PrintE-mail Written by Andrew Marshall

Following on from Timebomb, Second Lives continues the adventures of Jana, Kaz, and Dora, a time-travelling trio of teenagers tasked seemingly by fate to avert a devastating war in the future, while also attempting to end their battle across time with the mysterious madwoman Quil before it has even begun.

As entertaining a read as it was, Timebomb was somewhat directionless in its plot and ultimately served as little more than setup for the main story, its abrupt termination leaving events hanging at a crucial moment. Addressing this, the beginning of Second Lives swiftly clears up the narrative and temporal clutter left by the ending of its predecessor – such as Dora’s 11th-hour transformation from a meek scullery maid to a black-clad ninja warrior – and allows events to get underway in full force.

Stretching from a rural estate in 17th century Cornwall to the capital city of a Martian colony 150 years in the future, the teens leap back and forth as they search for answers to a series of mysteries, occasionally revisiting moments from the previous book when they saw themselves at a future point, each making much more sense this time around. Despite all the time jumping shenanigans, the advancing plot extends in a constant flow as though it were a fixed course along which the teenagers must navigate. Regardless of how much time they each live out else when for various reasons, the narrative timeframe will always continue in an inexorable advancement that they are drawn back to; the Time in San Dimas if you like.

As the plot largely deals with events of the past affecting the future, the discussion of the possible results of altering the timeline call to memory some classic explorations of the subject, such as H. G. Well’s novel The Time Machine or Ray Bradbury’s short story A Sound of Thunder. Since nobody is aware of the full ramifications of meddling with the timeline or creating paradoxes, an added level of danger is added from no one being sure of the full outcome of their decisions, regardless of whether they take action in a situation or not. The book acknowledges how annoying expository reticence can be, and while some characters still intentionally hold back key revelations until suitably dramatic junctures, they do so out of wariness about creating temporal issues rather than the author intentionally withholding information to appear cleverer.

It takes a little concentration to fully follow the plot’s twisting, looping and occasionally repeating structure, but it all eventually makes sense, and by the end of the book the mystery behind the ultimate cause of the travails of the central trio is revealed, ending things on another cliff-hanger but also setting things up nicely for the concluding chapter of the trilogy.



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