When a series of book is as good as Alex Scarrow’s TimeRiders set of novels, it seems almost irrelevant where the’re placed in a bookshop. No doubt, you’ll find them on the Young Adult or Teenager shelves. I may or may not be a teenager but I am sure of one thing: the TimeRiders novels make perfect reading for anyone, whatever the number of grey hairs on their head, of if they have none at all.
They have everything going for them, whether it’s the fantastic idea behind them, the brave and likeable characters, the incredible situations in which they find themselves, or the superb writing. Alex Scarrow knows exactly where he’s going with what will be a set of nine novels and that confidence and conviction shines through every page-turning page.
At this stage, I would suggest that you read my overview of Alex Scarrows’ TimeRiders novels over at My Favourite Books. My enthusiasm for them was such that I was kindly invited to say a few words, words that grew and grew in number such was my eagerness to spread the word about these wonderful stories. The kind of story you stay up until midnight on the night of its release so that you can find it on your kindle within an instant of its publication. That’s what I did with The Eternal War, the recent fourth in the series.
Now that you know the background to the series, I’ll focus here on The Eternal War, published last month (July 2011).
This fourth book is slightly different to the preceding three. This time, much of the action is set in 2001, but in a near present that is much changed from how we know it. All because Abraham Lincoln had a drink too many and landed under the wheel of a cart. This being TimeRiders, things aren’t quite that simple – both about Lincoln and about the cart – but the result is that Lincoln finds himself back in 2001 having to survive in a Civil War that has never ended but the cause has long since been forgotten. He’s not on his own. Liam, Sal and Maddy, along with support units Bob and Becks, are with him, each trapped in their own world of danger.
It’s a world of chivalry and brutality on all sides – American, French and British all play their part until Americans finally decide, spurred on by the arrival of these strange visitors, to try and unite together to get history back on track. But beneath the reason lies prejudice, reminiscent of the original conflict over slavery. But now the perceived threat comes from genetically engineered beings, creatures that have been left to run free long enough to gain a soul. The similarities between these beings and Bob and Becks are blatantly obvious and painful to us but the battling soldiers are too blinkered, too fixed.
One characteristic of the series that I have particularly appreciated is Scarrow’s reluctance to judge. There are faults in everyone and there is good in even those who seek to destroy our heroes. Life is complicated and when time is messed with it becomes even more unfathomable. Also, the future that TimeRiders envisages is by no means utopian – it is no wonder that characters seek to go back and change it. Even more worrying is the increasing darkness surrounding ‘The End’. This was mentioned in the third book and continues here, supplemented by other little clues and recurring characters and symbols.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Eternal War although I feel that with this book in particular the story took second place to the need to give us more context for the characters. It’s less light than the preceding three and is without the travels in time to distant times and places that helped to make the other books so appealing. I can see why this was necessary though as the series continues on its purpose. The undertones of this series are also not to underestimated. The impact of mankind and its decisions on our planet have preoccupied Scarrow’s other novels and he does not shy from presenting similar themes here.
That being said, there is enough action and imminent danger here for even the most peril-demanding reader.
I’ll be interested – to put it mildly! – to see what happens next to characters that I greatly care for in a series I adore.
Alex runs a great website for TimeRiders and its readers. Take a look here.