What do you do when you discover you have a hidden talent for time travel and you encounter a conspiracy to remove the importance of Benjamin Franklin from history? You probably get set for an adventure across time.
Charlie is an atypical teen who has trouble being noticed; his mother does not even remember his name. His father and aunt are historians who are absent more than present and he’s not able to get a girl to remember him long enough to get a date. It’s a strange existence until a chance encounter with a malevolent clockwork man sends him to the past where Oliver Twist antics and lusty thoughts for a damsel not quite in distress lead to history being irreparably harmed.
Untimed is a young adult time travel fantasy novel that interweaves a small amount of historical fact with a large amount of whimsy. It’s veritably littered with pop culture leavings and bears a small similarity to the oft-referenced Back to the Future movie franchise. The novel is fun and, in my opinion, firmly targeted at a young adult male audience.
Time travellers are a rare breed – the male traveller can jump backwards and the female traveller forwards. In an attempt to protect history from such potentially interfering characters, “Father Time” (or some other temporal deity) renders these travellers partially inconsequential. The notion is rather preposterous but makes for entertaining storytelling. When Charlie meets “the girl of his dreams” in the 18th century, he is actually acquainting himself with a fellow time traveller. Together they can travel across time and space in all directions. Unfortunately, due to a clever conspiracy hatched by our mysterious clockwork men, Benjamin Franklin is removed as a pivotal character in history and the future becomes one of clockwork dominance.
These strange clockwork antagonists thwart our heroes at every turn and give the story a relentless pace with Charlie’s father and aunt joining the adventure and creating a sidebar of familial tension.
There are sexual references and some fairly crass observations, which no doubt will appeal to teenagers. Take the following for example:
I’m not sure what surprises me more – that she’s a teen mother or that I just saw my first glimpse of tit.
The observation and attitude smacks of boyhood adolescence. The author has worked hard in giving our narrator a genuine voice and it’s done quite well throughout the novel. Additionally, the fledgling romance between Charlie and Yvaine ripens with teenage lust in a pretty genuine way, especially considering Yvaine is “experienced” by the time naive Charlie’s hormones get the better of him. The encounters aren’t specifically depicted, but are quite obvious – nothing I would expect should be denied to a teenage reader however.
This novel is the first in a series. The ending is left unceremoniously hung, quite similarly to the Michael J. Fox equivalent, but the book could be enjoyed in standalone fashion despite this.
Overall, this story was fun, fun, fun. The writing was clean and simple with neither the history nor the time travel becoming overbearing, the mechanics of the latter never taking itself too seriously. There was adventure, danger, humour, romance, sass and a bit of sex all punctuated with rather cute illustrations (well, maybe not the sex bit). If you have the opportunity to recommend a book to a teenage boy, take the risk in recommending this one. Of course, this should not be seen as a barrier to the older “teenager-in-spirit”.
Price at the time of review: $2.99 US
Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple
Author site: http://all-things-andy-gavin.com/author/
GoodReads page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16277039-untimed