Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor
Time travel meets history in this explosive, bestselling adventure series. At St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, the historians don’t just study the past, they revisit it. Behind the strait-laced façade of a conventional academic institution, the secret of time travel is being used for ground-breaking and daring historical research taking the historians on a rollercoaster ride through history: from the destruction of Pompeii to the Normandy trenches; from the Great Fire of London to Bronze Age Troy and even to the time of the dinosaurs… Meanwhile, within at St Mary’s itself, there are power struggles and intrigues worthy of a book in themselves. In Book One, we follow new recruit Max as she rides the catastrophe curve from eleventh-century London to the First World War, and from the Cretaceous Period to the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria. For wherever Historians go, chaos is sure to follow in their wake …
Hmm. I’m not really sure what I think of this book. Do I like it? – yes. Did it make me giggle quite frequently? – yes (which gained me some odd looks on the train!). Is it a jolly good adventure? – yes. But there’s something that I can’t put my finger on that makes this an unsatisfying read; my housemate is reading it as well and said the same, independently of my feelings. It’s just got a niggle that makes me irritated.
I wonder if it’s the characters. We do go through them very fast – we barely meet them before someone’s been kicked out, and we meet the next batch, and someone’s got their head chopped off, and the next batch, and there’s this dinosaur…I feel I never really get attached to anyone (despite the rather sketchy details thrown in that are supposed to make me warm to them), because they’re only there to be killed. I’m meant to feel sympathy for Max when yet another friend or innocent is slaughtered in a tragic accident, but the constant stream feels like a revolving door, and I don’t ever have enough time with any one person (beyond Max) to warm to them. This is the first book; I want a core of people to be able to meet and get to know. I don’t want to have to forget half the cast almost as soon as they’re introduced.
Actually, that goes for the plot as well. Everything roars along, which is great and makes for a page-turner, but also left me a bit bewildered. Big changes are dealt with in a few sentences, and then a page later everything’s changed again. It’s a book that you have to pay attention to but at the same time, it’s a rip-roaring adventure, so you don’t want to pay too much attention to it. There’s quite a lot of political changes within St Mary’s, some of which have personal repercussions for Max and some of which don’t. I got a little lost at where she was at what time, including the time travel; I didn’t get why she was bouncing all over the place.
Despite that…it’s fun! It has dinosaurs and academics and baddies and double-crossing and time-travel and romance. Max is idiotic, vague, straightforward (usually saying the wrong thing), curious and amusing. The rest of the St Mary’s lot are a mixture of entertainment and intrigue, and the plot’s the usual save-the-world lark. So I did enjoy it, yes. I did laugh frequently (particularly at the bucket of ice-water). If you have read The Invisible Library or Etiquette & Espionage, then give this a try! But I’m not entirely sure if I’m going to pick up the next one – has anyone read it? What are your thoughts?