I have never read a successful book about time traveling. This book continues that trend. This book is about time travelers from circa 2100, AD, not too far off. The future is plagued with mosquitoes and dangue fever plague runs rampant.
IT DOESN'T MAKE ANY FUCKING SENSE.
This is one of the shorter books I've read this year. It could have been a whole lot shorter, because it was so completely lacking in viable plot. If a butterfly flapped its wings within the pages of the book, would it make me fall asleep? The answer is yes.
This book has:
1. No character development
2. An insta-love who's not so much as a romantic interest as he is a walking, talking, kissing deus ex fucking machina
3. A fucking moron of a heroine
4. One-dimensional villains, extremely weak secondary characters
5. A simultaneously confusing and simplistic plot riddled with (worm) holes
6. A terribly unconvincing time-traveling setting
The Summary: Prenna James is from a terrible nonsensical future. Apparently, ~80 years from now, we have the technology for time travel, among other things, but people are suffering from illness and plagues.
We have no idea how many people died in the plague, but there we have it.
Roughly 1000 people were chosen to return to the past to live in a fairly enclosed community.
We don't know how the people were chosen, we don't know why so few were chosen, but there we have it.
Prenna arrived in New York in 2010, she literally appeared out of thin air. A 14-year old Ethan saw her appear in a pond of water. She is naked. It is love at first sight. Prenna is beautiful. And naked.
She was the kind of girl he would dream up because she was approximately his age, her skin was bare except for the dark wet streamers of hair around her body, and she was supernaturally beautiful, like a mermaid or an elvish princess.
Ethan goggles at her for a bit, this girl is clearly out of it. He gives her his jacket (hello, she's naked), and then, you know, just lets the girl-who-appeared-out-of-thin-air wander off to god-knows-where.
He wanted to go with her, but he didn’t. He watched her stumble off through the trees in his blue Giants sweatshirt, looking overwhelmed by the tangled branches and the knotty roots and the mud and the bushes grabbing at her.
Because what else could he do...like...I don't know...call the police?All's good, until she reappears in his precalculus classrom in his sophomore year of high school.
Prenna's time-traveling community has 12 rules, all of which revolves around keeping their time-traveling status a secret from the world, isolating themselves from the people of the world because of the danger that the time travelers pose to the current world. The last rule is one that should have kept Prenna and Ethan apart.
12. WE MUST NEVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, DEVELOP A PHYSICALLY OR EMOTIONALLY INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH ANY PERSON OUTSIDE THE COMMUNITY.
Does it work? HA!
Prenna and Ethan gets some advice from a crazy homeless dude whom Ethan nicknames Ben Kenobi (unrelated to Obi-Wan). Of course, they listen to him.
How can I trust him? Who trusts the homeless, can-collecting man who sings opera to himself? Who does that?
Something about the way he said my name. What if---?
Well, apparently the timeline itself. THE WORLD ITSELF IS IN DANGER. Wormholes and time traveling and shit are really, really dangerous, you know? Remember the episode of The Simpsons when Homer went back in time, stepped on a fish, and then all of a sudden the whole world is ruled by Ned Flanders? Well, we don't want that shit to happen. Prenna and James have got to save everyone! Save the world!
Along the way to save the world, they:
1. Make a detour to go to the beach
“This is perfect,” Ethan says as we watch hordes of people in bathing suits stream by, dragging coolers and umbrellas and small children. “What better place for a couple of folks running for their lives and concerned with the fate of humanity?”
2. Do some under-aged drinking
We eat dinner on the patio of a Mexican restaurant spangled with twinkling white lights. Ethan brandishes his fake ID and comes back with a pitcher of sangria.
3. Play card games
“And during our downtime, I’m going to teach you Hearts.”
“We’ve got to have our priorities,” I say.
“We do. Because once you’ve got Hearts down, you’re set.”
Prenna and James: saving the world, one card game at a time!!!!
High IQ, My Ass: Prenna wasn't supposed to have made it to the past, she has asthma. She only made it through because of her extraordinary intelligence.
My mom said it was really incredibly fortunate that somebody with asthma got to make the trip at all. She said something about my “enhanced IQ” making up for it.
This book completely failed to convince me that Prenna's IQ is any higher than her shoe size.Prenna is so mind-numbingly dumb.
For instance, Prenna realizes that her glasses are used as surveilance tools.
The leaders and counselors track our movements, everything we see and say and hear. Nobody says so, naturally, but we all know it’s true. I think they do it through our glasses. I think there’s got to be a tiny camera and mic planted in them somewhere.
Smart, right? Well, yeah, if she bothered to actually fucking use that fact. She is nearly blind without them. She wears them constantly. Prenna constantly makes fucking idiot plans and talk to people she shouldn't be talking to WHILE WEARING THEM, WHILE KNOWING THAT SHE IS BEING MONITORED.
OH, sure! Reveal your fucking plan and your secret knowledge WHILE KNOWING PEOPLE ARE LISTENING IN. WHAT THE FUCK?!
“There are so many things I have to tell you,” I rush on. I should be more careful—I know that on some level—but I can’t make myself be.”
It's not just one instance. Every few pages, she does it. She could have just hidden the fucking glasses, but no, she talks over them, she talks in exaggerated tones thinking people are too stupid to realize that she's lying. She does it over, and over, and over. She takes no caution at all.
