Can you change time past without losing what is most important about the present?
For his 12th birthday, British Indian narrator Albert Einstein Hawking Chaudhury receives a pet hamster and a letter from his father, written days before his father’s sudden death when Al was 8. Welford’s voice for his protagonist is engaging, pragmatic, and solid—a solitary boy who is brave and perceptive. Al’s dearly loved best friend is his grandfather, a prodigious memory expert, who emigrated from the Punjab to this northeast part of England as a young adult. The letter instructs Al to find the time machine his father built. Al is to go back to his father’s childhood to avert an accident that would cause his father’s untimely death as an adult. The time machine (an old Macbook, black electronics box, and zinc tub) is portable but unfortunately still hidden in the fallout shelter at the house where Al and his family lived before his father’s death. Al makes several attempts at his mission, each fraught with dangers and mistakes. Welford addresses all the complications of time travel, including the impossibility of being in two places at the same time and the threat of obliterating one’s present self.
Nods to classic time travel stories will delight some readers; those merely looking for a page-turning adventure will find that and more. (Science fiction. 10-14)