Allen (The Divine Miracle, 2011) offers the first in aplanned series of five YA time-travel adventures.
Clancy Millstone is a wealthy computer scientist whose wife, Rachel, recently passed away. He lives with his 14-year-old son, Richie, in their Jacksonville, Florida, mansion. One day, Clancy asks Richie’s friend Travis and cousin Matt to stop by to cheer Richie up, as he’s been depressed since his mother’s death. They take him out for pizza, where they meet up with more teens,and the large, cheery group later heads back to the mansion for a sleepover. The next day, the door to Clancy’s workshop is found open, and the kids discover an enormous vehicle inside. After they board it, they watch a video recorded by Clancy, who tells them that they’re about to embark on a time-travel adventure. The time machine is well-stocked with food, clothing, spare parts—everything Richie and his friends might need. Most astoundingly, it’s powered by a platinum water crystal—and, like any technology, the crystal can be used for good or evil. Soon, Richie and his crew embark on a dangerous voyage through time and, eventually, space. Allen’s elaborately framed narrative starts with an elderly Richie meeting his younger self and delves into the intriguing questions central to many time-travel tales: Are events set in stone, or is time fluid and changeable? He offers a world that’s rich in detail and writes most compellingly about the time machine itself: “As long as the platinum crystal was submerged in water at a certain depth, it would produce power almost indefinitely.” Allen’s penchant for such detail, however, also makes the dialogue cumbersome and the prose repetitive: People constantly speak with a “wry grin” or with “rolled eyes.” The novel is also distractingly preoccupied with exploring its characters’ sexuality, which has its place in YA fiction but not when it overshadows the plot; phrases like “lube our tubes” and “horse grade manhood” may turn away casual readers.
Ambitious sci-fi ideas hobbled by salacious wandering.