Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Erasing Time by C. J. Hill

The concept of Erasing Time is so cool: teenage twins Sheridan and Taylor are taken from the present day into the far future by mistake and must learn how to survive in a world that is very, very different (and dangerous). The people who brought them to the future were intending to bring forward a brilliant (adult) scientist, but instead got the twins, and they're not sure what to do with them now that they have them. There's no possibility of a return trip.

The story is told mostly from the perspective of Sheridan, who is the more "average" of the twins. Taylor has always been the brilliant twin, the science whiz who graduated high school at an incredibly early age, went on to college, and is now studying for her PhD at age 18. Sheridan is smart, but no matter how smart she is, she feels that she'll always pale in comparison to Taylor, who is also very outgoing.

The two girls must learn to work together to manage the situation they find themselves in. They have an ally - maybe - in Echo, a boy from the future whose job it is to translate the future English into the past English and vice versa. When the twins discover that the scientists from the future plan to fix their mistake by giving the girls memory washes, they go on the run, with the help of Echo.
I love reading books about the future in part because it's always interesting to see what one person thinks that future will look like. Hill's future is curious. People live in isolated cities, basically domes, ostensibly for their own safety, and they have no interaction with the outside world. Everyone has an ID chip implanted in their bodies, almost no buildings have actual walls, religion has been outlawed, and our system of government has been completely eliminated. There are different factions within the city, too - such as the dangerous Dakine, who use violence to achieve their goals, and the more benign "Doctor Worshippers," whose name actually means something very different from what it sounds like.

The government tells citizens that natural plant and animal life no longer exist, and they're nowhere to be found in the city. One of the most amusing parts of the book is when Echo tells the girls that the reason animals are now extinct is because the people in Sheridan and Taylor's time ate them all. (Taylor is quick to point out to Sheridan that complete extinction of non-human animal life is impossible, since it would make human life impossible as well.) Actually, there are a lot of moments where the future culture has interpreted our current culture incorrectly, and it leads to most of the story's laughs.

The way Hill uses language is interesting. The gap between future English and current English seems to be about the same as the gap between current English and Middle English - gibberish initially, but understandable once you practice at it. To make telling the story simpler, Hill doesn't actually write out what the future English must sound like - she "translates" it for us via Echo, and once the girls learn to understand it, she "translates" it via them too. Hill also uses current English idioms to great effect, as a way for the twins to talk to each other without the future people knowing what they are really saying. I thought the language issue was an interesting touch, and it's a problem I've always wondered about when reading stories set in the far future.

I think there are a lot of neat ideas in this book, but they aren't executed terribly well. I'm a little unsure why the scientists from the future wanted to bring a scientist from today forward. It's explained in the book, but not in a completely understandable way. I also think a couple of obvious secrets are withheld too long, making their ultimate revelations underwhelming. 

Mostly, I wanted more of a story. With the whole future world at her disposal, it seems like Hill told a rather pedestrian, small kind of story - Taylor and Sheridan must elude those who are out to get them, with the help of a boy from the future. I suppose I wanted more intrigue and excitement and less talking and pontificating. I wanted to see more of the future world through Sheridan and Taylor's eyes, know more about the Dakine, and so on. Erasing Time ultimately left me unsatisfied. Still, it held my attention and should appeal to fans of time travel stories.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Erasing Time is available now.

2 comments:

  1. Well, now, this interests me simply because my daughter's name is Sheridan, and I have never seen it in a book before:) Of course, she is the brilliant one in our household!

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  2. Have you seen the book trailer? Just OMG freaking amazing. I've read some reviews already where they had the same problems you did--the execution of the premise. :'( I so want this to be the amazing read I'm hoping for. Maybe it will be, for me. But thanks for your opinion, it really stinks when a promising premise doesn't quite hit the mark.

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