Title: The Last of the Time Police (The Time Authority #1)
Author: Kim Howard Johnson
Genre: Science Fiction
Stan and Jack are the last remaining members of the Time Authority, a government unit formed to correct disruptions to the established timeline. Although time travel has been officially outlawed, Stan and Jack must make a quick time hop to 16th Century France to clean up some careless littering. But Leonardo DaVinci stows away and tumbles out (along with the machine’s operating manual) in 18th Century England. This disruption creates a Chronological Anomaly that begins advancing toward the future and threatens to wipe out reality. Stan and Jack must crash-land their time machine in 1848, where they discover, due to DaVinci’s influence, a futuristic Victorian England. After colliding with Maggie Wells, she helps them hide their broken machine. Stan and Jack realize their only hope to fix their machine is to recover the operating manual, if it still even exists.
Three things appealed to me about The Last of the Time Police. One, the idea of time “police” who time travel to make sure something silly in 3,000 BC doesn’t make the Confederates win the Civil War or something. Two, the idea that this is actually a government bureau. Three, time travel. So I said, “I’ll take it!”
Stan and Jack were both argumentative, blundering almost complete idiots. The main thing that differed between the two was physical appearance, although how two guys who have almost the same personality could get into as many arguments as those two is beyond me. They weren’t flat, but they were pretty bland, and it sometimes felt like I was reading around them to get at the other good stuff in the story.
Maggie, on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed. She was spunky and stubborn, and surprisingly good with her hands. She realized the boys (I somehow think of Stan and Jack as “the boys,” even though they’re middle-aged men) are almost complete idiots – and yet somehow put up with them. She never did anything of the sort, but I can easily imagine her punching a guy’s lights out if he made a pass at her.
I found the whole concept The Last of the Time Police was based on – what could Leonardo Da Vinci have accomplished if he’d somehow ended up in the 17th century? – almost the best part. Da Vinci had a surprising amount of page time, and he wasn’t the creative, semi-bipolar artist I expected him to be. He was conniving, passive-aggressive, and a skilled back-stabber, not to mention arrogant and a thief. His inventions created with 17th century technology made for a fun steampunk-esque 18th century London, but by the end of the book, I was about ready for him to get his just deserts.
I can’t really nail down the main plot of this book. There’s so many threads running through it. Stan and Jack in the 18th century are trying to fix their time machine so they can fix everything else. Leonardo Da Vinci in the 17th century is trying to take out the competition by sabotaging the reputation of his rival Benjamin Franklin. And various Army and Time Authority personnel in the near future are trying to fix things from their end. All of them were interesting in their own way, and delightfully tangled.
It’s not overt, but I think there may be a slight anti-bureaucracy message in the near-future storyline. The Army and the Time Authority are playing the blame game, pointing fingers, scheduling meetings, and doing paperwork. Nobody’s trying to fix the problem, and the only guy who really knows what’s going on is busy making sure someone else falls under the bus. Meanwhile, the entire timestream is being destroyed. It’s one of those “are you all idiots?” kind of things, but in a maybe-if-I-keep-reading-they’ll-figure-it-out way.
Overall, this wasn’t quite what I expected. Most of the characters were unlikeable and/or annoying, but I somehow wanted to keep reading anyway. And I’m curious to see where the rest of this series goes.
I received a free review copy of The Last of the Time Police from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.
The Time Authority series:
- The Last of the Time Police
- The Return of the Time Police