Liam O’Connor (1912), Maddy Carter (2010), Sal Vikram (2026). Three teenagers, living decades away from each other are suddenly thrown together in a small room near Brooklyn Bridge, in September 2001. They have one things in common: all three should have died, all three were given the choice to turn away from their fate but in return help to prevent time travellers from changing the course of history. And so here they are, TimeRiders, led by Foster, the man who saved them. Their first assignment is no picnic either: someone has decided to go back in time to let Hitler on the secret that attacking Russia is not such a smart idea, which in turn allows Nazi Germany to win World War II. The consequences are more catastrophic that anybody could ever imagine, and the TimeRiders must intervene at once.
This typical “what if” story has a lot going for it: some attractive protagonists, lots of action, a story that goes across genres to appeal to a wider audience. I like the concept of the story and despite the fact that there is nothing particularly unique and there are many déja-vus (Fatherland, I Am Legend etc), there is a lot to be enjoyed about this book. Except I didn’t, not really anyway. I struggled through it. And I don’t know why either! Don’t get me wrong, the book is not badly written, and the story is pacy enough that there are no lulls. The characters are likable (particularly Foster for me) and there is great chemistry between them. The historical side of the story is portrayed in a way that is never boring or preachy and therefore will keep the reader entertained. My students, who are reading it for the Red House Children’s Book Award, are on the whole enjoying it. I guess that the fact that I am no fantasy or sci-fi fan might have had an impact on my enjoyment of the book. However I think there were some clever insight on what could have been if those particular historical events had been amended.
Please see The Bookette’s in-depth review for a more enthusiastic opinion on this first book in a series of nine (the third in the series has just been published).