The Time Cavern, Todd Fonseca, (2008, 200 pages) is an odd book because it seems to become science fiction two-thirds of the way through it, with no previous hint that this change is to take place.
THE MYSTERY BEGAN A HUNDRED YEARS AGO. IT WAS NEVER SOLVED. NOW IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN.
Ten-year-old Aaron moved from the big city to the country where he met a know-it-all farm girl who said his house is haunted. The Amish boy who had lived there before disappeared after claiming to hear the wind call his name. Aaron knew she was just trying to scare him–she was doing a good job too because the night before Aaron heard the wind call his name.
I liked a main plot line of the book– Aaron adapting to country life, and making friends with Jake, although I would have edited out a third. Aaron has moved to a community where a lot of Amish families live and there is quite a bit of info re Amish culture. I love a good setting, and the one in this book is well-developed.
This book sometimes took a preachy tone, which I resented unreasonably. Examples:
1. Aaron said, “we’ve been working so hard to come up with a good lie when all we needed was just to be honest. … My parents are always saying that it’s easier to tell the truth than to lie. I guess they were right.”
2. He had to admit that being grounded allowed him to focus on his robot arm.
3. I had been working in the barn late one night with my pa. He gives me number of jobs to do and I was so tired…I told him I was finished when I really was not. Later at night, lying in bed I couldn’t sleep. I had lied and it kept me awake.
Gag me, thinks the adult me. However, as a parent, I wouldn’t mind my kids reading such sentiments. Yet despite the sometimes sanctimonious tone of the book, at one point Aaron steals something (a small item, admittedly) but expresses no remorse whatsoever. This bothered me. I also did not find all the dialogue authentic, as I don’t know any ten year olds who use words such as “unwittingly”, for example.
Aaron and Jake find an old note written by the disappeared Amish boy, and an old hand-drawn map, with an X on it that the pair rightly assume is significant. It is great how they use local resources to match the map to the current local topography and find where the X is located.
Aaron and Jake find the important place the X denotes. This is where the tale takes a science-fictiony turn. Since this is a review of a time travel book, I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I reveal that they find a time travel portal. (The title of the book gives a clue.) The portal is a complicated construction. The author uses many words to describe it. Despite this, I was still confused and could not picture it. I liked the idea of this portal, but not its realization. I wondered if the author perhaps had a dream about the portal that he then tried (unsuccessfully in my opinion) to capture in print. The time travel in the book occurred a little while after Aaron and Jake find the portal, although, there was only a tiny bit of it.
I felt this was a good basic story, but I would have liked more time travel, and a simpler portal. I’m guessing true fans of the science fiction genre would feel there was not enough of it in this book to hold their interest, while non-fans would feel there was too much of it.