The Time Store by Andrew Clark and Dee Matthews is a magnetic novel which invites us into the lives of Dan, Jason, Sarah and David Bradbeer – the proprietors of the altrusitic Time Store.
The Time Store
Brothers Dan and Jason, and sister Sarah work in the Time Store under the supervision of their father David Bradbeer. For reasons we don’t yet know, the Bradbeer family and their ancestors have always been the proprietors of the Time Store, and each family member is able to time travel with the help of a custom built bracelet and ring.
The Time Store both sells and exhibits expensive time pieces and this is where their income arises, but arguably the main purpose of its existence is to provide altruistic time travel services for interested clients who for one reason or another would benefit from a time travel trip. The family board must approve of any such request.
That said, “…the time store hadn’t always operated as a bespoke travel agent with the obvious twist” though as Jason also questions, we don’t know much about it’s history. I suspect that will become clearer in subsequent books in the series.
Time travel is possible with a system of bracelets and rings and straddling the prime meridian for the outward time travel trip. Linking arms means a passenger can be brought. The bracelets glow with “something like lunar energy” and come to life when they’re in contact with member of the Bradbeer family.
In a way The Time Store adopts a salesman kind of approach to time travel:
Whilst at the garage a couple of weeks ago I was flicking through a new car sales brochure whilst the mechanics were fixing my old banger in the workshop next door. As you’d expect it was very glossy and very colourful, and full of shallow attempts to suggest that the life of the driver would be wonderful if they purchased this new car from this dealer.
But there was no description of what I was interested in – how big is the engine? How powerful is it? I know that the car door has a drinks holder and the rear shelf can be lowered and various other superficial crap, but there was nothing about the most important part of the car – the engine. So I asked the salesman…and he sloped off to the back office to find out about his product. By the time he’d returned I’d already paid the mechanic and had left.
The Time Store almost literally adopts a sales brochure kind of approach when it comes to time travel. Don’t get me wrong – Dan, Jason, Sarah and David know their timepieces and are very knowledgeable about them, but when it comes to actually travelling through time and the mechanics of the bracelets and rings it’s all pretty much black box. They seemingly have no idea about how they work – even though they’re able to create and manufactures these devices!
One thing is very clear to them though – the golden rule of time travel – do not alter anything in the past. Messing about with true time spells a lot of trouble!
To be pedantic, this rule isn’t strictly adhered to. Going to Elvis concerts or talking to people in bars will clearly have repercussions – as main character Jim comments in Buckyball, even a smile can change things, but to be fair The Time Store isn’t a historical / observational kind of a novel and I think we can forgive Dan, Jason and Sarah in these cases!
Still, they do repeatedly ask of their father “what is the point of time travel if you can’t change anything?” Indeed, perhaps this might be considered to be the reason behind the Time Store and may be the underlying story?
Time passes quicker in the past than in the present (in the same way that time passes quicker in dreams than in real waking life); all day spent in Chicago lasted two hours in real (present) time.
For reasons I didn’t pick up, it wasn’t possible to go back to the same place in time and meet yourself, although we do read that Dan took deliberate measures in a bar to avoid meeting himself.
These latter points show that the authors have considered some of the tricky aspects of time travel and have given them some attention in their novel.
It struck me that most Time Store clients wished to travel into the past than into the future, I guess because generally their reasons are more emotive. Sadly this meant that we didn’t get many glimpses into the future, although to be fair, The Time Store isn’t a novel which dwells on events in the past (or future) but rather on the people in the present and how they seek to come to terms with various problems that have (or will have).
Including the proprietors.
The writing style is a pleasant bag of mixed nuts! What I particularly enjoyed is how the writing style was able to hook me into the novel and have me wanting to know what was going to happen next in an underlying ‘low frequency low amplitude’ storyline.
It wasn’t from cliff hangers and suspense, but more from a a certain magnetic writing quality which draws in the reader. Loved it!
One of the nicest parts for me is where one of the Time Store ‘children’ goes back in time to meet his mother to ask for her advice. It was written beautifully, and also reminded me a little of The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger) where people familiar with each other speak together but in unfamiliar ages brought about through time travel.
There are of course other beautiful moments brought to us through the requests of the Time Store clients. Often we hear about those visits in the past not through a dry third person narrative but through the viewpoint of the client or Dan / Jason / Sarah describing it to other people.
Some parts of the novel have a hint of humour, others are quite (too) violent; it seems that there’s a bit of something for everyone.
