Monday, 26 September 2011
Review: Timeriders: Day of the Predator - Alex Scarrow
Extent: 448 pages
Pub Date: 5th August 2010
Liam O'Connor should have died at sea in 1912.
Maddy Carter should have died on a plane in 2010.
Sal Vikram should have died in a fire in 2029.
But all three have been given a second chance - to work for an agency that no-one knows exists. Its purpose - to prevent time travel destroying history . . .
When Maddy mistakenly opens a time window where and when she shouldn't have, Liam is marooned sixty-five million years ago in the hunting ground of a deadly - and until now - undiscovered species of predator.
Can Liam make contact with Maddy and Sal before he's torn to pieces by dinosaurs - and without endangering history so much that the world is overtaken by a terrifying new reality?
There are a few books for which I refuse to read the blurb. I don’t want to be in any way prepared for what’s going to happen within the pages, I want to enjoy the full effect of the mystery and often the terror that lurks within. On the second book, the TimeRiders series has entered that list of books and that list also has another accolade: they are the most gripping, well told stories I have, do or ever will read.
Many sequels just plod along in the same ilk as their predecessors, the characters doing the same kind of things with the same kind of bad guys and the same kind of situations. After loving the first TimeRiders books I am so pleased to find that book 2 has done exactly what I crave in a sequel: something completely different! The kids are on their own now, stuck in their two day time bubble without a clue as to what will happen next – and that is just how I felt as a reader, I was nervous too, scared, my imagination pitching me all manner of horrific world-ending scenarios. So clever was it of Alex Scarrow, then, to throw his readers into a world-beginning scenario, or at least the first cycle of evolution on the planet. I think, whereas book 1 is about what happens when you mess with time, Day of the Predator takes you on a journey to try to comprehend the massiveness of Earth’s history, the massiveness of time itself and how arrogant humans are to think they know even the tiniest part of it. It’s genius to create an “enemy” in a species that has no record on Earth. I’ve recently been watching a load of dinosaur documentaries on the BBC, and in the last decade alone there have been dozens of new discoveries. It is probably quite likely that if you were to be transported millions of years into the past, almost every species you came across would be unknown to humans. It just gives you a real sense of what we don’t know and that is terrifying and a brilliant premise to a gripping story.
I am fairly rapidly coming to the conclusion that Alex Scarrow is some kind of story-telling genius, he taps into our greatest fears as humans, the unknown, and then he thinks of everything – every situation, every outcome, every potential time contaminant – and puts it on a plate for you to chew over. He must be a very philosophical person and he’s certainly turned me into a philosopher – never do I ask so many “what if” questions then when I’m reading a TimeRiders book. And it’s not just the big details it’s the little ones that really plug the holes in your suspension of disbelief, like using significant dates in history to cover up potential time contamination: only ever do something risky if you know there is going to be an earthquake later that day that will destroy all records and everyone you spoke to. It introduces some really interesting human moments amongst the action with moral dilemmas and wonderfully subtle characters development, the testing and building of relationships.
The author thinking of everything is a real asset to these stories, giving them a frightening level of realism, and exploring the fact that we know nothing makes for a fantastic sequel. Terrifying, gripping, touching, amazing.