Time Bangers. One does not simply walk into Tudor.
Time Bangers is not your average time travel novel – it’s an engaging and barmy mix of scifi, historical fiction, erotica and comedy!
How well these different aspects mix together varies through the novel – the focus changes and attention is given more to one angle than another at times, but ultimately I believe it’s the light-hearted approach which everything hangs on.
For those of you who have read more than a couple or so of my reviews, you’ll know that I neither have a burning passion for history or know anything about it. I’ll lay blame partly on my history teacher because (and I paraphrase Tawny here) she made it sound like boring facts and not like real people.
But that’s only part of it. It seems that many of those historical people – real or otherwise – were cretins, though to be fair, maybe these were the ones that my teacher focused on.
So I like the general premise of the story line: to go back in history and get your wicked way with King Henry VIII. It’s effectively taking the mickey out of history (and admittedly probably not the right reason to like a book, but what the hell! 😉 )
I mean, it’s just ludicrously brilliant! One of the two main characters, Tawny, is a commercially successful scientist who has conquered time travel and built her own time machine (in a shower) – and then uses it to go back in time and conduct research on sexual ability and prowess! Her friend Beth ends up following close behind and whilst trying to sort out the mess gets into troubles of her own.
It’s wonderfully and totally insane!
I’d day that Time Bangers is historically well-researched, but in truth I’ve no idea. Yep – this is a short section which will mention the following: that Beth seems to know history. As well as educating Tawny, if what Beth says is true then she educated me too.
A book of two parts
Like some famous football game or other, this is a book of two halves. The first part is character building – at least for Beth – and then finally we get to the time travel in Part 2 where the trip into history is made and its repercussions wrought.
There’s not much to say about Part 1 in time travel terms so I’m only going to skim over it here.
The first chapters really struck a chord with me. Beth is introduced as one of the main characters. She suffers crappy child carers and general parenting difficulties. She’s frustrated because she has a brain and wants to use it. Later we meet Tawny, one of Beth’s friends from university. Tawny is a commercially successful scientist, but very socially awkward.
The writing style is witty and humourous in a subtle way and not slapstick as you might first expect.
I enjoyed Part 1, but there’s not really much else I can think of to say about it…
Part 2 is really where the novel starts – not just because this is where time travel kicks in, but because this is where everything else kicks in too. Actually, after reading a few pages into this section I couldn’t help wondering whether Part 1 was overly drawn out; the pace really picks up in Part 2!
I was expecting the time travel side of things to be fairly minimal but I was pleasantly surprised – Time Bangers handles time travel well and hasn’t just slipped it in as a convenient way to get modern day characters back into history.
There are continual but gentle reminders to the reader that time travel is responsible for putting Beth and Tawny where and when they are. This is done with links from the past to the present, for example, by observing that Anne Boleyn wears the same necklace in the past as she was last seen painted in (in the present).
We don’t know much about the time travel method itself other than it involves walking through a shower (“…there’s a funny thing about water and the human body”) and that the time machine is not built on wormhole technology.
The trigger for return is inserted in the time traveller’s thumb and forefinger beneath the skin; tapping activates the device and the traveller is returned to the present 5 minutes later than their time of departure.
This has always been a point of interest for me – how do the present and the past co-exist? Is there a relationship between the passage of time in each of these eras? I think the 5 minutes later thing was a device feature more than anything else, and indeed, when Beth expresses her concern in the past about leaving her daughter back in the present, Tawny explains that they’ll be returning 5 minutes later so it’s no big deal and nothing to get worried about. In other words, real time is either not concurrent – or more likely with a time machine, that time is no big deal!
One of the common ‘troubles’ with time travel is how to transport either organic matter or inanimate objects. For example, lab tests might be able to move a pen back into the past but not a mouse in the first instance. Or in the second, how does a time traveler get to keep their clothes when they travel in time?
Time Bangers deals with the latter instance through touch – anything that is in contact with the time traveller, such as clothes or even other people, will also travel in time. Or at least, so it’s initially thought.
