Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Review: Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

UK book cover of Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor
TIME TRAVEL. An organisation that investigates historical events by GOING TO VISIT THEM. Why did I not know this series existed!? I feel like you all seriously breached your duty of care by not informing me that these books existed. The Claim Form is in the post; expect a call from my lawyer. This is the best idea ever and I can't wait to read the rest of the Chronicles of St Mary's series.

Plot summary: Behind the seemingly innocuous fa├žade of St Mary's, a different kind of historical research is taking place. They don't do 'time-travel' - they 'investigate major historical events in contemporary time'. Maintaining the appearance of harmless eccentrics is not always within their power - especially given their propensity for causing loud explosions when things get too quiet.

Meet the disaster-magnets of St Mary's Institute of Historical Research as they ricochet around History. Their aim is to observe and document - to try and find the answers to many of History's unanswered questions...and not to die in the process. But one wrong move and History will fight back - to the death. And, as they soon discover - it's not just History they're fighting.

Follow the catastrophe curve from 11th-century London to World War I, and from the Cretaceous Period to the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria. For wherever Historians go, chaos is sure to follow in their wake....


This has 'Hanna' written all over it. I discovered it, bought it and immediately sat immobile for an entire day and devoured it. It has its faults and some of them did irritate me (no surprises there), but I loved, loved this book.

It's a relatively simple idea - St Mary's Institute of Historical Research is partnered with a more traditional university, who are paid to investigate aspects of certain historical events. The University contacts St Mary's, and two historians toddle off to the Cretaceous Period, or the building of West Minster Abbey, or the Somme. They come back with the data and everybody wins. It's actually quite well thought out - the safety checks, briefings, contingency plans, etc.

There is actually a detailed over-arching plot, which impressed me. I expected Just One Damned Thing After Another to be a sort of set-up book for the series, just sorting out the Institute and how Max got her job, etc. I suspect this storyline is convoluted enough to last throughout the entire series (seven books at time of writing) and it surprised me that such an idea was implemented halfway through Book One.

It's very fast paced... actually too fast paced. I would have liked it to take its time a little more, I think. Events occur in quick succession with no time to properly deal with what happened, whether a personal problem or a trip back to the past. I need more detail! It makes it difficult to care about the characters when you're essectially just given a list of what they did, in chronological order. Take some time and explain. I mean, the point of the book is that these people jump back in time but the historical events are almost skimmed over. They jump there, see a dinosaur, and jump back. I picked this up for the time travel, so why skim over it? If there were only more detail involved and the characters only had a sense of wonder, these books would be perfect.  

Ironically, this book doesn't deal with the passage of time well. Max is a trainee, but suddenly she'd finished her training and then suddenly she'd been there five years and there were new trainees. It was a little confusing as there were no indications of the time that had passed. It leads back to the lack of detail explained above, I suppose. 

The book drags on just a little too long. Something happens that would have been a perfect place to the end the book, but then Max has a revelation and we go on to deal with that. It carries on past the natural ending for the book and the tone is immediately changed. It's just... odd. I can't help but think that it would have been a better idea for that to comprise Book Two, and then Book One could have been expanded with the detail and explanation that I so desperately crave!

I did absolutely love Just One Damned Thing After Another and I already wish that I owned the rest of the series, instead of just the second book, Symphony of Echoes. It was an effort not to just pick it up and plough ahead, but I decided to give myself a little breathing room. It's a great idea, authored by somebody who clearly loves history, it just needs a little more detail and to slow the pace down somewhat.

Visit Jodi Taylor's website here, or find her on Twitter.  

1 comment:

  1. To be fair I haven't heard of it either. One for the wishlist!

    ReplyDelete

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