Review: Saves Nine and In One Basket by Les Lynam

These second and third instalments in the Time Will Tell series are a pretty decent novel version of the situation played out in the Back to the Future movie where a teenager battles for his own existence. Some parts are slow, but prepare yourself for some fantastic time travel features!

Review: Saves Nine and In One Basket by Les Lynam

This review is for …Saves Nine and …In One Basket by Les Lynam, Books 2 and 3 respectively in the Time Will Tell series for young adults.

Saves Nine by Les Lynam
…Saves Nine

The first book, “…Before You Leap” introduces us to Sean Kelly and his five times great grandson, Alex. These latter additions to the series are effectively a single story in 2 novel-length parts.

I should mention that I read these latter books back-to-back, though after a four book break from the first.

In One Basket by Les Lynam
…In One Basket

What strikes me with these latter novels is that although they are separate from Book 1, they are integrated well. Additional books in a series often start with a clear link to later sections of earlier books to remind readers that they’re reading something in a series. …Saves Nine refers to events in …Before You Leap which happen well within the novel. It gives me the impression that Les has things mapped out over the series from the outset rather than trying to cash in or extend on a successful first novel.

(I’m assuming it’s successful – it should be!)

Storm in a Teacup

Storm in a teacup
Image credit:

Plots or novels are often referred to as taking a reader on a roller coaster. I’d describe my journey with …Saves Nine and …In One Basket as more of an eccentric spin in the tea cups; stationary for one instant, and then flung in high velocity in the next, to come screeching back to a halt again a split second later.

In short – the pacing is all over the place, made worse with long chapters with divisions and breaks in strange places. Sometimes it’s a feature of the writing style – time outs with diary entries, conversations with Steffi etc., and other times it’s more integral to the plot.

To be fair, many of the slow parts are necessary. For example, a long dragged out conversation over breakfast lasts for several pages, but it is during this conversation that we learn about the trust that one character has with another. Other events bring realism into the novel or show us more of the time and culture.

But other parts I’m not sure. Sean buys some soap in a local shop. Yes, soap is necessary, but I don’t think the pages of details were. In this way I was reminded of some Stephen King novels (I know I’m going to get slated here…) which are cumbersome and slow because they’re written for the screen; these things last only a moment on set, but cost several minutes to read through.

So that’s the slow parts. Now the other bits are really exciting! And of course I’m talking about time travel – though take note: The Time Will Tell series isn’t just about time travel; the time travel element is one of the many science fiction ideas which comes with Alex from the future and which is exposed through Sean’s curiosity.

As you’d expect, these follow on novels bring in new and additional ideas – refilling water canisters, or new features of the “STE” such as the preservation of internal inertia (cf one of Arthur C. Clarke’s Odyssey sequels) for example. I can’t remember what “STE” stands for, proving Sean’s point made in …Before You Leap that it should be given a more catchy name (“Steffi”) to make it more memorable. In fact this latter point is important – …Saves Nine and …In One Basket maintain consistency throughout.

I particularly like how Steffi undergoes a change, showing that things change for Alex as well as those in the past who he’s visited. There’s an interesting ‘relationship’ between Alex and Steffi where at times it seems that the role of (wo)man and machine have reversed!

Time travel component

Naturally I’d like to focus in a bit more on the time travel component, especially as this is a key area of strength within the novels.

“Steffi” is the time machine – actually, much more than that. Time travel is just one of its features (and I use the term “it” with caution πŸ˜‰ ). The mechanics were essentially given in Book 1 and aren’t revisited here, but we do see much more application of time travel. Drying shoes by leaving them out in the sun for 2 days but picking them up moments later, or returning after a long stint on a time travel journey to moments afterwards in a conversation, etc. It reminded me of Ben in The Chronothon (Nathan Van Coops) and how he was able to have a flexible approach when it came to time travel.

I’d suggest that dexterity is a prerequisite for time travel – not just knowing how to do it, or even being able to do it, but being able to ‘play’ with it!

The idiom that a tool is only as good as its user carries on when we see how Sean and Alex not only react differently when time travelling, but how they experience time within Steffi. The result is a strange cross between horrific and amazing – another stark caution when we play around with nature’s laws of time!

(You might be interested in this post: Watch the time machine which discusses what may go on inside a time machine! πŸ˜‰ )

Things really step up a notch in the second half of …Saves Nine when some of the deeper realms of time travel paradoxes are explored. The explanation of a change in time being like a stone getting chucked into the River of Time and causing ripples into the future comes back here, this time commenting that the ripples, whilst having having insignificant effect on most people, have a huge significance for Sean.

The predicament that he finds himself in is somewhat predictable, but he gets to observe some brilliant family dynamics. Alex has a good solution to find a method in finding out what happened (again, obvious) and the plot takes off!

