This is a little bit of a review with a difference. The Infinity Cage is the ninth and final book in the extraordinary TimeRiders series. Ostensibly aimed at youngsters, I don’t think Alex Scarrow could have targeted TimeRiders more directly at me if he’d tried. Over the last few years I have jumped on each of these books as they’ve been released and now, knowing that the series is done, it’s hard on the heart indeed. The good news, though, for others if not for me, is that now you can read books 1 to 9 in one fell swoop, no agonising tearing out of one’s hair during those irritating long months of drought. It’s all out there waiting for you and what a treat you have in store.
It hardly needs saying but you would be certifiable to read The Infinity Cage without having read the preceding eight books. Were you to do such a thing you would drown in a foggy bog of unknowingness. It also makes it a very difficult book to review. I don’t want to give anything away about what is to come nor do I want to spoil what’s gone before. But what I do want to say is that The Infinity Cage finishes the series perfectly and satisfyingly. Alex Scarrow mapped out the entire length of the series from the very beginning and it shows. Not only is the series well-structured but it also has all of its loose ends and time travel strings of conundrums, of which there were many, tied off neatly. That is no mean feat. Also, by now we are all attached to the TimeRiders themselves – finishing their story to the satisfaction of their fans cannot be easy, but Alex Scarrow knows exactly what to do. He also has the confidence to have the fates take their course with key characters – some of the main figures do die in TimeRiders. The Infinity Cage might be satisfying, exhilarating and thrilling but it is also tragic and harrowing. TimeRiders is written for youngsters but Alex Scarrow knows exactly how to address them and, as a result, this is a series for all ages.
So, because I can’t go into The Infinity Cage with any kind of detail because you need to wait till you reach it and then you can marvel over its perfectness yourself, here are a few reasons why you should read the entire TimeRiders series.
Our TimeRiders – Liam, Maddy and Sal, three teens ripped out of their own time (for instance, Liam who was serving aboard the Titanic) and given the biggest of all responsibilities. Taken out of time themselves by some sort of future mysterious agency and placed into a ‘bubble’ on the eve of 9/11 in New York City, they must identify and fix changes in time. These three teens are impossible not to care for. I have grown to love them all dearly and I doubt I’ll ever forget them. Helping them, of course, are Becks and Bob, seven foot support units with an artificial intelligence and an increasing ability to care – and joke (not hugely successfully). Later in the series, our three have other helpers who alter the lives of Liam, Maddy and Sal, including another especially irritatingly cheerful robot. Over the years we come to love even him. Maybe.
The mystery – nothing messes with time more than timeslip novels and in TimeRiders we see the full effects of that. From time ripples to full out tidal waves, Liam, Maddy and Sal have to sort it out, even if that means a jungle world ruled by intelligent lizards. The mystery comes from the future, too. What is the agency? Who is Waldstein? Who is Fowler? And why, if the agency wants them to save the future, do they keep sending forces back to kill them? And what are those beings who inhabit Chaos Space, the places in between the past, future and now? Twists and turns – they’re here in abundance.
Darkness and fear – Alex Scarrow pulls no punches. There is violence, death and grief in these pages. Not surprisingly really when you consider that it’s the fate of all humanity that’s at risk. People age before their time while others are lost in the gaps. Time travel itself is a dangerous business. Those who don’t check their destination first might end their days melded to a horse or another person or turned inside out. Disgusting, but you can’t look away. But if you want to find true horror, just beware the glimpses of the future.
History – a love of history shines through these novels. The destinations we travel to are brought to life whether the world of the dinosaurs, the court of King John, the American Civil War, ancient Rome, the Great Fire of London, Victorian London, the Mayan empire or Jerusalem at the time of Christ. And all are linked to our time through clever clues from the past, some of which cannot be deciphered for two or three books into the future, maybe more.
Adventure – whatever the horrors, however heavy the responsibility weighs on the shoulders of our young heroes, nothing’s going to get in the way of a fine adventure. And because of the vagaries of time, this means that characters can spend years as sheriff of Nottingham back in the 11th century or years as a pirate king on the 17th-century high seas. Everything about 2001 New York is wondrous to Liam, the Titanic cabin boy, although that’s nothing compared to going back to the Jurassic or battling Caligula’s armies.
Timeless – I can’t think of another series of books that I’ve enjoyed as much as TimeRiders. I’ve written about them for years. My one consolation in knowing that there will be no more is in going back and re-reading the full set from the beginning. The series will most definitely stand up to a re-reading – it is full of clues, intentionally left for readers to rediscover. TimeRiders entertains but the series also makes readers of all ages think – about the past and future – and marvel and puzzle and love. I adore Liam, Maddy, Sal, Bob and Becks. I reckon I always will.
TimeRiders 2: Day of the Predator
TimeRiders 3: The Doomsday Code
TimeRiders 4: The Eternal War
TimeRiders 5: Gates of Rome
TimeRiders 6: City of Shadows
TimeRiders 7: The Pirate Kings
TimeRiders 8: The Mayan Prophecy
Ellie Quinn – YA SF novellas
The Legend of Ellie Quin – review and interview with Alex Scarrow