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Jan Mark, TES, 10 March 2000.
TES | Interzone | Vector | The Scotsman | Trapped in the Real World
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[NB All reviews refer to Wingèd Chariot, the title of the book as originally published.]
"Now, pay attention. Beneath Antarctica is a singularity that makes transference possible because it vibrates at an unchanging probability frequency, but it will expire due to quantum decay. Ben Jeapes's second book, Wingèd Chariot, plays vertiginous tricks with time in a novel that delivers trad science fiction, a detective story and conspiracy theory inside the conventions of an all-action thriller.
In a drastically overcrowded society, Earth's surplus population is redeployed throughout history, but the system that makes this possible is about to collapse, and someone has come up with the notion that since one can access the past, why not go there and rewrite the future? Is this the unforgivable sin or humanity's only hope?
The ideas being played with are hellishly complex, made more so by Jeapes's antic sense of humour. The jokes are small, dry and pungent, like peppercorns, the clues as tenuous as soap bubbles take your eye off them and they're gone.
It's all hard work but it's also enormous fun, and the sensation of having reached the same conclusion as the author is exhilarating, even if it lasts for only a few seconds."
"Ben Jeapes's second novel (not a sequel to His Majesty's Starship, although there is a tacky ad for the same at the end of this book under review) is Wingèd Chariot, which was also the title of one of the author's stories for Interzone. As part of a great month's reading, this volume did not disappoint; nor has Jeapes failed to develop on from the first outing in the long form. Wingèd Chariot is assured and confident; simultaneously it is relaxed in tone and nippy in pace. Like Longtusk [another book reviewed in the same issue] and like His Majesty's Starship, Wingèd Chariot is good children's fiction for adults, or good adult fiction for children, depending on the way you look at it. Either way, it's a gentle touch, a fulfilling read.
Interzone, June 2000
From a point in the future called the Home Time, the past can be viewed and visited. There's a murder, an investigation, a missing computer, some rogue security; there are genuine concerns for the future such as the problem of what will happen, "... when the Home Time ends in 27 years time and the World Executive realises it has twenty billion people to keep happy ..." There's a mountain of good plot ideas, and my favourite character a traveller in time who learns that he does not in fact have to please the whims of those who control him; that there is a life aside from travelling from one location to another, viewing some of the important points in history. There is even some good humour, such as this, which is the one that works best out of context. It's from an early section of the novel, and concerns a fancy-dress party: "... apparently she was a 1920s New York flapper, though what she was meant to flap she wasn't sure and the catalogue hadn't said ..."
I look forward to the sequel to His Majesty's Starship in due course."
"In this novel for young adults, Ben Jeapes presents a highly stratified and regulated future society, where 'social preparation' deals with most negative or criminal tendencies at the expense of initiative and self-reliance. Four hundred years previously the scientist Jean Morbern created the Home Time the base from which time travel and travel between alternate time streams is possible and the College which regulates it. But in 27 years the singularity on which the Home Time depends will vanish and time travel will no longer be possible.
Against this background, Jeapes creates a clever, twisty plot; it would be unfair to try to summarise any part of it, as that would spoil the surprises. It's partly political thriller, partly murder mystery, and partly a serious inquiry into how we will use the wonders of technology that out future promises.
The book has a wide range of characters, who are not portrayed with any great psychological depth, but are varied and engaging. Most successful is Rico Garron, a field operative for the College, whose failure to conform makes him attractive and emphasises the stagnation of his society. Most mysterious is Correspondent RC/1029, sentenced to a long voyage through time and vital to the truth about what is happening.
The crisp, unpretentious writing paints a vivid picture of Jeapes's world. It's clear enough for inexperienced readers of science fiction to follow, without 'talking down' to them, or making use of massive info-dumps. The book is full of ideas, with a real sense of how human beings can change their future and will inevitably be changed by it.
I've often found that books for young adults fail to challenge their audience, and Jeapes triumphantly avoids this pitfall. He makes no compromises, and doesn't attempt to simplify or over-explain the paradoxes of time travel. Jeapes expects his young readers to think, to make deductions, and to be prepared to wait for the disparate plot elements to come together and they do, in a satisfying conclusion.
This book should be successful for its target audience; it's fast-paced, exciting, and involving. For an adult reader, obviously, it's less challenging, but still very readable."
"Riddle me this: When is a young adult novel not a young adult novel? When it can hold its own with anything with a 'mature readers' label. Rico Garron is an unconventional Field Operative for the College, the future base for all time travel operations. The people of the Home Time are a peaceable community as a result of social conditioning and the Code of the inventor of time travel ensures that no one can interfere with the time stream. Unfortunately, someone has found a way to bend the rules so far that they can break them in half.
Ben Jeapes has written an engrossing and muscular thriller. Garron may be an off-the-peg rebel with a cause, but the sinuous and twisting snake of a plot demands a pretty unconventional approach to resolve its paradoxes."
