Review Detail

Kids Fiction 4117
Quantum Leaping
(Updated: August 28, 2012)
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
A few years ago, when I first noticed the 39 Clues series, I was very dismissive. "Boy band books," I called them, because they were sort of reverse-engineered. What I mean is that first, a group of editors came up with an idea for a series, and then asked writers if they would actually write the books, much like when a group of music executives decided to put together a band, found five cute singers and came up with the Backstreet Boys. Or N'Sync. Or the Spice Girls. Or whatever. I was suspicious of what I feared was the triumph of marketing over art.

My son insisted I would like them, though. "Just try," he said, waving the first one in my face. I finally gave in, and you know what? I did like it. I liked it so much, I read the next one. I read them ALL. I liked the characters and their kooky adventures and all their crazy relatives. Of course, I also liked the Spice Girls, which, in retrospect, should have been a clue. Just because a group (or a book) didn't emerge organically, doesn't mean it won't be any good. It might be just fine, fun even.

A MUTINY IN TIME, by James Dashner, is the first volume in Infinity Ring, Scholastic's new boy band, I mean series. (Or "multi-platform project," as the publisher describes it. There's a website and stuff.) And you know what? It was pretty good. Of course, it comes from the (metaphorical) pen of James Dashner, who can spin an awesome tale, and he does a solid job starting this series off. The pacing is strong, the plotting tight, and the semi-subtly buried history lessons are sufficiently in stealth mode.

There are some rather convenient constructions, however. How handy is it that the two protagonists are Sera, a scientific genius, and Dak, a history nut? Equally handy, they join forces with a somewhat older linguistic prodigy (Riq) who speaks sixteen languages. Ooh, also he has access to a device that allows you to understand and speak any language. Handy!

I know, I know. Really, the issues raised by time-travel are so mind-bendingly complicated that you sort of need mechanical Babel Fish (cf. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), DNA coded quantum manipulators, and a girl who understands graviton particles. Or are those from Star Trek? Anyway, you know what I mean. Every time-travel story has to cope with the whole don't-kill-your-grandfather paradox, and the ways in which this story deals with those issues are reasonably satisfying. That's saying a lot. Or maybe I'm saying a lot. Perhaps I should stop.

I can try boiling it down. A MUTINY IN TIME is a good book, but not a great book. I had a hard time really caring about the characters, and my confidence that of COURSE they'll fix history is just a little too strong. That's the main plot arc, by the way, that history is broken, the fabric of reality is tearing under the stress, and Dak and Sera are the only ones who can fix it.

As a lover of all things timey wimey, though, I'm happy to go along for the ride. I did love the Quantum Leap-esque ending, where the three kids finish their mission, warp through time and land in the middle of another complicated, dangerous situation. I could just hear Sam saying, "Oh boy." I'll say it too. "Oh, boy. I can't believe I have to wait to find out what happens next."

Guess I'm hooked, like a babel fish in the time stream.
Good Points
Solid story
Good world-building
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