This last point provides a bonus time travel sub plot which comes together really nicely towards the end, and also partly explains why a time traveller-touching socks-touching shoes-touching ground-touching other objects, doesn’t seem to mean anything.
I also thought it was a good call that despite being a time travel erotica novel, the authors didn’t take the potential opportunity of ‘non organic time travelling’ as an excuse for Beth and Tawny to be prematurely parted from their clothes.
Every now and then there were a few lines which hinted at much a much deeper understanding of time and time travel that Tawny at first was letting on.
For example, describing the past as being stretchy enough to accommodate some changes to it – a really nice alternative to the usual stuff about the river of time washing away small ripples in the past and historical actions having no long term effect.
Time Bangers isn’t an out and out scifi novel and only lightly touches on the mechanics of time travel – that’s its style. So it’s really extra points earned for leaving no questions open, and indeed, introducing more elements of time travel and loops and problems when such problems weren’t expected.
I came down a little harshly in my review of D.L. Orton’s Crossing in Time because of the erotica. Not because of the content itself, but because I thought it took up a lot of the novel and took me away from the brilliant scifi which I had so far been bowled over by.
With Time Bangers the situation is almost reversed. There was a lot less erotica than I was expecting, and this kind of threw me in terms of plot angle because I thought that ultimately this was the main reason to go back in time. If this is the case, I was expecting more (numerous) steamy encounters.
But there weren’t that many, which kind of made the few that were present seem out of place, or at least, too graphic.
Then again. The light-hearted nature of Time Bangers means that just about anything goes – including erotica. And on that basis I think that grants erotica its place in the novel.
To be wholly honest, my main negative comment about Time Bangers doesn’t really fit within the light-hearted comedy context of the novel. It would be like complaining that Superman shouldn’t be able to fly because he isn’t aerodynamic. But for the sake of completeness, here it is in two swift paragraphs so you can fly right on past it. Aerodynamically, if you wish.
It’s Tawny. Whilst Beth is well developed, and historical characters seem to be believable, Tawny is simply too unrealistic.
Like many scientists she’s socially awkward, but there are inconsistencies within her character:
She can’t say hello to a small group of people but she can get herself laid by saying (and doing) the right things. As a scientist she has time to kill whilst her computer model runs (there’s always stuff for a scientist to do in these moments) and she’s embarrassed about her work (again, unlikely for a scientist – especially one who’s made
millions billions. Yes, she’s socially awkward (so she sometimes thinks out social situations in code Note: a dollar sign as used in her computer code style thinking is a special symbol on the unix command line.) but I don’t think that it can fully account for her self contradictory behaviour.
But I repeat (or at least, encourage you to briefly revisit a few seconds’ reading time ago) – I’m aware that this nerdy scientist’s eye view of Tawny shouldn’t really hold much weight for this novel.
I was relieved that Time Bangers avoids the predictable happily ever after bit and instead goes for the clear opening for the sequel (“The Golden Whored”).
I must admit that I found the last chapter overtly long with an incredible amount of inane chatter. It just went on too long for print, though I could see this part working well in a movie where the background music gets louder and the camera pulls away from the conversation, leaving Beth and Tawny to continue their mindless gassing and giggling in privacy. Cue the credits.
Perhaps it was trying to make up for their (weird) strained friendship a few pages earlier, but it was tedious and frustrating to read – the latter because it’s at the end of the novel and I felt compelled to finish it.
Rating * * * *
Time Bangers is an easy going and light-hearted novel with time travel and earns 4 stars on a time travel blog.
I’ve ‘docked’ a star for Part 1 – only because there’s no time travel in that lengthy section – but I did enjoy that part so will give the full 5 stars over on the more general Amazon and Goodreads sites.
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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of “Time Bangers” to read and provide an honest review. This is it!
| 5* Excellent! | 4* Good | 3* OK | 2* Not good | 1* Crud |