My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Send the two dumbass timenauts you have back in the past to retrieve a bar of chocolate; what’s the worst that can happen? Oh, only a chronological apocalypse that will wipe out the world as we know it.
Kim Howard Johnson is the author of True Brit, a unique take on the Superman mythos, and has also written a stack of Monty Python books, some even co-written with John Cleese and Michael Palin.
The Last of the Time Police is the first in a series titled ‘The Time Authority’ and features a brand of humor that will be immediately familiar to Monty Python fans. Its been described as ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ meets ‘Time Bandits’, and the author himself has said that it is a tribute to his late friend Douglas Adams. For me, it could easily be the next onscreen adventure for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
The basic plot of the book is that the Americans have successfully developed time machines but have failed to capture the imagination and support of the public and have succeeded only in creating a small number of lottery winners who all had one thing in common; they had been timenauts before they won the lottery. When the programme is finally understood to be the liability that it is, the military step-in and begin to shut it down. But then someone realizes that a timenaut has accidentally dropped a candy bar in Renaissance France. So they send the only two timenauts who haven’t had the foresight to quit the Time Authority, on the only working Time Hopper left, to retrieve it before it wipes out almost every species of dog. But as luck would have it, the two timenauts run into trouble and unknowingly pick up a passenger, Leonardo DaVinci. Somehow they manage to lose the manual for the Time Hopper and their passenger somewhere in the 18th Century, and find themselves crash-landing in the 19th Century. But the 19th Century England looks nothing like it should, a fact that is immediately obvious from their collision with Maggie Wells . . . whilst she is flying one of DaVinci’s flying machines. Somehow they’ve got to repair their time machine and fix the catastrophic damage they’ve caused the timeline. But things only get more muddled as the military send back one of their own and Leonardo starts a rivalry with Benjamin Franklin, things can only get worse . . .
Johnson clearly has knack for comic timing and his characters manage to amuse without having to resort to crudeness or vulgarity to inject the humor into virtually ever scene in the book. The dialogue is especially amusing. The descriptions can be a little slim in places, possibly due to Johnson’s time working on comic books, but he still manages to evoke each period well enough to picture them. His characterization of DaVinci and Franklin for me was the star of the show.
What let’s the book down is the sudden conclusion, with much of the story left hanging with no real closure or clear resolution of story or character arcs (except perhaps DaVinci), this again could be put down to the author’s time in the comic book industry, but nonetheless left me disappointed and needing at least another two or three chapters for a cleaner ending and space to setup the challenges for the characters in the inevitable sequel. Therefore I deduct one star from what is otherwise worth at least four star.