Sean, as in …Before You Leap continues to be incredibly annoying, but he does pose a few thoughts regarding the nature of time, time travel and multiple versions of self; if a character dies but is brought back to life during a revisit to the past, did that character really die, or is there a new time line?

It’s fascinating stuff, and I really have the feeling that …Saves Nine and …In One Basket address the issues associated with time travel in a much more mature manner than in the first book.

General points

I was expecting more from …Saves Nine when it came to Sean and his younger version of Dad meeting and interacting. After all, it was the purpose of the visit. How did Sean feel about it? Did he see himself in his father? In hindsight, my expectations were probably more from Sean than from the novel, and maybe it was my own adult view to find this aspect interesting (how would my daughters react to seeing me in my youth?). Of course Sean disappoints, and Alex notes the same; Sean is more interested in chasing girls than finding out more about his dad.

Despite my own desires regarding content not matching the target audience’s, I do feel that I ‘won’ in other areas. I really liked it how some plots of some movies are referred to, but without spelling out which movie. This credits the reader with some intelligence (this is where I feel a little smug!) – and lets the ignorant off the hook. To be honest, the chances are that I’ve missed other references but I don’t realise it!

Talking of education…with parts of the novel being rooted in the past there’s some educational merit; Alex’s explanations to an ignorant Sean provide a nice way for 1969 to be put into historical perspective. The section which stood out most to me was Alex’s description of why people stood against the hippy movement (and why it existed) pointing out that people now (so 1995) were more tolerant of differing views than back in 1969. He also pointed out the cyclical nature of fashion. I couldn’t help but bring my mind back to thecurrent stupidity in the UK in the racist aftermath of Brexit.

To be fair to Sean – he gets his chance to educate Alex too, for example, on the idioms on the English language, or on living life with feelings and less logic. In my review of …Before You Leap I commented on Alex’s similarity with The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon. In these later books, especially recalling the Alex-Steffi paradigm, I’m reminded this time of the ‘good terminator’ when the kid in Terminator 2 is teaching him how to say “Hasta la vista, Baby” etc..

Rating * * * *

Ultimately, these second and third novels in the Time Will Tell series are a pretty decent novel version of the situation played out in the Back to the Future movie where a teenager battles for his own existence.

However, giving this a star rating is inaccurate because …Saves Nine and …In One Basket highlight particularly well how insane it is to sum up a whole novel with a rating system which uses only a single value; it’s the same principle when you stick your feet in the freezer and your head in the oven and on average your body is at a comfortable temperature: the 4 stars is a cross between a mediocre 3* and a sizzling 5*

Don’t throw out the wheat with the chaff!

It’s the slow sections which for me bring the novels into the mediocre realm in places – ploughing through the word count until the scene setting, character building, historical background or whatever has been laid out. But then comes the juicy stuff, and it mustn’t be missed! Glowing and sparkling with a host of time travel (and other scifi) ideas, all served up as a riveting 5 star gourmet menu for our reading pleasure! πŸ™‚

I’ll shortly be interviewing Les and quizzing him about some aspects of his Time Will Tell series – stand by!

Update: As promised, here’s the link! πŸ™‚

Author interview with Les


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Disclaimer: Les kindly sent me a free copy of “…Before you Leap” to read in exchange for honest review. This is it!

Star ratings:

| 5* Excellent! | 4* Good | 3* OK | 2* Not good | 1* Crud |

Review: Before you Leap by Les Lynam

Before you Leap by Les Lynam is a wonderful YA time travel novel with many other scifi ideas included. Les gives us ideas of future technology as well as an elegant time travel methodology – and how strained relationships between a Grandfather and a 5 times great grandson can be!

…Before You Leap (Les Lynam)

…Before you Leap by Les Lynam is the first book in the Time Will Tell series for young adults.

Book cover for Before you Leap by Les Lynam

This is a novel which has a huge array of futuristic ideas enveloped within it!

One of its strongest points is how futuristic technology is put in juxtaposition with that of 1995. At the same time, the importance of history – and knowledge of the future – is brought to the fore. The social interaction between the characters bring these elements into the light, and is presented in a writing style which is both sensitive and light-hearted!

Brief Synopsis

16 year old Sean receives a visit from his great-great-great-great-great-grandson, Alex, who has come back in time to 1995 from the year 2217 for what is effectively a historical research study. To assist him with this, the “5G grandfather” wants to get to know Sean better and has his methods to do it. Alex also has plans to get further back into the past to 1969, specifically to meet Sean’s father. For this he requires a DNA sample to use as a “dimensional beacon”- something which Sean is able to help out with.

The novel centres on the relationship between Sean and Alex – complete with differences in their temporal-based cultures.

Prologue set in the future

The Prologue sets the scene from the view point of KLE1752-NI28-949-LX (or Alex as he becomes to be known in 1995). It’s 2216 and Alex is competing against 126 other applicants for a sponsorship from Chronos University grant to pursue his proposal.