“Prenna, stop.” She is terrified. “Please be quiet.”
Suddenly I understand the tone of her voice. I hear more than see the presence of two men in the dining room. Ethan was right. I am stupid.
Prenna is such an unconvincing character. She is a 16-year old from a difficult, hard-knock future without an iota of sense, without a single ounce of character. She makes grandiose speeches without anything to back them up. Prenna is an empty character.
Red Flag Behavior: Prenna doesn't act like a fucking 16-year old. There are rules for her community, she gets "red-flagged" whenever she does something stupid that endangers their secrecy.
It happens a lot. Over the dumbest fucking shit. She follows people around because the clothes they wear look similar to what she knew.
I once saw a man in a plaid vest across the street, and I followed him around for an hour thinking he could be my dad. That was red-flag behavior too.
Yeah, endanger everyone you know for the sake of a pair of fucking boots.
“According to him, you followed a stranger for four blocks yesterday and asked her about her rain boots.”
“Oh, right.” I should be contrite, but remembering it, I’m kind of excited. “She had my old boots! You know, the bright blue rubber ones hand-painted with ladybugs and parrots and geckos? Do you remember them? I loved those!”
The Setting: Utterly unconvincing.
1. The Language: In the future, we lost the ability to say the "th" sound?! The FUCK?
I’m trying to write and talk the way they talk here, but it’s not easy. All th-th-th-th-ths. People thalking through their theeth. Mom—I am supposed to call her Mom here, pronounced MAH-AHM—she gives me these worried looks when I mess up, but she can’t really say the “th” sound. She makes this wobbly rubber band shape with her lips.
I bet if I were to go back in time 90 years from now, I'd understand what the people of the 1920s said. I really don't get this. It's the same fucking United States.
2. The PLAAAAAAAAAAGUE: The major plague that killed a ton of people in this book? It's dengue fever. Some of you may not know this, but I grew up in Vietnam on a rice farm. I had dengue fever when I was a child, it's a recurrent illness.
See that area behind me? That's mosquito country, people. I was seriously sick to the point of death, and you can probably tell from where I am in that photo that we didn't exactly have excellent medical care in backwater Vietnam. I was treated in a hospital, if you can call a brick house with no electricity a "hospital."
The thing is, we don't have a vaccine for dengue fever. Make no mistake, it's a shitty, shitty illness to have, but if you have adequate medical care (and even when you don't) the disease fucking goes away on its own.
From Wikipedia: Dengue fever epidemiology
Most people with dengue recover without any ongoing problems. The mortality is 1–5% without treatment and less than 1% with adequate treatment.
1. Fucking. Percent. So why are we fucking freaking out and traveling to the past?
2. No Treatment for Dengue: This is a credibility problem. In the future, we have so many eadvanced technology. We can eat as much as we fucking want without getting fat. And not to mention the advances in plastic surgery.
“Well, there was a lot of R and D money and scientific genius spent on pills and simple surgeries to let people eat as much as they wanted without getting fat. And there were big advances in plastic surgery technology, so people could shape their bodies exactly how they wanted and look super young, even when they were, like, seventy.
And AIDS?, we got rid of that shit.
"AIDS was done with by that point."
Oooook. So plastic surgery? Got it. No obesity. Got it. AIDS? BOOM. But dengue fever outbreak? WAAAAAAAAAH.
It doesn't make any fucking sense.
3. Iceberg Flooding No Resource Same Old Bullshit: This book doesn't break any new grounds in painting us a barely-100-year from now nightmare of a future. 100 years isn't really that long. And yet DISASTER ALL OVER THE FUCKING PLACE.
The ice caps melting, the ice sheets collapsing, the water levels rising. The whole thing changes over about fifteen years. There are droughts and floods and storms that rip the topsoil right off the earth. Once people recover from one thing, there is another. The price of basic stuff like wheat and rice skyrockets, and governments come down because they can’t feed people.”
And we don't even have clothes anymore, we recycle clothes. That's pretty much the dumbest thing I've ever heard, considering the advances in technology, we're down to re-using clothes because we can't make new clothes anymore?
There are so many clothes now. But by the 2070s there was almost nothing new being made, and by the 2080s we were all wearing recycled stuff, a lot of it recycled from now. By the early 2090s, by the time we left to come here, most of it was in tatters.
Romance: thy name is deus ex fucking machina: Ethan. Gorgeous Ethan. Ethan who can, will, and does everything he can to save Prenna's ass.
The boy exists for no reason other than that: to get Prenna out of a tough spot, and to move the book along.
Prenna appears in a pond, naked? He gives her clothing.
Prenna gets jailed? He breaks her out.
Prenna needs to go off on a quest to save the world? Well, Ethan will just call his family, tell them that he'll be gone for a few days and accompany her and chauffeur her around.
Prenna needs to save someone? ETHAN TO THE RESCUE.
Prenna needs someone to hack into a system! OH ETHAN'S ALSO A BRILLIANT COMPUTER PROGRAMMER AS WELL AS A PHYSICIST.
There is just nothing to this book and the world within this book that's worth saving.
Quotes were taken from an uncorrected proof subject to change in the final edition.