Sunday, October 02, 2005

A Tale of Time City - Diana Wynne Jones

As I mentioned yesterday, I read a couple of Diana Wynne Jones books last week, the second of which was A Tale of Time City. This is more of an SF book than a fantasy one, and although I'm not as big a fan of SF as I am of fantasy, it looked interesting, so I borrowed it from the library.

When Vivian is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to be staying in the countryside. Instead, she is whisked away to Time City - a place that exists outside time and space. It is a strange and remarkable place, where technology rules - yet important events of both past and future are marked by the appearance of mysterious Time Ghosts. Here, a Time Patrol works to preserve historical events - but unknown rogue time-travellers are plotting to take control and are stealing the wards that protect the city. If they succeed, Time City and History as we know it will both be destroyed. Jonathan and Sam are convinced that Vivian can help to save their home -- for, astonishingly, she appears as a Time Ghost herself in a forgotten part of the city. But how can she possibly know what to do, when the important event hasn't even happened yet ?!

I liked all three main characters in this book, although Jonathan is arrogant and bossy, and Sam is like an annoying younger brother who tags along when you'd rather he didn't. Vivian acts as a counter-balance to the excessive behaviour that the two boys occasionally indulge in, and her method of getting her revenge on Sam for stealing all her credit is priceless ! However, the three of them work well as a team when it most matters, and they all show bravery in the face of some nasty circumstances. They manage to work out how to deal with the danger that faces the whole of humanity, past and future, with a little help from Elio, the android, although the role each child plays is absolutely cruicial. I imagine that it will appeal to children of both sexes and especially to fans of time-travel and SF.

Diana Wynne Jones seems fond of using time-travel elements in her stories: there is time travelling (of a sort) in Fire and Hemlock, and it is a large part of the story The Time of the Ghost. And I note that Farah Mendlesohn's new study of DWJ's work, Diana Wynne Jones The Fantastic Tradition and Children's Literature (which is only out in the US apparently) has two chapters that cover this subject, judging by the Contents list: chapter 3 is entitled 'Time Games' and chapter 4 is called 'Diana Wynne Jones and the Portal-quest Fantasy'. I wonder how long it will be before Farah Mendlesohn's book is published in the UK as I would definitely be interested in reading it ?


Bad4 said...

Hello, I'm a college student doing a paper on a good author and why he or she writes well, and I chose Diana Wynne Jones, a high favorite of mine.

But because of the large range of materials she's written, I'm finding it hard to put my finger on exactly WHAT it is that makes her an excellent writer.

Would you be able to help me out by highlighting some of the elements that make her a good writer.

Michele said...

Why don't you email me and we can discuss it ? My email address is scolere(at)gmail(dot)com.