When Tribute Books asked me to review Untimed by Andy Gavin as part of the author’s current blog tour I was intrigued by the book’s description so I agreed. I have to admit that I didn’t find it a chore to read and review the novel. It was a fun read and I still smile whenever I think about the story.
Here’s what the publisher’s description says about the book: Charlie’s the kind of boy that no one notices. Hell, even his own mother can’t remember his name. And girls? The invisible man gets more dates.
As if that weren’t enough, when a mysterious clockwork man tries to kill him in modern day Philadelphia, and they tumble through a hole into 1725 London, Charlie realizes even the laws of time don’t take him seriously.
Still, this isn’t all bad. In fact, there’s this girl, another time traveler, who not only remembers his name, but might even like him! Unfortunately, Yvaine carries more than her share of baggage: like a baby boy and at least two ex-boyfriends! One’s famous, the other’s murderous, and Charlie doesn’t know who is the bigger problem.
When one kills the other — and the other is nineteen year-old Ben Franklin — things get really crazy. Can their relationship survive? Can the future? Charlie and Yvaine are time travelers, they can fix this — theoretically — but the rules are complicated and the stakes are history as we know it. And there’s one more wrinkle: he can only travel into the past, and she can only travel into the future!
Untimed is a very engaging fantasy, coming of age story. I easily warmed to the two main characters, Charlie and Yvaine, so it wasn’t hard to root for them. From the first page the story held my attention. I knew little about Benjamin Franklin’s early life so I wasn’t aware that he had worked in London as a young man. I enjoyed the way the author pivoted the story around this detail of his life. I had hoped for a happily-ever-after ending right up until the last page but the author threw in a neat twist that scuppered that so I guess I will have to read the next book to find out how it all turns out.
As I have said, this is a coming of age story. Fifteen year old Charlie is thrown into a new place and time alone and has to fend for himself. By the time he is re-united with his father later in the story he has begun to mature and develop his own ideas and values. He has learned to stand on his own feet. When he questions the premises his father lives by it causes conflict between them. As the story progresses each of them learns to respect the other’s point of view and actions resolving the conflict.
The author’s description of each of the novel’s settings is almost too believable. He utilises all the senses to bring to life each place, not shying away from gruesome sights and foul odours. As I read, some of the places became real enough to make me uneasy. The author also cleverly throws in modern references to describe historical objects, people and places. The references he chooses are often funny but they create images that help modern readers understand eras they probably are not familiar with.
When I began reading the novel I wasn’t sure whether it was an adult or young adult book despite the fact that the main characters are teenagers. The author has graphically re-created 1725 London and not spared the details. I was surprised to find a great deal of sex and violence, more than I expected to find in a novel aimed at mid-teens. But I’ve learned that this doesn’t seem to be unusual in young adult fiction. After talking to friends who write young adult books, I realised that I may be a bit behind the times. They told me that young adult books are much more adult now than when I read them several decades ago.
There’s no doubt that Untimed is a rollicking, fun read. I enjoyed the story and cared about the characters. And I still want to know how Charlie and Yvaine finally manage to undo their mistakes and restore historical events to their proper order. I guess I will have to wait for the sequel.
You can read an excerpt from Untimed here.
About Andy Gavin: Andy is a serial creative, polymath, novelist, entrepreneur,computer programmer, author, foodie, and video game creator. He co-founded video game developer Naughty Dog and co-created Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter. He started numerous companies, has been lead programmer on video games that have sold more than forty million copies, and has written two novels.