Mr. Johnson’s book follows two bumbling gentleman who, through a combination of dumb luck and the poorly run wrap up of the agency tasked with guarding the sanctity of the time stream, end up as the last ‘timenauts’ left. By their powers combined, they ensure a mundane task to fetch a candy bar becomes a world-ending catastrophe.
The author does a solid job of delivering more hits than misses when it comes to his jokes, and the story itself is well paced and well executed. There aren’t too many surprises, but it’s a solid and straightforward adventure story that’s a quick read and a good way to while away an afternoon. The problem is that, like any book that’s a part one of two, the ending ends up being an outright to-be-continued. Also, several of the running jokes in the book get a bit overused by the end of it all.
First, let’s take care of the problems I had with the book. It’s a part one of two which isn’t necessarily a problem, but there was never a moment that felt like it really wrapped things together and set up the next book. There was, however, a scene earlier in the book that gives a reader of how things work out for several of the characters. Unfortunately, the book never actually got the characters to that scene.
The other major plotline, with a historical figure key to why things are going catastrophically wrong, did wrap up quite well, and it was the note that the book ended on. Still, I felt that the author really needed to get his main characters closer to completing their initial task, fixing their machine, than he did. This left the ending in a sort of no man’s land for me where it was halfway towards doing everything I felt it needed to.
That being said, I’m also rather stubborn about expecting a certain degree of resolution regardless of how many parts are left to come, and a to be continued ending sits better with me when a book is lighthearted because there’s nothing I need to recover from.
There are a few running jokes in the novel that get overused and get old after a while. That’s not to say they weren’t entertaining at first, but they were repeated too often. They went from being jokes to becoming nonsensical ways in which the world worked. The humor needed more variety than it had to keep me guffawing, but it certainly kept me smirking and tittering here and there.
The author also gave away the characters’ mental states now and then with descriptive language that took away from the humor. At several points in the book he had a bunch of additional text slapped onto a sentence that would have read much better without the text. These were missed opportunities during which the author would tell us that the characters were frustrated or confused. This was already evident what was going on, so putting this kind of stuff in there added unnecessary padding to the humor that took away some of its bite.
Fortunately, the humor in the book works more often than not, and it kept me smiling. It’s not easy to write a joke that reads well, because unlike a conversation or a routine you don’t have all of the cues from your audience to let you know how you’re doing and what to adjust. You just have to fire the joke out there and try to structure the text so that it lands with the impact you want it to. As a result, there’s little middle ground in written humor.
Mr. Johnson manages to find it, however, delivering a good number of jokes that didn’t make me laugh but did keep me smirking. More importantly, he got a proper laugh out of me at least once every chapter or two.
The author also did a good job of staying in control of his narrative. He kept plots running in three major timelines, as well as a handful of minor ones, which isn’t the easiest thing to do. There was never a point where I felt confused or the plot felt muddled. It played out at a solid pace, everything made sense, and it galloped along like a good adventure should. Pacing is one of the most important things to an adventure novel, and Mr. Johnson nailed it.
The story itself is also a solid one, with a couple of flairs that I found amusing. Nothing happened that ever quite surprised me, which was unfortunate, but there was also never a moment where the way things transpired disappointed me. I think the author could have injected a bit more depth into the whole affair, and it would have made it a stronger, funnier book. But, on the same note, what he wrote does a great job of being a lighthearted adventure that easily carries the reader along from start to finish.
Ultimately, despite a few jokes that ran too long or got softened by a bit of verbal excess, the book was consistently humorous. The plot moved at a good clip and kept me entertained and that, combined with the story and the length of the book, make it an ideal candidate for an afternoon read. This is the sort of book to read for a bit of adventure after the end of a long day. It’s a fun way to take a load off and worth checking out. It’s a solid 4/5.