Friday, October 15, 2010

Edi's Spotlight: TimeRiders by Alex Scarrow

Todays review is a bit unusual in form and style because I think the book deserve it. On September 15th I posted about Travel in Time - movies, TV series and a new book series called TimeRiders by Alex Scarrow. So far nothing unusual. I watched the following trailer for the first book .......

...... which has been the final reason why I bought a copy of TimeRiders (2010) [ISBN-13: 978-0141326924]. I read it within a bit more than two days.
And yes, I liked it a lot and will try to explain to you why.

After the trailer I checked availability over at I scrolled through information and SHOCK!
"Vom Hersteller empfohlenes Alter: 9 - 11 Jahre"
That means recommended reading age: 9 - 11 years! I could not believe it. For me the trailer showed something different. Then I searched for reviews and found several. To my relief most of them shared the opinion that the book is also interesting for adults. So far so good. But .... there are mostly short chapters - in detail 425 pages divided into 93 chapters - as you may know I'm not really a friend of short chapters ... and there are Nazis - an interesting topic for someone like me with a German passport and a soft spot for history ...
Finally I visited the offical TimeRiders site which I recommend to do. Like a lot of other people you can find author Alex Scarrow on Twitter.

I think I bored you enough. Now let's go on a time travel.
It is up to you whether you want to read the official blurb or my humble overview.
The cover shows some hints like the three main characters, flying saucer, New York and the Twin Towers.
TimeRiders is the unbelievable story of three teens who got the choice either to die or to work for a secret agency. Meet
- Saleena "Sal" Vikram (13) who should have died in a fire in 2026
- Madeleine "Maddy" Carter (18) who should have died on a plane in 2010
- Liam O'Connor (16) who should have died on board the Titanic in 1912

who awake in a time bubble located in New York 2001. The bubble spans only two days (10th and 11th September) and is repeated again and again. The bubble is the location where the mysterious man called Foster explains them their task and trains them to detect and fix time corruption and. All this can happen because time travel is possible. Later on another interesting being named Bob enters the team.
The first time corruption is completely interwoven with the Third Reich and specially with the Nazis and their leader.

WARNING: Don't look at the last but one page of the book. There you find a table with time lines which contain spoiler!

"Magic" of TimeRiders
TimeRiders is one of these books which are "poisoned" with a kind of magic. It is hard to describe. You read a page, a chapter. You read just one more and you are still "hungry", you need more. It is this inimitable mix of characters, story and events expressed in satisfying prose.
Did you ever see the television series The X-Files? I loved it with all the mysteries, suspense, conspiracies. I will never forget slogans like "The Truth Is Out There," "Trust No One," "I Want to Believe". For me TimeRiders has the same magic like the X-Files. The big difference is the pace of story telling.
Harry Potter is coming to the end. That means high time for a new all age movies. I would like to see TimeRiders in cinema!

I know there will be people complaining about flat characters, missing depths in the historical parts and consistency of time travel theory.

From my point of view Liam, Maddy, Sal, Bob and Foster are introduced well. Of course the reader does not get a lot of information. But hey, there are eight more books to come. The background of Val, Maddy and Liam is totally different due to their age, sex and the time they are coming from. For example Val acts like a thirteen year old teenager. Foster explained the three teens the reasons why they have been chosen. They all have to make decisions which are some times really difficult. At some points I asked myself who I would react/decide. Then I compared my decision with the decision of the character. And from my point of you I must admit that they act maybe not always believable but comprehensible. Is it difficult to connect with one or more characters? I think that depends on sex and age of the reader. I liked Foster, Maddy, Liam and Bob. Bob is something special. I would like to tell you more about him but I can't do that without spoiler. From all the characters he is my favorite one. Of course there are villains in the book. Real villains? Of course The Führer is one. But there are other characters which seems to be villains. Don't judge hastily. Take your time and think about their motive.

Historical parts
First of all this is no dissertation about alternate history. of course it would be interesting to get a detailed description about the time after 1945 but to be honest that would go beyond the scope of the book. I think when you have a basic knowledge of history since 1900 you can, based on the outlines of the story, easily imagine by yourself who th world would look like in the described alternate history after 1945.

Time travel theory
delivers basic information about time travel history. I found it sufficient. More would have been counterproductive.
In case you would like to get more information I recommend to use the Wikipedia entry Time Travel as a starting point.

The story and the narrative structure
The narrative structure with the 93 chapters makes the story telling so alluring. Everything - the history of time travel, unfolded events in past, present and future, team interaction, inner thoughts of characters - is interwoven.
That means every chapter new information from another point of view. It is nearly impossible to stop reading because your tension is rising with the revelation of new information. New information means new questions. Not all will be answered. Fortunately there is no danger for the reader to get lost in time - except the time you will use for reading. Anyway the reading will be more satisfying with a basic knowledge of history.

It is good to know that there will be in sum nine books. I left with a bunch of questions:
Who are the people behind Foster? Are there more field teams? Who decides which is the right time line?
Foster himself is a question. Where does he come from and where will he go? Will the team travel into future?
Why do some people forget events when the course history changes?

Does a book need a "drawer"?
TimeRiders is labeled as a young adult novel which is bit sad because I think a lot of people will miss to read it.
With an age of 51 I'm far beyond to be a young adult. But I have had a great time with TimeRiders and I will definitely follow the series!

Final statement
You like time travel, history, action, mystery, technology, developing characters, fast-paced story telling and imagination? You look for an entertaining time travel novel?
Then I recommend to read TimeRiders.

Additional information
Next month (November 2010) I will buy and read TimeRiders: Day of the Predator (2010) [ISBN-13: 978-0141326931] by Alex Scarrow, which is the second book in the series.

The series will continue with TimeRiders: The Doomsday Code (February 2011) [ISBN-13: 978-0141333489]
"In 1993 British computer hacker Adam Lewis finds his name in a coded manuscript that is almost one thousand years old. How did Adam's name get in there ...and why? Confronted by Adam in 2001, the TimeRiders travel back to Sherwood Forest in 1193 to discover the origins of the ancient message. But when a strange hooded man appears interested in the same thing, they begin to wonder what terrible threat this cryptic link from the past holds for the future..." [Source]
Of course I ordered a copy in advance .....

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