or that thing had occurred twenty seconds later. I once read a book about what would have happened to the United States if Robert F. Kennedy hadn’t been assassinated. It was awful and totally extreme. But still fun to read. I liked that there was a flavor of that in this book. But the thing is, I’ve never yet read a time travel story that really makes sense. I don’t know–maybe it isn’t possible. I’m certainly not a theoretical physicist (or whoever ponders these things) but during the course of TimeRiders I frequently found myself thinking: “But…” Of course, I emphatically do not have a technical mind, and so it may be my brain that’s at fault.

My ultimate feeling about this book was lukewarm. I didn’t hate it and I didn’t love it. I know that my feeling about it was influenced by my personal preference for a hint of romance in every book I read. There wasn’t anything here, no matter how hard I looked. Still, it’s only the first book in the series and I can give Scarrow the benefit of the doubt, romance-wise. However, this is a series that I would sooner check out of the library than buy.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Alex Scarrow permalink
    November 13, 2010 12:11 am

    Hi there, I just happened across your review. First of all thanks for taking the time to write a thorough review….even if it wasn’t your cup of tea. You’re certainly very right on one thing….in this first book there’s barely any time at all for the characters to breathe and grow since they’re fighting fires from the get-go. However, I’d love you to try the second book because, while the plot thickens you will get to see all four main characters really develop….in particular Bob….he’s really quite different in the second book.

    Anyway, thanks again for taking the trouble to review it.


    Alex Scarrow

    • November 14, 2010 8:35 am

      Thank you for commenting on my review. I would be happy to read the second book, especially if it’s, as you say, more character driven. Is there a release date set in the US?

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