Trapped in the Real World
"All science fiction is dual-genre, adventure, mystery, western etc and this one is a gripping thriller and murder mystery. The surprises pop and crackle on every page while the conceptualisation of the time travel scenario has all the originality that science fiction addicts crave. Running, jumping, fighting, always a heartbeat away from disaster, Rico runs into a great twist at the end. One to collect."
"A man from two thousand years in the future is murdered five thousand years in the past on top of a Himalayan mountain.
On to the year 1029 where another man appears out of nowhere, rescues an Arab traveller then sends a report back to his own time.
Then it's back to the future where unconventional field agent Rico Garron is assigned a special mission to discover what on earth is going on.
In this hugely enjoyable novel for teenagers Rico Garron discovers a plot to change his past, his future and the overcrowded world of his present.
Science, adventure and romance are brought together by author Ben Jeapes in a 356-page book that many adult sci-fi readers will enjoy.
A couple of dozen ingenious ideas are thrown in, and they blend marvellously: time travel, space travel, singularities, biogenics and weapons technology to name but a few.
More importantly, the characters are likeable and the plot moves at a cracking pace in this engrossing £6.99 paperback from Scholastic."
Books for Keeps
"The book begins with a body plunging from a balcony in the Home Time where murder is supposed to be a thing of the past. The story ranges from here, a thousand years into the future, and back across the past in a lively interweaving of time and plot. Meetings with the world's great thinkers, some kind of illicit trade between scientists of the near and far-off future, a death that seems like a murder, the everyday workings of the Home Time and a group of disparate characters are all combined in good old-fashioned mystery style. All the various strands are finally brought together in a very satisfying way. With its twists and turns, chases and fights, this is a substantial, intriguing, well-told and thought-provoking story which keeps you guessing right up to the end."
"This is a very strange story set in another dimension in time. It is a 'who-dunnit?' thriller as well as a science fiction story and it flips from one time zone to another.
I read His Majesty's Starship by this author and thought it was amazing so I was really desperate to read this new book. At first I found it quite difficult to get into because it was dealing with so many issues at once, telling you snippets of storylines a bit like a soap opera does. However, once I was a good 40+ pages into the story I definitely started to enjoy it. The story is actually like a murder mystery and it leads you on, deeper and deeper into the book, and you are never sure what is going to happen. There is a small extract from the sequel to His Majesty's Starship at the back of the book to whet your appetite for the next book ... I can't wait!"
"There is no more murder. It is official. Killing a fellow human being as an act of violence or hate a thing of the past. Mankind has moved on since the black days when one man could kill another. This is the Home Time, a relatively peaceful place.
Sunday Morning Post
Ben Jeapes' second novel, Wingèd Chariot, is all about the manipulation of time. The present is the Home Time, a period in the future when man has learned how to play with time. The present, the future and the past all blend into one Home Time and man moves easily in and out any time zone he pleases.
All this was made possible back in the 26th century when technology created the Home Time for Earth's citizens. Society was overcrowded and something had to be done to prevent man destroying himself. Scientists created the Home time and set up a system where people could be redeployed throughout the past to ease congestion in the present. The Earth's inhabitants were spread through history and mankind was saved. But how long would it be before this easy solution to mankind's existence would go drastically wrong?
The World Executive rules over 20 billion people. And cracks are already appearing in the survival system set up to save mankind. Home Time was only planned for an exact period of time and it will end in 27 years. Another answer has to be found or mankind will perish.
Someone in the dark shadows of Home Time has come up with a simple idea that could save everyone. Since it is possible to travel back into the past, why not devise a plan to travel there and alter the future? This would be against everything that the Home Time stands for, but it is humanity's only hope.
This idea is spoken of in whispers. No one will admit that anyone would be brave enough to attempt to put the plan into action. The past is there and cannot be tampered with. Not even to save the whole human race.
And then the unthinkable happens. A citizen of the Home Time has been murdered. Commissioner Daiho has travelled back to 5000 BC to work in the Himalayan Mountains. He has fallen from the top of a balcony and now he is dead. There can be no question of foul play because murder does not exist. But how did the commissioner meet this unlikely death alone? A party of investigators has to travel back in time to discover the truth.
Field Agent Rico Garron is assigned to find out what is going on. The commissioner had an important computer implanted into his body and now that is missing. Garron is going to have tough times ahead until he discovers the truth.
Wingèd Chariot is a clever blend of science fiction, detective story and all-out action thriller. From the first page it moves along at a breakneck speed. It is a well-told story which keeps you involved with the characters and the plot right up to the final page."
"The complexity of the story, dealing as it does with time as a routine process, adaptation of the human body to survive potentially lethal illness or wounds, as well as a world order that is sophisticated in the extreme, is a challenge. It helps to be a dedicated sci-fi buff. That said, it is an excellent novel. The sci-fi language does not hinder the unfolding of the plot. It is, at one level, a who-dunnit, with a maverick character given to asking too many questions. His questions provoke reactions that show the seemingly upright ruling caste of this future system to be no more proof against the temptings of the snake than Eden was. It is a long novel, 356 wholly engrossing pages. Able thirteen year olds will enjoy this, but it will be very much enjoyed by older readers."
Books in Schools
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