The Timetripper Books - Yestermorrow & In-Rage

Our old friend Stefan Petrucha is back with a new series based on his first original comic story. The series revolves around the adventures of Harry Keller, a teenager who attends the Robert A. Wilson special ed school. After the death of his father and a bout of institutionalization, he discovers that he has the ability to perceive time...differently. It starts with his seeing poems before they've been written and people cycling through their entire lives before his eyes. After he stops a school shooting with a "random" assembly of chairs, Harry discovers how to project his spirit into what he dubs "A-Time," a landscape filled with trails of everyone leading from their past into their future.

Harry discovers that he can enter any other person's trail and see their past, but each trail runs into an oncoming "now." Harry can alter the trails as they go into the future, but he lacks the experience to manipulate. Unknown to him, there is someone else out there, the Initiate, who can manipulate the trails...and has a definite plan.Harry ends up pulling a fellow student, Siara Warner, into A-Time and together they try to stop the school shooter, Todd, from taking his life and creating a new and terrible future of the Initiate's design.

Clearly the TimeTripper books owe some small part to the Harry Potter series - besides the similar names, Harry and Harry both have bad haircuts, dead parents, and a special destiny.Where they differ is that Harry Keller has a unique gift and everyone thinks he's nuts. Including Siara, the heroic girlfriend (sort of) who Harry sweep up into his life.

Probably the best part of the book is the characters and the school setting. Petrucha seems to have either attended a special ed school himself or knows someone who has. There's a variety of characters with varying degrees of problems and advantages, with enough quirks to have a few extra dimensions.

Where the book falters a little is with A-Time itself, if for no other reason that it's a truly alien place and it's both hard to describe, and then quickly becomes a standard setting in the book. After sketching out the environment, the novelty is soon lost and the setting becomes more of a background.

Also, while the concept of the time trails and entering them is an interesting one, the idea of a omniscient "narrator" that fills in the visitor with the trail owner's background seems like more of a writing device than an organic part of the setting.

Compared to the Harry Potter books, Yestermorrow is a much grimmer affair with school shootings, drug dealers, and threatened rape, murder, and suicide. The introduction of the three drug-dealing brothers a little ove rhalfway through the novel makes it a bit too realistic, perhaps. The novel also ends on a fairly depressing note when Harry (a bit of a jerk) abandons Siara to basically wallow in self-pity and worry about a slowly growing piece of evil within him.

In-Rage, the second book in the series (now titled TimeTripper) is if anything an even darker story than the first book. Probably the lightest part from the first book, Harry and Siara's exploration of A-Time, is gone here. This is partially because Harry doesn't visit the place that much and it doesn't play as big a role in the story, and because Harry and Siara are separated. In-Rage is also set almost entirely at the Robert A. Wilson High School, giving it a much more claustrophobic feel.

The differently-styled writing previously used to represent the "narrative" found within the time trails is back, although it's not entirely clear what it's representing sometime. And it's occasionally used for time-trail narration as well.

For me the second story didn't quite come together. Basically it's a story of contagious anger, heading in a predictable path. Harry saves the day eventually, thwarting whatever the Initiate's plan was. Other than getting twelve people killed, said plan isn't really laid out as it was in Yestertomorrow.

The rest of the book is filled with a lot of angst as Harry considers his depressing fate. He doesn't get the girl, he doesn't get any recognition, he almost gets drugged back up with the introduction and then end-of-book departure of a new nemesis, Mrs. Stang.

Overall I found In-Rage the mildly weaker of the two efforts. The characters are rather frustrating and no one is really sympathetic, and some of the key concepts in the core book are left out. Generally I found the series as a whole to be interesting, even if it seems a somewhat predictable "Harry gets in trouble in his personal life, the Initiate carries out his plan, Harry saves the day." Hopefully the third and fourth books will break this pattern a bit.

(Yestermorrow - ISBN #1-59514-076-X; In-Rage - ISBN #1-59514-077-8)

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