Sunday, January 27, 2013


Micro Adventure #4: Time Trap

A BRUTE scientist has gone rogue and stolen their time machine, and now ACT and BRUTE have to join forces to stop him from changing the outcome of the American Revolution with a small atomic bomb.

We're back to the light-hearted adventure tone with this installment.  There are a lot more good laughs than in the last two books, and the premise as a whole is a lot of fun.  Not only is it a time travel story, not only is it a "good guys and bad guys team up to face a common threat" story, but we finally see Hot Wheels, Orion's transportation contact, in a front and center role in the mission.  For as little as we see of H.W. in each book, he's kind of grown on me, being one of the few common elements in all stories, and it's nice to see him coming up in the world in a more active role.

The story is well-told, and the author, Jean M. Favors, was clearly studious enough to do a little research on the American Revolution, sprinkling a few choice details through the narrative to give it some authentic flavor.  The time travel model is, perhaps, a bit simple; the story clearly wasn't intended to dig very deeply into the interfolded ramifications of causality and all that.  The way the atomic bomb is ultimately dealt with is... shocking, to say the least, to anyone who's heard the story of the time traveler who stepped on the wrong bug.  But, you know, who cares.

The guy who really steals the show is Nathaniel Peckinpaw, the director of BRUTE, who comes along on the mission as part of an uneasy and temporary alliance between ACT and BRUTE to save the timeline.  In a series with monolithic Good and Evil, little time is usually given to the villains' point of view.  Peckinpaw is the sort of dry, cool villain who acts selfishly, treats our do-gooder heroes with snide contempt, takes a practical view of ethical matters, and yet lives by a sort of code of honor.  He's the villain in the Saturday morning cartoon who strives week after week to vanquish the heroes, and yet, he gives them the hand up when they're dangling over the pit.  He's snarky and mean, but his heart is in it, even if he's trying all the time to turn things to his advantage.  I can't remember if he ever returns to the series, and that's a shame.

We also get a suggestion of the origins of BRUTE in The Society of Brutus, a secret society still loyal to King George.  It's a clever bit of wordplay and it fits perfectly; a band of colonials plotting to betray the rebellion may well name themselves after one of history's most infamous traitors, and BRUTE may simply be a derivation of the original name.  (And the director of ACT?  Code name Caesar, of course.)

Besides Peckinpaw, we get a standout performance from Bartholemew Bacle, the BRUTE scientist who's stolen the time machine.  He only gets one or two scenes, but those were enough to leave an impression on me that lasted all these years as he mutters and giggles to himself with a Gollum-like split personality.

As you might expect, there are few computers in Colonial America, but the computer activities aren't quite as forced as in Jungle Quest.  The centerpiece, as you might expect, is the time machine itself.  Even if it's just a flashy special effect, they really couldn't have gotten away without it.  Instead of focussing on hacking, this time the programs are mostly there to present a small problem, like a little mini-game.  Most of these are fairly simple, but the one where you figure out which key will reset the bomb is a decent logic puzzle.  It's not replayable once you figure out the trick to it, but I'd still call it the first decent game in the series.

All in all, another solid entry in the series.  It's got suspense, laughs, intrigue, and dinosaurs.  Everything you'd want.

Next time: Mindbender


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