Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Jumping Jack Flash

by M. A. Keesee


The great thing about time travel is that there's an excuse for all kinds of anachronisms. Albert Martin, a historian at the Waverly Institute, is a good example. It's 2079, yet he moves in a world where people say things like "one does not dillydally", and "we are in quite a pickle", and "old boy".

Albert at least has the excuse of being a historian, but the rest of the workers at the Waverly Institute live with a curious mix of high technology, androids, and peculiarly archaic speech. One of these androids has gone AWOL in 1879, and Albert is given the job of going back in time in order to retrieve him.

However when he jumps back in time, as so often happens with time travel, he loses his means of return and finds himself stranded. He also loses his luggage, and has trouble finding his contact from the future. What's more, his mislaid belongings seem to be connected with a murder mystery.

Luckily for Albert he soon meets up with Arthur Conan Doyle, who has yet to make his name with his Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Doyle is very handy to have around, which is just as well because Albert needs all the help he can get.

Jumping Jack Flash is slow to start, but it eventually develops into something of a murder mystery. Albert enlists the help of some street urchins and other colourful characters as he explores the mean streets of 1879 London. Bill and his friends drop their aitches incessantly, to the extent that the dialogue becomes irritating in places. Marianne Keesee is a writer who is obviously very fond of language, but this enthusiasm for words sometimes gets in the way of a story that's easy to read.

Albert and his fellow time trippers come across as a bunch of tourists, bumbling over time paradoxes and treating the past like some kind of holiday resort. They move at a leisurely pace, without a great sense of urgency for their business. This impression is partly because Albert himself is not all that exciting a character. He's an everyman, someone who things just happen to, rather than a man with any real passion. It's hard to get involved enough to care about what happens to him. Jack, on the other hand, is far more likely to take the initiative and get up to mischief, even though he's an android.

Jumping Jack Flash lacks an underlying moral theme that would otherwise bind it together as a novel with a point to make. It's a clear and sometimes funny story with a feelgood ending. But this clarity is its downfall, because it doesn't have the complexity or the twists that would make it into a really satisfying whodunnit.

Book Details

Year: 2004

Categories: Books

  Science fiction
  Male Protagonist  

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Shelby and the Shifting Rings cover    

Shelby and the Shifting Rings by A. M. Veillon
A young girl's adventures in time travel.

2 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson