Doing Time by Jodi Taylor (book review).

October 17, 2019 | By | Reply More

You would think that the first three chapters from individual first person perspectives of the three key players that Jodi Taylor’s novel, ‘Doing Time’, would be doing the same throughout. It doesn’t. From therein, it becomes a third person narrative. These three chapters do suffer a bit. Mostly because they are in first person and we are told their problems than shown them so we do get a rather bias approach.

Even rich kid Trainee Luke Parrish with a past and disowned by his very rich dad isn’t shown in as bad light as he should. Trainee Jane Lockland is the mouse of the team who is slowly turning. I’m still not sure what to make of the bullied Trainee Matthew Farrell. With a roll-call at the opening of the book, you do get a tiny briefing on all the players.

Set about three and a half centuries into the future, the Time Police are a small military force who sort out incursions by time travellers or even by residents themselves. Author Jodi Taylor explains all of this in her introduction. This isn’t the first time she’s used this realising as her book resume of ‘The Chronicles Of St. Mary’s Series’ documents several anthologies, although you don’t need them to read this book.

The choice of recruits doesn’t depend on IQ or dedication and we follow three misfit recruits on their first missions and see how they develop. I’m not even sure I would want these people doing such an important job.

Oddly, when you work expect to follow this apprentice Weird Team sorting out problems in time, this only happens a couple of times. A major part of this book is devoted to them getting an older team leader, Jane Mary Smith, who puts Lockland’s nose out of joint. She later hears Smith arguing with Parrish and as he rushes off, she discovers Smith with her throat cut. Thinking Parrish did the deed, she tries to throw away the knife and is caught. So much evidence suggests that she didn’t do it but Lockland refuses to talk. In fact she doesn’t say much at all. In the end, Parrish initiates an escape for her when Farrell sets off a radiation alarm and they flee to Rome, around the time of Julius Caesar’s assassination. Beyond there is spoiler and you need a working pod or this book to find out what happens next.

Taylor foregoes explaining how the pod transport works and I doubt if this Time Police could explain it neither. After all, their job is policing not being scientists. Although time paradoxes aren’t exactly explored, you would have thought that their own incursions would have at least changed some aspects of their own future or even fulfilled events in a particular way that would affect their future timeline.

The selection of incursions here, starting off with a resident being given a pod for a brief time to get the results of a lottery in our time seems a minor thing. As they mention their role to his family, you would think word of their presence would be more prevalent.

Taylor’s book is also dialogue heavy which makes for a speedy read. When it comes to action, this does fall foul to that and moves on rather too quickly. A flaw with the characters is that they aren’t extreme enough to make them stand out from everyone else. Smith is supposed to be bitchy but we only see her from Lockland’s perspective who is just being cold-shouldered. It’s not strong enough to give a solid perspective or explain why her team-mates haven’t spotted anything wrong.

Writing multiple characters is often a juggling act to put them all in the sun or at least have a few strong scenes per story. Certainly a self-edit from each of their perspectives would have helped to improve them all. In many respects, this book is also setting down the ground rules for what will follow next in this series as the Time Police are updating their service and be less militant.

‘Doing Time’ is readable and I suspect if you enjoyed her ‘The Chronicles Of St. Mary’s Series’ books then you will continue with this one.

GF Willmetts

October 2019

(pub: Headline. 464 page hardback. Price: £18.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-4722-6747-4)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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