Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Infinity Ring a Mutiny in Time by James Dashner

Rating: WARTY!

The author of The Maze Runner fouls up again with this series aimed at middle graders. Not that I've actually read The Maze Runner series. I was interested after seeing the first movie, but then lost all interest after the disastrous second movie which was profoundly dumb and tedious. If it's anything like the novel I've lost all desire to read any of those books. I was curious to see if he might do better with something aimed at a younger audience. He didn't.

The cover designers showed their legendary ineptitude again by putting a compass on the front cover instead of the actual infinity ring. This is about time travel not geographic travel per se, so what's with the compass? I swear I get more laughs out of Big Publishing™ cover designers than I do from books which are actually intended to be humorous!

This is your standard middle-grade time travel novel where young kids save the world by visiting extremely famous points and/or people, and/or landmarks in history. I'm sure there's a novel (or maybe even a series) which gets it right, but this one isn't it. Set in an alternate reality (where the US capital is Philadelphia and Columbus didn't discover Cuba) - which we learn is really our reality gone awry, we soon discover that there are breaks in history, starting in Aristotle's time, which must be set right to put reality back on track. Who determined where these were, and how they figured out there were breaks in the first place is left unexplained.

That's just the problem with this novel: there's far too much unexplained. Why they cannot go back and fix the first (in Alexander and Aristotle's time) and have all the other breaks fall into place goes just as unexplained as why they start with Columbus instead of starting with the first, or even with the last and work backwards. My guess is that no matter how many they fix, and no matter where they start, every single volume in this series will be exactly the same - with Time Wardens seeking to thwart or to capture them no matter how much history they change, which makes zero sense, and it's why I didn't bother finishing this novel once I saw where it was stupidly determined to go. Worse than this, the two kids have a pad computer with them, yet instead of information, it delivers clues in cheap rhymes and in absurdly simple visual puzzles! Why? No reason at all! God forbid we should make our young readers actually think when we can serve everything up like it's fast food!

The idea is that there are good guys and bad guys (the Time Wardens) stationed throughout history. How that works goes unexplained, because they would either already have to know where the breaks were, in order to station guards there, or they would have to station people all over the entire planet throughout time, which is absurd. That was the major problem with this story: the sheer absurdity of it. I couldn't stand to finish it, especially since it was puffed up with so much fluff. The novel could have comfortably begun on page 80 or thereabouts, at the end of chapter twelve, about two fifths of the way into the story, and lost nothing in the telling!

Had anyone but an established author submitted this trash, any respectable publisher would have rejected it. This novel seemed to me to be nothing short of a cynical attempt to bilk the rubes (aka middle-graders) out of money by running a cheap series which retells the same story over and over with a few details changed here and there to make them superficially different. I mean why tell an intelligent and original story in one concise volume when you can stretch it to a dozen? I can't support that and I can't recommend this.

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