Robert F. Young
DESCRIPTION: Jim Carpenter may time travel for a living, but he's ultimately a glorified truck driver, navigating a camouflaged reptivehicle around in the Age of Dinosaurs while recording holopictures. The discovery of a fossilized modern human in the Cretaceous sends him back to ancient North America to investigate - where he stumbles across something impossible. Two human children, a boy and a girl, have been treed by a dinosaur. Skip and Deirdre claim to be the prince and princess of Mars, victims of a terrorist kidnapping. (Well, at least Skip claims that; Deirdre, as future queen, does not speak to anyone but royalty.) Whether he believes them or not, Jim can't leave them alone in the past - especially not when the terrorists come hunting for their escaped hostages.
REVIEW: An older title, it looked like a quick adventure. That's about what it is. The characters aren't especially deep, and the storytelling's rather
clunky at times, with long, unnatural stretches of exposition as Jim tells tales of modern Earth and the children relate information about ancient Mars. Though not
pitched at kids - nothing explicit, but there is a disturbing rape attempt as a terrorist lusts after the eleven-year-old princess - it has the kind of imagery that
would linger in a young imagination: camping out and roasting marshmallows under a Cretaceous starscape, the remote-controlled robotic vehicle "Sam" (which is essentially
a sidekick in everything but self-awareness), the lost Martian colony on Earth and descriptions of a "desentimentalized" Martian culture, and more. But then there's
that rape thing, part of an overall sexist subtext, not to mention a rather disturbing vibe that develops between thirty-odd-year-old Jim and young Deirdre, beginning
when he addresses the princess of a major planetary royal house (if not of his planet) by the over-affectionate (not to mention subtly dismissive) moniker "Pumpkin"
throughout the tale. (Avoiding spoilers, that vibe takes a downright unsettling twist toward the end.) I also rolled my eyes a bit at the rather extraneous inclusion of
a mysterious master alien race, the Ku, whose existence was both a plot device to explain modern humans on Mars and a way to separate us from natural evolution. (I'd say
anyone who reads science fiction should be able to cope with evolution, and not require an "intelligent design" rationalization for humanity, but unfortunately I know
better these days. While I don't know for sure that's why the Ku were wedged into this story, I wouldn't bet against it... but, I digress.) Those flaws aside, it reads
fast and has a fair degree of action. It's not a standout title, but a passable little adventure that delivers just what it promises, if nothing more.
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