Review Blog

Aug 08 2011

Time Riders: the doomsday code by Alex Scarrow

cover image

Puffin, 2011.
Recommended. Time travel, adolescent. Time Lords, the Holy Grail, Knights Templar, Richard the Lionheart and his brother Prince John and of course, Robin Hood set against a backdrop of impending environmental disaster, this story has it all. It might seem as if Alex Scarrow has taken all the elements of popular fantasy, Science Fiction and English mythology and put them through the blender. You might, justifiably, dread the result. Scarrow, however, has achieved a highly readable thriller, full of action, adventure, mystery and humour, all set in a very believable historical context.
Three teenage protagonists, all drawn from different eras and places in time, come together in a Time Team under the avuncular eye of an absent controller. These very recognisably normal teenagers form the most secret of secret societies destined to spend their lives correcting 'historical contamination' and ensuring history remains 'correct'. Third book of a series, Liam, Maddi and Sal and their indomitable 'meat robots'- superhuman beings with superfast computers in their brains grown to order to protect and support the Team, travel through time to protect us and stop time travel from destroying the world.
In this story a desperate stow away from a future Earth, dying from global warming and ecosystem collapse, steals a battle robot and sets in play a turn of events which allows the French to take control of England and thus changing everything about the world as we know it.
It may sound far-fetched and extreme Science Fiction, but Scarrow has clearly understood and vividly painted the politics and daily life of early medieval Europe. While this is a highly entertaining and thought-provoking story it can be a little uneven with some clumsy language construction followed by some beautiful metaphors. Alex Scarrow's 'other job' as a computer games designer has clearly led into the development of the ideas as well as the digital material which supports the series. The YouTube downloads, and an online game and blogs will ensure this story will appeal to young fantasy readers, but it does deserve a wide readership. The portrayal of the Middle Ages in this could add significantly to students understanding of this time period as they undertake the Year 8 Australian History Curriculum. Teacher notes are provided on the website for the first two books in the series and cover issues such as 'Genetic Engineering' and 'What makes us Human'.
Diana Warwick

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