Saturday, 6 April 2013

Review: Untimed

Untimed by Andy Gavin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The next time some snob who hasn't been paying attention for the past couple of years tells you that all self-published books are crap, point them to this one.

As I'm reading on my Kindle, I routinely highlight passages or words where the author, and their editor, if any, has screwed up - left a word out of a sentence, used the wrong word for what they mean, mispunctuated or misspelled something. I have no highlights in this book. Zero. The author thanks a large number of people in his acknowledgements, and I think it's a case of "with many eyes, all bugs are shallow". He's put in the work to produce a professional book.

I enjoy a well-written time-travel story, one in which the plot is carefully crafted and the threads all weave together, and that is what this is. It's also thrilling. There's always something happening, the stakes are both high in global significance and also personal for the main character, and the action is well-described.

The characters, especially the main character, are believable. It's in first person, and I totally believe Charlie as a teenager. He does things that he's not completely proud of, but they're the things a teenager would do. He's not ridiculously superpowered or over-competent, either. He has the knowledge a bright teenager who's been well-prepared by a time-travelling father would have.

I found the other characters a touch one-dimensional, I have to say, including the love interest. Then again, that's not incompatible with the viewpoint of a bright teenager, to whom everyone else is not quite as real as he is.

The setting I found a little over-convenient. The universal translator and the way in which clothing changes to match the era that the traveller ends up in, for example. I can see why the author made those choices (it removes some fairly tedious practical issues and leaves more space for the exciting ones), but I hope it's well-justified in a sequel. That's really my main criticism. As far as other aspects of the setting go, the past is convincingly smelly and violent, and the whole world has an authentic feel. It's not a cinema sound-stage, it's shot on location.

The five stars is rounded up from about 4.7 or so, and is based on 5 stars being the best conceivable YA time-travel story. I've read better books, but not very many of them.

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