Review: The Trouble with Time by Lexi Revellian
The Trouble with Time is Book 1 of the Time Rats series by Lexi Revellian.
I’ve had a very strange adventure with The Trouble with Time! It started out as receiving a ‘proper’ paperback copy but finding that the font drove me insane I ended up buying the ebook format and reading that instead (well, later…my battery died after 2 page swipes!).
Whether or not a book reviewer should comment on a book cover is one thing, but I do feel compelled to mention that unless I received a dodgy misprint there’s either a strong case for avoiding the paperback completely, or – preferably – accepting that ebooks may be the way of the future! (Given enough battery power! 😉 )
The underlying premise
Anyway. On with the content! I think this might be a blimming excellent time travel novel!
Remember that argument you had with your ex-girlfriend – the one when you said something sweet and innocent like “why don’t you try a larger size which might fit better?” and she inexplicably went ballistic? I had that argument too, and I spent hours agonising over the issue, twisting and contorting my mind in an attempt to comprehend what or how she was thinking.
I think I might have got there in the end.
And it’s a bit the same with The Trouble with Time – there seem to be some open questions and loop holes, but at the same time, if I bend my mind round far enough I think the novel works and comes clean! 🙂
If my understanding is correct, the basic premise is a brilliantly inverted grandfather paradox. This is where the grandchild goes back in time, kills his grandfather and…blah blah, you know it already. The paradox arises because there’s a question over which history occurred (which affects whether the grandchild exists or not).
In The Trouble with Time the question comes from the other side – from the viewpoint of the past, which future will have happened?
Time travel is restricted and time cops ensure that this remains so. However, one agent is a good egg gone bad who has his own agenda. Running concurrently with this thread is the story of Floss who’s unwillingly brought from 2015 to 2045 under the impression that removing her from her own time will assist in setting the world’s future on a better path. Naturally Floss wishes to get back to her own time.
Holding these story lines together is Jace who is both a time cop and who through as series of events comes to know Floss. Together they deal with the issues of good-cop-gone-bad and getting back home.
The role of time travel
By 2045 time travel is possible with “TiTrav” devices strapped to the wrist. However, it’s illegal to own, wear or operate such a device. The “International Event Modification Authority” (IEMA) enforce this ruling and its superior officials are the only members allowed to travel in time – after intense training and under strict regulation.
In a way the novel reminds me of Hexad: The Factory which asks “What if everyone can time travel?” The Trouble with Time partly answers this question by making it moot – it’s not allowed!
Time travel is used to bring back information from the short term future to ensure that decisions made today don’t have adverse effects for tomorrow. This might be somewhat ontological but I was pleased that the novel avoided the more usual drama of going backwards in time to change the outcomes of wars etc..
The mechanics of time travel aren’t given, but The Trouble with Time does have plenty of golden time travel nuggets which keeps the genre alive and in the forefront of the plot! 🙂 It touches, for example, on time travel tourism (visiting various times and locations in the past) and it introduces a time travel diction such as “timing in” (arriving with time travel) and “timing out” (leaving).
Then there are the IEMA rules to abide by…
What stands out in The Trouble with Time is how attention given to many aspects of time travel with bonus extras such as difficulties with time passing in real time during a time travel jaunt, the ontological paradox involved in miniaturising the TiTrav device or simply being (time) travel sick! Indeed, this is a ‘proper’ time travel novel where time travel plays a dominant role!
Sometimes it seemed that more was bitten off than could be comfortably chewed. Black box time travel is fine of course, but sometimes the lack of information seemed too apparent or even vague. For example, there’s a reference to the problem of the movement of galaxies when time travelling (so presumably also a problem of a spinning / orbiting Earth etc.) but this information is simply entered into the TiTrav device. Or “compensatory fuzzy logic” is used to avoid ending up in the same place as another object or in mid air. Without further information on this fuzzy logic, it seems a little superficial.
Admittedly, maybe I’ve been spoiled because these particular aspects are covered especially well in Nathan Van Coops’ “The Chronothon”.
