Fiction Reviews


(2014) Scott K. Andrews, Hodder & Stoughton, £13.99, trdpbk, 344pp, ISBN 978-1-444-75206-9


Known for his work on the 'Afterblight 'series for Abaddon Books, Scott Andrews’ first foray with Hodderscape brings us Timebomb, an intricate novel that relates more and more to the title the more that you read.

Dora, Jana and Kaz come from three different time periods, 1640s England, twenty-second century America and 2014, the near present – I would surmise actual present, when this book was being written.

In many ways, this is a juvenile fiction novel and in many ways it isn’t. Andrews’ prose is dialogue heavy and his cast, a selection of appealing teenagers. The tone is reminiscent of Space Trap (1983), by Monica Hughes, an under-appreciated Science Fiction classic. The chapters are quick page turners, with the action never far away as our three protagonists struggle to come to terms with their shared ability of time travel. As with all stories making use of this idea, control is very important, so as not to overly confuse the reader with the different interjections of characters from the past and the future. Andrews makes life easy for himself with this, by allying the reader’s confusion with the confusion of his main characters who are all surprised by the powers they appear to have. He also plays the same trick Robert Zemeckis did with Back to the Future, by encouraging his protagonists to revisit key events in their own lives and attempt to fix things that went wrong.

Dora, Jana and Kaz may appeal to their target audience and the writing certainly does not shy away from consequences of action, although the thinner description at times does ensure we don’t dwell on the detail of what has happened. That said, this is a bloody and dangerous quest, where characters suffer for small gains as they try to understand the twists and turns of their part in Andrews’ time travel plot.

It is this inclusion of real ramifications to what happens that makes me question whether Timebomb should keep its juvenile fiction badge. There is also a smattering of social comment amidst the divided society of the 1640s and the confused political situation of modern times. Despite this, the language remains open and the characters certainly identifiable to contemporary teenage readers. In Dora particularly, the 1640s native, there is a clear attempt at translation of the character to a modern audience as her social norms clash with both Kaz and Jana’s until some twenty-first century ideas win out.

As with all good modern fiction, any attempt to identify a clear adversary to the three protagonists leaves some questions and a dirty taste in the mouth. Quil, Steve, Henry Sweetclover, Mountfort and Dora’s brother James all take their turn, but each has their reason for the way they choose to behave. Some motivations are revealed now, others are clearly to come later.

The weakness of the work lies in its thin setting. Sweetclover Hall in its different time periods is carefully sketched, but this and the surrounding locations remain a sketch as the writer prioritises conversation to deliver the story. The period setting doesn’t feel unresearched, just scarcely detailed at times as the reader is encouraged to look neither left nor right, but straight on as the action demands we move along. The question of time travel, its nuances and consequences in Andrews’ fiction are mostly set aside, unless needed for the story, but then this chaotic helter-skelter experience mirrors that of the principle characters who try to puzzle out the complexities with simple reasoning that conveys their youth and naivety. Whether this will bear out in the future books, we’ll have to see.

Timebomb is the first in a planned series and the complicated premise mirrored with the unknowing nature of its protagonists suggests Andrews will need . The story continues with Second Lives.

Allen Stroud

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