Posts Tagged ‘time travel’

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken is a young adult fantasy novel, the first in a duology, marketed as a treasure hunt through time.  It focusses on the characters of Etta, a young 21st century woman and Nicholas, a black man from the 1700s, both of whom have the genetic ability to travel through passages in time and space.  They embark on a journey through time to locate the astrolabe, the series McGuffin, in order to prevent its falling into the hands of the Ironwoods giving them power to change history.

What I liked

The time travel system.  I really enjoyed this aspect of the book.  It was very well thought out and the rules and limitations were well explained.  Often in fantasy it’s the limitations on magical powers that make them most interesting and generate the most interesting stories.  At the risk of spoiling the novel I won’t say too much more, but this aspect was very well done.

The character development.  Writing believable and consistent characters is one of Bracken’s strengths.  I could easily believe the characters actions and reactions based on what they’d already experienced.  

The social commentary. Having two characters whose race or gender has historically deprived them of power and placing them in situations where that is emphasised was inspired.  It leads to some scenes that are both funny and poignant.  

The writing and the pacing.  This was excellent – the story kept moving along at a brisk pace with the tension managed expertly.  It’s amazing what a deadline can do for plot pacing!  Of course, I hadn’t expected anything less from the writer of The Darkest Minds series.

What I didn’t like

The romance.  Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the relationship between Etta and Nicholas.  What irritated me though was the fact that they allowed it to overshadow everything else.  They were on a very tight deadline and yet they still took a lot of time out to enjoy each other’s company.  Focus, people!

Bland characters.  I will say I enjoyed the situations in which the characters found themselves more than the characters themselves.  Yes, they did have a few moments of awesome, and yes, their character development was realistic, but I wasn’t particularly engaged by them.  

All in all I really enjoyed this book and gave it four out of five stars.  I look forward to Wayfarer, the conclusion of the story.

As an aside, if you enjoyed Passenger, I would strongly recommend you check out Kerstin Geir’s Ruby Red trilogy. This explores a very similar premise of time travel, but the heroine is much more fun and sassy than Etta.

four-stars

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – Review was originally published on Canadian eReader

Through Netgalley I was offered an advanced reader’s copy of YA time travel novel The Here and Now by Ann Brashares.  It tells the story of Prenna James, a time traveller and refugee in our time from a future in which global warming and plagues have left the world devastated.  She and her community of fellow refugees must live by strict rules for their protection and that of those native to their adopted time.  One of these includes refraining from an intimate relationship with a local.  Naturally Prenna meets a boy…

In general, I found The Here and Now to be a very fun, if light, read.  The time travel refugee concept was interesting but so much more could have been done with it.  The whole concept of time paradoxes (you know, the old chestnut, you can’t travel back in time and kill your own grandfather) was ignored and the issue of Prenna’s adaptation to the new society was glossed over.

What I liked

The concept.  The idea of refugees escaping back in time from a devastated future was very interesting.  The list of rules by which they must live is very interesting, too – I did struggle to understand how Prenna could not see their necessity.  The introduction of Poppy and Andrew Baltos added an extra layer to the time travel storyline.

The Prenna/Ethan romance.  I really enjoyed this – I liked the way it was built up and how they supported each other.  

What I didn’t like

Scratching the surface.  I know this is young adult literature, but I felt the book lacked depth.  So much more could have been explored with time travel paradoxes, the whole source of the plague and environmental issues.  I had the impression that Prenna never really understood the need for the rules, and also why the time traveller community was reluctant to become involved in society.  The whole question of who is at the source of the fork in time could have been expanded much more.

All in all though, I did enjoy The Here and Now and gave it three and a half stars out of five.

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All Our Yesterdays by Cristen Terrill is a YA dystopian sci-fi time travel novel which tells the story of spoiled teen Marina and freedom fighters Em and Finn.  The twist – Marina and Em are the same character, only four years apart in age.  Em and Finn have travelled back in time to try to prevent the creation of the dystopian police state in which they are living.  To do this, they must kill “the doctor” a figure with close connections to all three of them. It is the first in a two-book series although it could work as a standalone, depending on your interpretation of the ending.

What I liked

Character development.  One of the great strengths of All Our Yesterdays is seeing the characters’ journey.  Through time travel timey wimey we meet three characters at two separate stages of their lives, Marina/Em, Finn and James.  We see how their experiences in a four-year period have changed them.

Through Em we see where Marina will end up if Em and Finn are unable to complete their task.  The Marina we meet at the beginning is, let’s face it, one of the most annoying, bratty teens in YA – think of an even more self involved Bella Swan – whereas Em is a YA heroine more in the Katniss or Tris Pryor mould.  The reader is then intrigued to learn what turned whiny Bella into Tris in just four short years.  It’s interesting to note that Em distances herself from Marina and sees her almost as a separate person whom she needs to protect.  She changes her name and cuts her hair to show this distance.

The older James, too, is very different from the earlier version we meet.  In contrast to Marina/Em though we see more flashes and hints of the man he will become.  I’m not certain how early on in the book James’ place in the police state was supposed to be apparent to the reader, but I picked up on it very quickly.

Of the three, Finn is the one who has changed the least in the four years.  Both younger and older versions of him are very practical, loyal and level headed.  There were a few times I wondered if he wasn’t another future Finn pretending to be younger Finn, but that is neither confirmed nor denied in this book.  What does change though is Marina’s/Em’s relationship with him.  That is interesting to watch develop, although that was done a little too quickly perhaps for my taste.

The writing style.  I really enjoyed Terrill’s writing style.  it is beautifully descriptive and very engaging.  A perfect example of this is that at one point our characters receive a phone call telling them that another character has died.  Nobody actually says the words, but from the setup and the characters’ reactions it’s perfectly clear what has happened.

What I didn’t like

Time travel is tricky.  In this book Terrill goes for the standard sci-fi trope of let’s kill Hitler (or at least the relevant evil mastermind) before he becomes evil in order to prevent an apocalypse.  Time travel narratives can be fraught with paradoxes and guns just happening to fail at the wrong moment.  I’m not 100% certain that Terrill had the whole concept perfectly under control.  Some of the explanations provided for anomalies and paradoxes seemed very vague and didn’t stand up to scrutiny.  It’s possible that they will be explained in far more depth in book two, so I am prepared to give her a pass on this.  I did have fun with the older Em and Finn having to pose as their younger selves though!

All in all, this is a great read and I loved it. Any weaknesses in the execution of the time travel concept are more than made up for by the writing and character development. I gave All Our Yesterdays four and half stars out of five.

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