That said, Lexi takes the concept a step further and describes how the “compensatory fuzzy logic” also ensures that a time traveller can’t time in when the destination isn’t clear of oncoming people, trucks and drones. This idea of needing clear space around you is taken forwards where IEMA have time travel-proof holding cells with metal rods and loops to ensure that people can’t time travel into them (although leaving is possible – which is probably handy if you’d like to escape a holding cell! 😉 )
IEMA quite often seemed to be a tool for stating various problems associated with time travel, although I must admit that at times I got a bit annoyed because rules were stated without further explanation. There’s a rule not to go back in history to the same day and minute as before because it’s too dangerous to meet yourself. Why? Anyway. This is a personal thing – it’s not that I’ve got a problem with authority; I just like to understand things!
What I particularly like is how a person or event is written from the viewpoint of both the past and the future, for example, someone had been dead for half a century…or had not been born yet, or coming over in speech, for example when Floss mentions that someone “…knows Prince – I mean King William”.
In the same vein, references to actions are given which then come into the main narrative later either through eyes of another character or from a different viewpoint in time.
I wrote a while ago about how time travel novels can take on a journey or destination approach. Whereas The Trouble with Time pays little attention to the ‘journey side’ the above points highlight the fun you can have with the ‘destination side’ of things – what it’s like to be in another (unfamiliar) time setting by describing it as a new experience.
But there’s also the more traditional approach where Lexi expresses her ideas of the future and the available technology (or lack of) in 2045 and beyond. It’s all good science fiction!
There’s also a hint of philosophical thought at times, perhaps from characters you wouldn’t expect it from; the main antagonist ponders the consequences of going back to change the past and finding himself in a new future where he may have died. He doesn’t have an answer (who does!) but it’s nice to see the issue acknowledged!
The novel is strong in time travel and as with most novels it needs characters to lift these concepts. Sadly I feel that The Trouble with Time is let down by weak characters; they seem superficial and made of glass.
That’s not to say that they don’t think or have thoughts and feelings. In fact, perhaps they have too many – there’s much drawn-out explanation or expansion on what a character is thinking, often as a semi-explanatory note after something they’ve already done. A fox-and-grapey post-event justification, as such.
Still, the variety of characters used in The Trouble with Time is impressive, and by and large their interaction with each other keeps the plot active and steadily moving forwards. Or backwards! 😉
The time travel icing
I mentioned earlier that there is a brilliant reversal of the grandfather paradox.
I think it was Jace who recounted to Floss something which he’d learnt during his IEMA training. Time is likened to a river; if it’s dammed up then it changes direction. This means that there can’t be multiple alternative time lines – just one; if things are changed in the past then there’s a ‘new’ future (rather than an additional one).
Crucially, this means that there’s a potential for a future (or present) to cease to exist if a trip back in time makes a pivotal change.
This comes into play in The Trouble with Time where the present as given in the first third(!) of the novel vanishes (I think). And certain aspects of the new present also undergo changes – even to the point of memories being swiped.
Given that events in the present initiate trips to the past to make changes, the basis for the inverted grandfather paradox is set up! 🙂 Excellent stuff!
Rating * * * *
A single star rating is tricky.
I’m disappointed with the characters and the glossing over of many of the time travel tid bits, but I really do like how time travel plays a dominant role in this novel. Yes, some time travel issues are given only a passing mention, but others are handled really well; and I especially like the topsy turvy approach to the grandfather paradox!
I’m going to go for 3.7 stars, falling just shy of 4 because I found that putting on a ‘character filter’ ultimately made it slightly less than a “good” reading experience (see scale below). I’ll add again here though that there are many aspects of time travel covered very well in this novel which on their own would warrant a higher star rating.
I’m curious as to why this novel is called “The Trouble with Time” which seems rather generic, but then again, I’m also curious as to how a second book in the series will come out as things are pretty well wrapped up at the end!
Time will tell, I guess!
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Disclaimer: Lexi kindly sent me a free copy of “The Trouble With Time” to read in exchange for honest review. This is it!
| 5* Excellent! | 4* Good | 3* OK | 2* Not good | 1* Crud |