In this future we’re introduced to the realisation of many technological advances.

For example, there’s a direct interface between Alex and a computer which seems to be able to control many things both externally and internally within Alex’s body. There’s a brilliant description of him sitting in a virtual auditorium and awaiting the results for the award of the scholarship; two ‘attendees’ log in from the Moon (so by now human-kind has made it off the planet) and Alex displays frustration that the bad connection means that their images flicker and cause distraction – he wishes they sat at the back.

We’re lead to believe that the society that Alex belongs to frowns upon emotion – certainly the expression of it – which reminded me of the Equilibrium movie (where feelings are suppressed with drugs because emotion can lead to violence and an unstable society). In …Before You Leap we’re not told the reasons why things have become like this, only that Alex’s father would disapprove of such kinds of behaviour.

His mother on the other hand is considered odd because she encourages the expression of emotion, and indeed at the end of the Prologue Alex displays happiness and excitement (in private) that he wins the scholarship. Thankfully in 2217, emotion’s not completely dead!

Writing style

…Before You Leap adopts a young adult style of writing.

It’s written mostly from Sean’s point of view, though sometimes gives an insight into Alex’s thoughts and feelings too. Sean is 16 so I expect that his feelings, frustrations, hopes and ambitions will be mirrored by the target audience.

I did notice there were frequent descriptions of clothing, specifically of matching colours and cut lines and things. At the risk of sounding sexist (or at least, recalling my own sweet 16 years) – these are issues which boys usually don’t know about. Interest in what lies beneath, yes, but all the rest of it?

Sean’s reaction to some characters is melodramatic at times. He treats his parents badly and his mates are a couple of idiots as well. Sean makes a big deal about breaking off a relationship where he was used as a toy boy, but he goes on to ditch Alexis for her more attractive twin sister, Nicole, who on a conversational and intellectual level is for all intents and purposes identical.

Sean is slow at putting things together, although in his defence I picked this book based on genre, I’ve read the Prologue – and I’m not 16!

I didn’t particularly like Sean, a feeling amplified when he shows little patience with Alex. Certainly for the first few chapters I found it was my interest in Alexis which got the pages turned!

All that said, I can see teenagers lapping up this novel! Actually, despite my misgivings about Sean, so did I!

Getting the girl

If nothing else, …Before You Leap (especially the beginning) is yet another thing which reminds me I’m very lucky to be married to my wife! …Before You Leap is written very well – and I say this because it takes me right back to the prolonged agony in high school in trying to get the girl. Thankfully I don’t need to go through all the angst of getting the girl again!

Slowly does it?

My initial feelings with the initial chapters was that it’s a slow beginning. Having got to the end I think it would be fairer to call it ‘paced for the long haul’, recalling here that this is the first book in a series of three novels (“Saves Nine” and “In One Basket” being the following novels in the series.)

Plot direction

As the novel progresses into the second half the general plot shifts from Sean and the twins to Sean and Alex. The focus changes and things settle down.

Although time travel plays a critical role in …Before You Leap, it’s not the main subject – it’s the relationship between Sean and Alex brought about by their differences in temporal rooting. This didn’t hit me until I’d got to the end of the novel, so like Sean and his attempts to get the girl, it’s fair to say that in this respect I was slow!

Alex’s solution in getting to know Sean is clever but flawed (at first), and he comes up with a solution which had me at times vaguely concerned on behalf of young adults in case there was a following in the footsteps of Heinlein’s All you Zombies or The Man who Folded Himself by David Gerrold.

All that said, I didn’t expect the truth behind Alexis and Nicole which came as a complete surprise. (Nicole’s name, by the way, shows Les’ breadth of knowledge across many disciplines – details revealed in the novel!)

Juxtaposition of 1995 and 2217

One of the strengths of …Before You Leap is how the ideas and values that Sean has in 1995 are so different from Alex’s view with a base line in 2217. They have interesting conversations, each getting frustrated with the other for reasons and principles they either don’t fully understand, or disagree with.

For example, I fully sympathise with Sean’s boredom surrounding history, whereas Alex is much more aware after several good and bad events between 1995 and 2217 of the need to learn from past mistakes. (Although there’s been an equal amount of good and bad mistakes up to 1995 too…)

At times Alex reminded me of a likeable version of Sheldon in the Big Bang Theory sitcom comedy. I think this was due to his logical and sometimes emotionless way of thinking and speaking, though to be fair, Sheldon has no social skills whereas Alex is fully integrated into his own societal norm. And crucially, Alex is keen to be on Sean’s good side.