Some sections though seem to drone on at length about one thing or another. For example, there’s a long section about the art of reading tarot cards and setting up a stall at a convention. It shows lots of research has been carried out into the subject, but was it really all necessary though? My guess is that rather than being about tarot cards, the section was more about Sarah.
That said, there was a heavy emphasis on a secondary character in this section, and in fact this can be said about much of the novel. Indeed, I found that devoting a lot of attention to both primary and secondary characters made finding the general plot line a little unclear.
The early chapters focus on John – a homeless guy who’s lost his wife in a car accident and then turned to drink, losing his two daughters along the way. His path crosses with a worker at the shelter, Winnie, who we read contacts the Time Store to go back 33 years to 1976 to see an Elvis concert she’d missed.
A little later, John is in touch with the Time Store and he goes back to the time of the car crash which killed his wife but kept him alive.
By now we’re well into the novel, but the main story line is still unclear because the focus has moved away from John and onto Winnie, then onto Dan, and then onto other workers in the Time Store.
We see throughout the novel that characters are very well-developed and have a solid history and background behind them. So it seems that The Time Store is character driven rather than action driven, albeit reading almost like a series of not quite disconnected short stories held together by a delicate thread of common characters of the Time Store establishment.
When there was a section handed over to some very mundane activities within the Time Store it finally struck me – this is a time travel soap opera! 🙂
Location location location!
For the time travel methodology to work, the time travellers need to be straddling the Prime Meridian which is presumably why the Time Store is located in Greenwich, London.
Perhaps it’s a small point, but it’s nice to be reading a novel mostly set in London! There are familiar names and places and even terms like “oyster card” (= a card used for the London public transport system). Since the characters sometimes move around the country, other places around England are mentioned – even Birmingham where I used to live. And shop names. OK, maybe it’s not a big deal but it is to a stranded expat like me! 😉
Error or misunderstanding?
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
This section contains a spoiler. Click here to jump to the end of it.
The underlying running thread through The Time Store is a play on the grandfather paradox and the cause of “Dan’s anomaly”.
Dan figures out something happened on the time travel tour that he’d returned from, so he goes back to put things right.
In original true time, John and his wife are in a road accident. Nathan cycles to the accident scene and is able to save John; his wife has already died. This sets the scene for John feeling guilty for surviving, he turns to drink and loses his children. In time he’s motivated to request help from the Time Store to go back in time.
During the time travel tour, John damages Nathan’s bike so that Nathan is now unable to make the rescue and John dies. Now that John dies, he doesn’t exist in the future present; the Grandfather paradox is set up: John doesn’t visit Dan and ask to go back in time. Dan can’t remember the trip back as it was never done as John doesn’t exist and didn’t need to go back in time. The is the cause of “Dan’s anomaly”.
So Dan goes back to the past a second (or first, if we ignore the Grandfather paradox as above!) to correct things and put true time back on course. There’s some cross character communication, but the main point is that Nathan sees that his bike is mangled and so gets a lift to the accident scene. He makes the rescue, and John lives, thus being able to contact Dan 5 years later and ask him to take him back in time.
This is the part I don’t get – wouldn’t Nathan have got the lift in the scenario during the time travel tour?
*** END OF SPOILER ***
The ending of the book comes in two parts. There’s a very happy-ever-after bit going on in a pub. It’s a bit cheesy but we do learn a little about John’s last 5 years which I was very happy to read as it closed some open questions.
Another nice aspect is how Sarah keeps an eye on things – it’s a nice touch to see her father’s hand in things – although at a distance – and the idea of the Bradbeer family being special is enforced.
The last couple of paragraphs I thought were superfluous. These pick up on the opening scene (and a brief mention halfway through the novel) and are there I guess to serve as a cliff hanger or temptation to the second book in the series.
To be brutally honest, this isn’t necessary, just like cliff hangers in soap operas are pointless because issues get sorted quickly and others will rise just the same. Likewise, this ‘hook’ wasn’t strong and it’ll get sorted and no doubt (i.e. hopefully!) there’ll be another sub plot.
Ultimately the power of The Time Store is in the lives of the characters and how they develop rather than in the actual action itself!
Book 2 – Phelix was released on Kindle just a few days ago on 21 April.
And I read on The Time Store Facebook page that Andrew and Dee are busy with Book 3 which is a short story detailing the history of the bracelets.
Both sound great!
Rating * * * * *
The Time Store is a strong character driven novel with a magnetic quality which has the reader zoned into the lives of the proprietors of the Time Store establishment.
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Disclaimer: Andy kindly sent me a free copy of “The Time Store” to read in exchange for honest review. This is it!
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