A promising premise—mad scientist recruits children to steal treasures from humanity’s past—isn’t enough to carry a contrivance-ridden plot, poor characterization and a near-total lack of internal logic.
Dispatched by a cruel, vicious quantum physicist named “Uncle,” Caleb spends his days traveling to past eras to fetch collectibles, from an ancient Chinese vase to the first Frisbee, for sale to nebulous clients in the 2060s. Ungar never bothers to explain such details as why such thefts don’t radically change the past or where the copies of artifacts that Caleb and his fellow thieves leave in place of the originals come from. He also casts his protagonist as Uncle’s most successful agent but has him either fail completely or require significant help from allies every time. The author also abandons a set time limit on trips to the past and other internal rules when convenient, adds magical elements such as a pill that wipes only memories necessary to the plot and, for romance, forcibly hooks up his rude, sullen, naïve, inarticulate, jealous and often unwashed teen with Abbie, a beautiful, smarter and far more competent young agent.
This mess falls flat even if read as a sendup. (Science fiction. 11-13)