Sunday, September 28, 2008

BOOKS: Simon Hawke's Time Wars Series

Simon Hawke is a prolific science fiction writer predominantly rooted in the past, while writing about events centuries ahead. He's written a fair bit of Star Trek material and his books about a revived Merlin in contemporary times, the so-called Wizard series, were all entertaining.

But there's a downside to being proliferate. It's possible to burn out readers. Until that happens, the readin's purrty good, though.

Case in point. The Time Wars series. Take a bunch of time traveling commandos. Insert them into historically famous situations, anxious to observe, participate AND keep the flow of time intact by leaving no lasting effect of their presence. That it's the equivalent of a War Games battle scenario is the tough pill to swallow. But it does make sense in a convoluted way.

What you get is an interesting re-telling of various historical stores, usually from other viewpoints than those used in the original material. And it works, until you get tired of the same basic plot, who's ending you suspect BEFORE reading the first page. THAT's when you have to set aside the remaining books while you go off and read other series, three or four books at time.

That's right, the King of Series-reading (me) now suggests reading no more than three or four books in any particular series at a time. In a near-future post, I will tell you how well it worked for me with the Monk books by Lee Goldberg.

I got four books into the Time Wars before reaching out to grab Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer. (Afterwhich I needed the non-time paradox hilarity of Goldberg's writings). Review in a few days.

Back to Hawke. The best part of the books, twelve in all, all released in about a year's time, was the chance to revisit old classics. And some of the classics were ones I never read!!!

It started with The Ivanhoe Gambit and continued through The Timekeeper Conspiracy, which took me back through the Ivanhoe stories of England and then the Three Muskateers era in France. Immensely entertaining. Time Commandos Lucas Priest and Finn Delaney made an entertaining lead duo, eventually teaming up with Andre Cross, aka Andre De La Croix. She's one of the few forward time-jumpers in the original quartet of books. All in all, reliving the adventures of Ivanhoe, Robin Hook, Richard the Lion-Hearted and D'Artagnon and his Muskateer mates was great fun.

Things actually got better in the third book when The Pimpernel Plot retold the tale of The Scarlet Pimpernel, a book I have NEVER read. It was all fresh. Thus, I could forgive the continued use of the same backstory grafted onto the old classic. The Pimpernel was arguably the world's first book about a Batman-like super-hero. I believe it predates Zorro. At any rate, I'm going to read the original someday. It's about a yard deep in the reading pile. But it's there.

The same new exposure to an old classic happened with the forth book, The Zenda Connection, obviously a re-telling of The Prisoner of Zenda. That one I HAD 'read' as a comic. One of the old Classics Illustrated, if I'm not mistaken. So I knew the basic plot. Thus, there was a lot less wonder as I read this book. The introduction of Drakov, the illegimate and angry son of the commander of Temporal Intelligence Agency, seemed forced and uninteresting. When I started the fifth book, The Nautilus Sanction, and saw Drakov was back for more mirthless mayhem, I decided I could wait for awhile before continuing.

I think these stories would be a great one-at-a-time fallback for when you need something familiar and different all at the same time. We all know most of the stories Hawke is basing the books on. It's refereshing to get different point of views and the puzzles are, for the most part, entertaining. It's the constraints of knowing the outcome that makes them so. The old time periods are not overly romanticized and you do get a growing affection for Finn and, to a certain extent, out of time Andre. Lucas tends to be more of the cliched leader in training.

All in all, I would recommend the Time Wars series. Now for you, in the future for me.

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