I've probably posted reviews of some of the books here already, but I thought I'd get them all on one page. :)
A Strange Machine by Dan Rix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A Strange Machine starts off with the mysterious disappearance of Franklin Thomas, who walks into the prototype Chronos Quantum Computer and never comes out again. Edgar Faye, the head of the project, closes down the jinxed project and donates the computer to his alma mater - Lakeside Upper. Cory Holland, computer whizz, spoiled rich brat, and all-round annoying jerk, (sounds rather like Tony Stark's playboy, philanthropist, billionaire?) then gets his hands on it after breaking into the school compound. From there, Dan Rix works his quantum physics and time travelling magic, plunging Cory, Noah, and Iris into a crazy loop as they try to change the future in order to change the past. (Time travel paradox, anyone?)
It does Rix credit that his characterisation of Cory Holland is good enough that I really wanted to slap this idiotic teenager several times over. Cory was a very well-rounded character - cocky and egotistical, sometimes even brash, and yet still vulnerable in areas of his life. His two side-kicks, Noah Wright and Iris Strasser (somewhat reluctantly), also manage to live in your imagination as they struggle through the pains of high school, Advanced Physics, and the way Cory bullies them both. (I'm suspecting two possible romances to emerge in the next book from the way it's being set up. Hah.)
On the other hand, Cory's crush, Samantha Silvers, felt a little like a throwaway character - as if she's just there to be his distraction in the book. Part of the reason could be her strange behaviour towards Cory's nemesis, Dante Laurenti (mmm delicious). Her vacillation between the two would have been a perfectly normal confused reaction of a hormone-driven girl with two simultaneous crushes (which can happen!) except for the drugs and her parents' awkward lack of protectiveness and absence, despite knowing that she has a problem.
And that brings up a YA trope Dan Rix has allowed into his book - absentee parents. I didn't quite notice this as strongly in his other books [In [book:Triton|20823076], everyone except the four teens had disappeared - though there was a hint of family dysfunction; In God's Loophole and Eternity’s End, the Rockwell's parents had died (there were an uncle and an aunt) whilst Raedyn was a runaway, however there was the professor who was, in a way, kind of a stand-in parent/mentor]. In A Strange Machine, however, it feels as if the story is littered with absentee/distant parents. Cory's father is too busy with work to pay attention to him, Noah's mother appears to be addicted to the lottery. Samantha's parents conveniently disappear on an anniversary trip just when her ex-boyfriend comes back from juvie and Edgar Faye seems to be drifting too much in and out of reality to be much of a father to Anneliese. Iris' parents weren't mentioned much at all.
I guess it's not ALL bad - certain lack of parental knowledge has to take place in order for the teens to get themselves into trouble, right? - but maybe having so many at once felt a little like overkill.
At any rate, Rix has a good thing going. In most of his books, it's really the way he gets you to identify with his characters and the struggles they go through that makes the story comes to life. That really is his strength, and he manages to continue to harness it, even while improving on his overall writing chops.
I received a pre-release copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The Ghost At Retreat Lake by Dan Rix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Fresh out of the crazy, unnerving, time looping events in A Strange Machine, Iris, Cory and Noah watch with horror as a future Iris Strasser crawls out of the machine and dies in front of their eyes.
Still, Cory Holland, like the annoying prick he is, insists that they go for the senior class lake retreat, because... it will be extremely fun.
Except it's not. A series of close calls and strange happenings further unnerve Iris Strasser, and it's all she can do to convince Cory to stop ogling girls and flirting to listen to her concerns. However, Cory's not as clueless as he pretends to be - even whilst he's enjoying himself zip-lining and swimming (and annoying Iris), he's also trying to work through the events to figure out just what's happening with the Chronos and the strange codes he's found.
Getting the two of them to work together is a huge problem - one that may end up in both of their deaths. But that's not enough. If they don't get Anneliese Faye's cooperation, they may never solve the mystery of the ghost at retreat lake.
Reading The Ghost at Retreat Lake had me confused at times - it honestly felt as if there were dual story lines, or at least dual versions of Cory in the book. Part of it, I suppose, was because of the extremely opposite viewpoints used - between Iris' perception of Cory and his own perception of himself, I was beginning to wonder whether the timeloop had created another version of Cory! There didn't seem to be a similar duality with Iris though. Maybe because Iris sees herself more clearly than Cory does?
Rix again shows his mastery at meshing seemingly random and unrelated events and story lines so that they begin to make sense - and he addresses at least one concern I had from the first book - Edgar Faye. (One thing I'm hoping very hard does not happen though is this burgeoning "romance" thing between Cory and Iris. It's just no no no no no, you are NOT right for each other.)
Of course, he just *has* to end at a cliff hanger and ask you to wait for book three...
I received a pre-release copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
An Infinite Loop by Dan Rix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Oh gosh. This book was tantalizing from start to finish. I would like to gush, but I don't gush (right).
Cory, being Cory, lands himself and Iris in big trouble when he accidentally sends her into an infinite timeloop. What that means, really, is that she's stuck in the stupid time machine and can't escape because Cory made an error in the code. Which means... she's dead.
What results is a heartbreaking story of a Cory trying to make amends, and trying to figure out how to save the girl he finally realises that he doesn't actually hate. (Ah, I guess I'm a little more okay with this now than I was when reading The Ghost At Retreat Lake)
Rix is getting better at this alternate timeline stuff too. Where in The Ghost At Retreat Lake it felt like there were dual story lines that didn't jive (whether on purpose or not, it just felt jarring), it just seems to flow one after another in this book. There's still the inevitable repeating timelines, told from past and future Cory/Iris, but it seems to pick up seamlessly from where the other story line let off.
And seriously, I'm glad that Cory isn't as annoying a jerk as he used to be. Though what's with all the annoying girls? I'd like to slap Sam, Anneliese and Pris and tell them to grow up. I'd also sometimes like to slap Iris as well, though I kind of get where she's coming from with Cory being an idiot.
*I received a pre-release copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Though to be honest I just like his stuff. Lol.
The Man with Two Pasts by Dan Rix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I am surprised I did not review this book the minute I finished it. (I'm still not sure why)
The Man with Two Pasts is a superb ending to the Timeloopers series. Cory and Iris have gone back and forth in time so many times, it comes as no surprise that now, Cory is dead, AGAIN. It seems that Rix has written himself into a corner, but a-ha! something changes again and Cory is alive! But then someone - a certain dead someone - changes time again... ensuring that Cory stays dead. There's no win in this. Either Cory dies, or Iris dies, or Cory dies. Usually Cory. And as much as I love to hate Cory (ever since the start; A Strange Machine), I've too much invested in this love-hate Iris/Cory relationship to really want him to die.
Just a word of advice: keep note of the dates in each chapter. Or you'll constantly be going, "eh what? When is this again?
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