Past Forward (Time Runners) by Justin Richards

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Past Forward (Time Runners) by Justin Richards

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Light time-travel adventure in the vein of Doctor Who from Justin Richards who is, surprise surprise, a writer of Doctor Who novels. Young fans of this kind of light sci-fi adventure will love reading it, but probably forget it just as quickly. A satisfactory junior holiday read.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 176 Date: February 2008
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Childrens Books
ISBN: 978-1416926443

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The USA in 2021 has gone to the dogs. After the death of President Carlton in 2016, society has disintegrated. The government has collapsed, there are food and power shortages and law and order is non-existent. There is rioting on the streets. And in a mysterious lab guarded by armed troops, children are the subjects of some gruesome experiments. Time Runners Jamie and Anna have been sent by Senex to find out what's going on. Someone has been messing with time when they shouldn't have been. Add to the mix a terrifying murderous monster and time-villain Darkling Midnight, and it's clear that Jamie and Anna have trouble on their hands.

This is the third in the Time Runners series and there's a little bit of exposition in the first couple of pages. It's nicely judged - not too much, not too little. I felt in the swing of things straightaway; I didn't feel as though I'd missed out, but I certainly felt as though I knew enough to enjoy the story. Basically, Jamie and Anna have fallen through time and are in limbo, stuck; they won't grow old and they can't return to their previous lives. They aren't alone in this limbo and, as you'd expect, there are goodies and baddies in this world outside time. Jamie and Anna work on the side of the goodies, for Senex, who sends them off on hair-raising missions to keep timelines intact. Their arch-enemy is Darkling Midnight. He's in it for himself, so he's always aiding and abetting the messing up of timelines.

It's light, pacy stuff and all very visual. There's a will they-won't they aspect to the relationship between Jamie and Anna; they're competitive and argumentative with one another, but always loyal and charmingly unaware of the undertones of attraction between them. Nothing in this relationship is too mature for a nine or ten year old, and I rather liked its inclusion. It's all very Doctor Who and Rose Tyler. In fact, the whole thing is all very Doctor Who (although the book does have more gruesome deaths), which is unsurprising, given that Justin Richards has written several Doctor Who books for the BBC.

Past Forward isn't a classic by any means, but it's fun and light and will make an enjoyable read for all junior sci-fi fans. While not quite instantly forgettable though, it will probably make a better library borrowing than purchase.

My thanks to the nice people at Simon & Schuster for sending the book.

Similarly light time travel adventures include The Book of Time by Guillaume Prevost and Jack Bolt and the Highwayman's Hideout by Richard Hamilton and Sam Hearn.

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