The Time Travellers Resort and Museum was an early reviewers book that I got via Library Thing, and as such I believe it to be a published version, not an ARC. If I’m wrong, I apologise to the author and the publisher (if you let me know I’ll correct any inappropriate remarks).
I was attracted by the blurb, which is a huge hook to the many people who know me that also enjoy time travel stories! Trust me, you’ll enjoy it!
“If you need to know men’s secrets
Or if there’s something you need to find
If you want to see the dinosaurs
Or the insides of your mind.
If you want to watch the earth begin,
Or see what the apocalypse will leave behind,
You need to thank Alice Anderson,
For Alice is the mother of time.”
That was how the rhyme went. Every time traveler knew it. Everyone that is, except of course, for Alice herself, since she hadn’t invented time travel yet. Since returning to London, Alice’s life has been turned upside down. She’s been accused of murder and lost her position in the scientific community. Her only ally in this journey is a strange man who seems to think that Alice may be about to open up a strange new world of possibilities, but is probably not telling her everything he knows.
Obviously fake quotes made up by the author for the purpose of filling up space on the back of the book.
“The torch has been passed to a weird generation.” John F Kennedy
“I remember the time David came over for drinks. ‘Twas the best of times, it ‘twas the worst of times.’ No, wait, it was just the worst of times. By the by, what exactly is ‘Tequila?’’ Charles Dickens
“The first time I met David, he told me how much he liked my book. I said “Which one?” and he said “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” It sort of went downhill from there.” Jane Austen
The Time Travellers Resort and Museum is a wonderfully bizarre mystery suspense time travel adventure (how many genres can I get in one phrase?) with beautiful illustrations by Felix Eddy, and a gorgeous cover. What’s inside the cover is pretty good too.
The start is a little clunky, since we travel with Alice from New York to London (something I’ve done many times), where she is to meet her friend Malcolm, then travel up to Cambridge to give a joint presentation to the Royal Astronomical Society – a huge honour. She does get there, eventually, but we have numerous switchings between other, earlier times, as a historical artefact is lost, found and lost again. The author chooses to have the mediaeval monks speak a kind of cod Olde Englishe — having never been inflicted with studying Chaucer, I reckon it’s cod — which is at first off-putting, but then you realise that if you say it how it’s spelt it’s perfectly understandable. Clever.
It is a very clever book, mixing in a huge number of alternate timelines, and introducing Fictional Realism, in which alternate timelines feature people and places to whom our own time line has ascribed fictional status. That means that in some worlds Sherlock Holmes, Sidney Carton, Ishmael, Huckleberry Finn and probably even Harry Potter, live just as you and I do in this one. Thus the story of this book brings in all sorts of characters you know, and may love.
Since Alice gets into a scrape early on, which means she gets chased by the police, from whom she is rescued by the mysterious Keith Quick, there is plenty of action and bewilderment for Alice to contend with, and the reader is taken along at a hectic pace to learn as she goes. There are some wondrous artefacts, some of a steampunk type, others existing in contemporary London, including mobile phones. The use of mobile phones when Alice has a temporal accident which lands her in the Regency age is handled beautifully. The action darts around in time and space, and the author has done a good amount of work to make the historical settings feel authentic.
Now, you know me very well, and I bet when you read ‘contemporary London’ the alarm bells rang. Yes. Full of bad contemporary London facts. Fake London, even. Most of these were in the first 20% of the book, which also included the odd typo and several grammatical errors, but returned near the end, too. I stopped to check whether the book was indie published (no, small press), whether it was an ARC (I don’t think so, hence my comment in the intro), and whether the author was British (no, Canadian). Which brings me back to something I’ve ranted about in the past about getting your details about places you don’t live in right. Use your social network. Check your facts. Don’t invite your contemporary Londoner readers to rant about things that aren’t right. Laughable, even. Okay, so the London Eye is ‘fairly near’ the Thames. So near, in fact, that you’d find it difficult to slide a credit card between it and the river without getting wet. Things mentioned earlier mixed up the detail of different types of Tube train lines, and put locations cited in the wrong places. I find myself wondering whether I’m turning into one of those old men who complain the insignia on the shoulder of a film actor belonged to a regiment that never went near the D-Day landings (or flew Lancasters not Spitfires, etc). I digress.
The detail did spoil the first and last 20% for me, but the middle 60% was excellent, and for the general reader I’m sure they’ll be delighted with the details. It’s bizarre and pacey and hugely enjoyable – in fact I even thought it was nearly as good as M T McGuire’s K’Barthan series, which from me is praise indeed. It has that same slightly bonkers air to it, not surprising since the author lists Dr Who as one of his favourite things. And that was also a surprise to me – he’s a man. Maybe that’s why Alice was a woman of the type I like, full of can-do, engineering common sense, and who can change her own lightbulbs (or invent them if necessary). A normal one, in fact.
And the cover is wonderful – I love the way the typeface moves through different eras on each line. Details that I love.
And if you’re wondering about the blue triceratops — he’s the best thing there, especially the way he comments “Nark!” in the most appropriate places. I think he has a big future to play in this universe. I hope so, anyway.
I’m looking forward to more in this series, and I am always available to check scripts for details of contemporary London – and other places I know well.
You may be wondering why overreacted on the last 20%. Apart from said London Eye, until I had some evidence for my outrage, I didn’t want to say, but since she gets stuck in Regency times (1800s), after a while she takes on the local style of speech, as a foreigner should. And claims to prove this by saying ‘fortnight’ and ‘hence’, and commenting she must have fitted in now. To me these are not only perfectly normal words, but fortnight is in the normal term for two weeks even among the youngest English speakers this side of the Pond (including Europeans who speak English). I did dither about hence, since the phrase ‘a fortnight hence’ is somewhat archaic, and I doubt whether I’d say it (in a fortnight’s time), but might write it. Then I wrote a blog comment including it quite normally the other day, using hence in a different form, instead of “from now” as in fortnight hence, to “which is why” – hence my PS on this post.
Writing travel is difficult, whether time or place. Ask your writing buddies OUTSIDE YOUR REGION for help. Rant over. Or at least put back in the cupboard.