Sean has a lot of difficulty in trying to break through this passionless barrier, and we read further that Sean finds Alex difficult in his misconception of 1995 lifestyles and values. Sometimes he imagines how things would be for him if he were to go back in time and suffer the need to get on with those around him who were less technologically capable than he, so I suppose in fairness he isn’t a completely unsympathetic moron.

On the other hand, despite his training, Alex found it a minefield to navigate through Sean’s thought processes and struggled to understand many of Sean’s irrational actions. Alex displays a much higher level of patience with Sean than I would have done!

Futuristic ideas

Through Alex and his conversations with Sean we gain an insight into the future of 2217 – the year in which he completed his training and went back to 1995 to carry out historical research.

Nanites lead to ticks

One of the pieces of technology I really liked in …Before You Leap was microscopic programmable nanite robots which are inserted into the body during gestation. People could then use them for a multitude number of reasons ranging from body monitoring and drug administration, to accessing a main frame computer for near instant information.

This latter use tended to lead to a facial tick. So here I am, reading at my pleasure in the peace and quiet of a local wood. Totally immersed in the world that Les is painting in …Before You Leap, then come home to find out that I had a completely different kind of tick…one burying his head in my chest πŸ™

(Now how many book reviewers would mention that?! πŸ˜‰

Non nanite insertion tick
My own non-nanite bodily insertion procedure. Gives me a tick.
Close up of my unwelcome tick
Close-up of the little blighter. This is a tick I didn’t want!

Nanites were also used to disallow memories to be stored into long term memory. That feature might be handy here…

A different outlook

Personally, I find the lack of emotion in the future disturning. But there is a saving grace in the futuristic outlook – at least from Alex; a refusal to over-use technology.

This happens today – people drive 500 meters instead of walking, or splel bdaly thkans ot spl chcek and atuo corect. Similarly, Sean wants to use Alex’s access to holographic technology to reserve him a good spot in a car park. Alex suggests coming in 15 minutes earlier. Spot on!

And then of course there’s the time travel!

Elegant time travel methodology

Alex first describes the time travel methodology as moving or slipping through time as if it were a spatial dimension. This of course is similar to H. G. Wells’ famous description of it – but whereas Wells leaves it there, Alex describes it further in a dumbed down format to Sean; he compares a time machine to flying a jet engine where energy is required to provide enough thrust which can then use aerodynamics to combat gravity. Or if a person is freed from the gravitational constraints of the Earth then remaining stationary in space means a relative motion on Earth (so Coriolis force). (Actually this also applies to spatial relocation too, with the same analogy).

Similarly, given enough energy, a time traveler can be lifted out of the river of time and placed in another temporal location. Quite elegant!

Following the “time is like a river” theme, small changes get washed away whereas other disturbances affect things close by or further downstream if the disturbance is great enough. Whilst it’s not possible to change the flow rate of the river of time, it’s possible to change its direction creating another time line.

An interesting feature of the time travel method is the “DNA dimensional beacon”. Again, we don’t know exactly how this works, but it was developed by one of Sean’s descendants. By using DNA it’s possible to go further back in time than without the DNA. I find this a particularly interesting concept because it starts to cross into the biological time travel arena – an area which I think potentially holds a lot of promise for future time travel!


As the Prologue starts with Alex in 2216 prior to his training and his trip into history, the Epilogue concludes with Alex in 2217, after his trip to 1995.

Alex looks back over his experience and we share in his thoughts, augmented of course with his nanite connection to his home computer who lets up on an observation that it made some time ago. This observation in some ways calls into question the ethos of the futuristic society in which Alex lives.

On a personal level, I’m very pleased that the epilogue isn’t a padded out “buy the next book in the series” statement. Indeed, …Before You Leap is self-contained and concludes – but I should ‘warn’ you that the notes following the epilogue effectively crush some of the tension which has been building up by telling us what happens in Book 2 (“Saves Nine”) πŸ™ When you get to the end of the novel, I’d urge you not to read the notes. Just have faith that Saves Nine will be as fantastic as the novel you’ve just read!

(So my only negative comment is actually not about the novel! πŸ˜‰ )

Rating * * * * *

…Before you Leap by Les Lynam is a superb scifi novel with time travel and futuristic technology. Although aimed at young adults I think this novel has much to offer for us older types too! I’m giving this 5 stars because I really like how ideas and concepts from 2217 are brought and examined from a nineties viewpoint.

…Before you Leap is available from and in Kindle and paperback formats.

Stand by for reviews of the next books in the Time Will Tell series, …Saves Nine and …In One Basket, as well as an interview with Les Lynam. I’ll keep you posted!

Update: Here are the links! πŸ™‚

Review of …Saves Nine and …In One Basket

Author interview with Les


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Disclaimer: Les kindly sent me a free copy of “…Before you Leap” to read in exchange for honest review. This is it!

Star ratings:

| 5* Excellent! | 4* Good | 3* OK | 2* Not good | 1* Crud |