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Time Shifters by Chris Grine
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Time Shifters

by Chris Grine

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I had sort of promised myself I would not read anything by Chris Grine again after the surrealistic experience of ChickenHare, but despite the varied reviews of his newest book I couldn't resist giving it a try. Ultimately, while I thought there were issues, I liked it more than I expected.

SPOILERS

Luke and his older brother Kyle are hanging out in the woods when they're attacked by a group of extremely nasty bullies. The bullies, who look positively prehistoric and possibly not even human, shove Luke into a dangerous pool and Kyle, diving in to save him, is killed. Months later, Luke is still caught up in his grief when his mom gently suggests he try visiting the woods for the first time since his brother's death. Luke reluctantly sets out but his attention is immediately caught by a strange explosion and he discovers a mysterious device.

It turns out Luke has accidentally gotten stuck with a powerful device that allows the owner to travel through space and time and he gets pulled into a time vortex with the old professor who created the device and his mismatched group of time travelers - Abraham Lincoln the robot, the ghost of a girl which accidentally got caught in the time vortex, and their dinosaur. This odd group is trying to save the device from falling into the hands of a powerful villain. Fortunately, the villain's henchpersons aren't very impressive - vampire Napoleon, a mummy, and a skeleton. But the crew of time shifters have more to worry about than just some bumbling bad guys. They're stuck on an insect planet that's similar to the old west (except with human-sized insects that want to eat everything) and their chances for getting Luke back home are slim.

After many daring deeds, narrow escapes, and a certain judicious use of ectoplasm (and a lot of insect guts) they manage to return to Luke's home planet. But the timeline is off - Luke has returned just before his brother's death. He insists on saving his brother's life, only to discover that he has been separated from his own timeline - and his family - forever.

Grine's art has the colorful, cinematic quality that will be familiar to most Graphix fans. Luke is a traditionally clean-cut, white male hero and the focus of the series is on action and adventure, not character development. We don't learn much about the former life of Artemis, the ghost side-kick, except that she helps grudgingly and is rather cynical overall. There's obviously a secret sorrow in the professor's past and the robot, Abraham Lincoln, has more in common with the robots of popular scifi movies like Star Wars than his historical equivalent.

There is a lot going on in this story. I think what's thrown a lot of readers is there's not really any hint about the tragedy that starts the book - the cover is very upbeat/space adventure and there's no mention of the tragedy in the description. The abrupt and somewhat dark ending may also be a surprise to readers. Grine seems to incline towards a mix of sudden tragedy, wild action, and slapstick humor which can be jolting to a reader unfamiliar with his work.

Verdict: I mostly enjoyed reading it, but there are plenty of other scifi/fantasy adventures (especially featuring white boys) available. Not to mention I won't have to worry about some of my patrons who have lost siblings in tragic circumstances picking them up and being blindsided by the opening. If it turns out to be a consistent series I might reconsider, since I do have a lot of requests for this type of graphic fantasy adventure, but right now it's not what my library needs.

ISBN: 9780545926591; Published 2017 by Scholastic Graphix; Borrowed from another library in my consortium
  JeanLittleLibrary | Oct 14, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0545926572, Paperback)

When Luke investigates an eerie blue glow in the woods behind his house, he doesn't know what he'll find there. But a scientist, a robot Abraham Lincoln riding a friendly dinosaur, and a sassy ghost were the last things he could have imagined stumbling upon. Now as Luke and his new companions are pursued by a bickering trio of bumbling henchmen after the strange device locked to his arm, he's forced on a crazy, headlong adventure in a parallel dimension! Will he find his courage in time to save the day and get home or will he be trapped in a weird alternate reality forever?

(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 30 Apr 2017 22:57:20 -0400)

When Luke investigates an eerie blue glow in the woods behind his house, he doesn't know what he'll find there. But a scientist, a robot Abraham Lincoln riding a friendly dinosaur, and a sassy ghost were the last things he could have imagined stumbling upon. Now as Luke and his new companions are pursued by a bickering trio of bumbling henchmen after the strange device locked to his arm, he's forced on a crazy, headlong adventure in a parallel dimension! Will he find his courage in time to save the day and get home or will he be trapped in a weird alternate reality forever?… (more)

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