Author: Andy Gavin
Genre: Young Adult Science-Fiction
Release Date: 19 December 2012
Source: From publisher in exchange for an honest review
Charlie’s the kind of boy that no one notices. Hell, even his own mother can’t remember his name. And girls? The invisible man gets more dates.
As if that weren’t enough, when a mysterious clockwork man tries to kill him in modern day Philadelphia, and they tumble through a hole into 1725 London, Charlie realizes even the laws of time don’t take him seriously.
Still, this isn’t all bad. In fact, there’s this girl, another time traveler, who not only remembers his name, but might even like him! Unfortunately, Yvaine carries more than her share of baggage: like a baby boy and at least two ex-boyfriends! One’s famous, the other’s murderous, and Charlie doesn’t know who is the bigger problem.
When one kills the other — and the other is nineteen year-old Ben Franklin — things get really crazy. Can their relationship survive? Can the future? Charlie and Yvaine are time travelers, they can fix this — theoretically — but the rules are complicated and the stakes are history as we know it.
And there's one more wrinkle: he can only travel into the past, and she can only travel into the future!
Look at that cover! How could I resist requesting this to review? Time and time again I've been burned by a pretty cover, but - fortunately - that wasn't the case here. Untimed is both better than expected, and a bit disappointing. I'll try to get into both reasons here.
I read, first and foremost, for characters. Interesting characters will make me beg for more, for the story to never end. And that's where we run into my main issue with Untimed. Every character in this story felt like a ... placeholder, for lack of a better word. There was nothing particularly memorable about any of them. Charlie is a typical fifteen year old boy, one who thinks about sex a lot (in some pretty ridiculous circumstances). The only thing remarkable about him is that he can travel in time. I will definitely give points to Andy Gavin for making Charlie feel like a stereotypical teenager, because he definitely does - complete with the over-inflated sense of superiority and rightness. But though I wanted to smack Charlie sometimes, I mostly just used him to experience the story through.
Yvaine, likewise, is almost as boring. Though she's got a lot more experience than a lot of authors give female characters it still makes her almost a caricature. She's sexually forward (Yay for no slut shaming!), smart-talking, tough, and capable. While I liked her, I got SO irritated with her speech. I'm not a fan of the Scottish dialect being written out, in most cases, and there were 63 uses of 'dinna,' among various others. By 5% into the book I knew this was going to irritate me.
I have some other minor, nit-picky things, that I almost feel bad for bringing up - but they took me out of the story!! You can't learn to fence from a movie, regardless if it was The Princess Bride or not. I admit, I laughed at the ridiculousness there. CPR requires 30 chest compressions per 2 breaths, not 10 and 10 - and this frustrates me beyond belief because I wish everyone knew CPR. Then there's the weird moment when they end up in Shanghai (and remember that traveller changes them to make them fit in) and their hair changes to "Asian"-style (what the hell is that?) but they still have white features. I admit this bugged me more than a little bit, and I'm still not sure what to make of it.
Onto the good! And there is plenty of good. The world is fascinating. Time travel is handled in an interesting and easily understandable way. Actions have consequences, but 'time' makes up for a lot of things too. I will say that some of it seemed mighty convenient, but after his iPhone turned into a paper notebook when he travelled back 200 years, I decided to go with it.
The thing that's got me most interested though is the Tick-Tocks and the Regulator. Supposedly the Regulator was the first of the time-travellers, and he died in the Time-War....anyway, he died, but not before he was able to write a bunch of encrypted pages for future travellers to find.
Time War, anyone? (picture copyright by Aaron Gittoes)
My image of the Tick-Tocks (also from Doctor Who - The Girl in the Fireplace)
So the Tick-Tocks are trying to work against the travellers - for what reason we're not quite sure. Are they trying to mess up the future by adjusting, ever so slightly, things in the past? Or are they trying to set right the changes made by other travellers? These are the questions that are flying through my mind as we travel with Charlie and Yvaine.
I was fascinated not only by the alternate histories and contemporary times that Gavin creates - which are imaginative and detailed - but also by the very real histories that he uses and doesn't flinch from. From teen-pregnancy, drinking, drugs, and slavery, Gavin doesn't flinch from showing the ofttimes harsher and dirtier side of humanity. Some of these topics are barely touched on, but it's clear that the themes are important and consequences of actions and decisions are a main thread in this world.
And then we get to the end, rocketing through time and space, and hit "To be continued..." like a brick wall! I have to say this was the most disappointing thing to me because I had no idea going into this book that it wasn't a stand-alone novel. I've emailed the author to find out any other information I can, because there's nothing on Goodreads, the author's website, or anywhere else I've been able to find.
I've been waiting until I get my review written to decide how I'm going to grade this. The things that Gavin does well, he does really well - and you can definitely see his videogame programmer roots at work in the action and intense world created here - but I really would like some characters that I can grab onto and root for. Right now they're kind of like ciphers. Here's hoping they grow up in the sequel(s).
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