Day of the Predator

Day of the Predator

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, TimeRiders. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Day of the Predator was written by Alex Scarrow and first published in 2010. It forms the second part of the TimeRiders series, preceded by TimeRiders (2010) and followed by The Doomsday Code (2011), The Eternal War (2011), Gates of Rome (2012), City of Shadows (2012), The Pirate Kings (2013), The Mayan Prophecy (2013) and The Infinity Cage (2014). The series follows the adventures of three youths as they use time travel to prevent bad guys from altering past events.

When the TimeRiders receive a broken message from the future, they know that they need to investigate. Someone from the year 2050 has been sent back in time to 2015. His goal is to assassinate the teenage Edward Chan, who will grow up to write a thesis on time travel theory. The TimeRiders know that they need to save Chan as if he dies, the first time machine would never have been built.

Liam and Becks, his new support unit, travel to 2015 to figure out the identity of the assassin is while posing a students on a school trip with Chan. However, things soon go horribly wrong. In trying to send Liam a message, Maddy accidentally opens up a time window which engulfs Liam and Becks, as well as the entire school group. The time window leaves them stranded in the Cretaceous Period, utterly cut off from anyone who could rescue them.

Liam knows that he needs to find a way to contact Maddy and Sal in the future but how can he when every tiny things he does could have a massive impact on the timeline? To make matters worse, he soon finds himself be stalked by an undiscovered species of predator – one that is highly intelligent and is slowly learning through observing Liam’s every move…

I’m going to start this review by stating the very real possibility that I just don’t get this series. Much like with The Enemy, this book has a huge amount of fans that speak really highly of it. I’m not one of them and so feel that maybe I’m missing something critical when reviewing this novel. Sorry if I offend any fans – I don’t mean to and really, I’m glad that you love this book so much – but I can only write based on my own experience and I do have some pretty serious issues.

Day of the Predator carries on where TimeRiders left off, picking up a month later with the team’s next mission. Because of this, a lot of the same strengths and weaknesses that I spoke about in my last review still apply. To begin with the strengths, Scarrow is very good at writing fast action-packed stories. While Day of the Predator did not have the same momentum as TimeRiders (the middle of the novel was a little slow and, disappointing, it contains far less time travelling this time round), its short chapters were easy to read and did keep the story moving. I should probably warn you, however, that is quite a violent novel. There are some scenes that are pretty gruesome and so it’s not a good book if you’re in any way squeamish.

However, it is clear that Scarrow is not the best of writers. His turns of phrase are often very clumsy, giving the novel a slightly amateurish feel. Take for example the moment when a wounded character is described ‘burping a trickle of blood down the front of his varsity sweatshirt’. It just doesn’t read nicely. There are a million ways to describe a violent death. Talking about him burping blood adds unintentional comedy to what should be a shocking scene. The novel also makes some judgments about 2015 which never came to pass – such as characters mentioning High School Musical 4 and stating that there are only three Jurassic Park movies (as of August 2015). While there was no way that Scarrow could have known about these at the time of writing, their inclusion just means that the story is already showing its age.

Yet, the huge issue that I have with this series is that the time travel mechanics just still don’t work for me. While I appreciate the need to simplify things for younger readers, I don’t believe that teenagers are idiots. Scarrow’s version of time travel is just full of holes and, as soon as you start to pick at them, the plot begins to unravel really fast. Just take for example the basic premise of the book. An accident in 2015 has caused Liam to vanish to some unknown time. Since we already know that the novel operates on a dynamic timeline, what’s to stop Sal or Maddy from transporting themselves back to 20 minutes before the accident to warn Liam to run away? Surely this is more efficient than having to find out what epoc he’s wound up in.

Additionally, just what constitutes a contamination of history? Liam’s party bring with them a whole bunch of materials that would not have existed in that time period. They trample the ground, fell a large number of trees and kill off the wildlife, yet none of this affects the future. If they shouldn’t have been in that time period at all, isn’t the act of leaving them there a change even if they are never fossilized and discovered later?

I also have a personal gripe with the unnamed predators that Liam encounters. The novel frequently shows the perspective of Broken Claw, the pack’s alpha, who reveals how absurdly intelligent they are. They have a concept of love, honour, wisdom and even hindsight, yet they can’t grasp the mechanics of a pointed stick. They have claws! They must know that sharp objects can wound prey! Why can’t they comprehend the fact that spears serve the same function?

Additionally, the novel makes it increasingly obvious that the predators are just the xenomorphs from Alien, describing their humanoid bodies, chitinous skin and banana shaped heads. If you looks closely at the cover of my version, you can even see a tiny picture of a xenomorph. This is a very personal gripe but, for me, it was the epitome of laziness. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the creatures had been dinosaurs. The fact that Scarrow ripped off one of the most unique and recognisable monsters in film history just made it seem as though he lacked imagination.

In terms of character, I felt that Scarrow did a lot of good work with Liam and Becks in this novel. Yes, he still reminds us that Liam is Irish by having him exclaim “Jay-zus” once per page but I love any scene that the two of them shared. His emotional development continued throughout the story and it was neat to see how that in turn affected Becks’s growth as she learned through observing him. Unfortunately, this level of development didn’t stretch to everyone else.

I’m beginning to think that Scarrow’s biggest weakness is his ability to write women. Neither Sal nor Maddy gain any development within this story. Sal barely says two words, while Maddy just comes across as being cold-hearted, complaining constantly and treating the support units as though they are disposable machines rather than living things. The two of them are really third wheels in the story, receiving about one chapter to every four of Liam’s and just feeling as though they were added for the sake of having female characters.

Yet the problem doesn’t stop with them. Scarrow repeatedly refers to females as being weak and inferior throughout the story as Becks is described as being 87% less efficient than Bob (though better in covert operations that require a female…sigh) and in sentences such as ‘several of the students, not all of them girls, began to whimper at the prospect’. Fear isn’t just something that affects girls. The school group is trapped in the past, facing fierce carnivores. It isn’t to be expected that girls will tremble and cry while boys will be strong and manly. This kind of sexist characterising promotes the idea that boys are superior to girls in a crisis and just boils my blood.

Finally, I think I need to talk about the climax of the novel. Unfortunately, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS past this point so please stop reading now if you’re planning on picking up this novel. You have been warned.

Seriously, what the Hell? The entire purpose of the novel was to save Chan but, in the end, this never actually happens? They just kind of shove him out of the bubble and just say “so long now. Hope you’re going to be ok in the future”. No. That’s not how it works. You put the past back the way it should be. That means there is still an assassin waiting to kill Chan on his school trip. If the present remains unchanged, the same would be true of the future. So all that messing around – this entire novel – has been entirely pointless. This is so unforgivably lazy. It’s like Scarrow realised his book was getting long and just stopped writing. A single chapter of Becks going back and stopping the assassin would have been all that it took. Instead, we were just left with this frustrating hand washing with no sense of closure whatsoever!

Also, Becks defeated the predators by murdering the whole pack. How is this not changing history? She’s wiped out an entire species. This means that every species they prey on has lost a predator and could start breeding out of control. This is ridiculous. Of course it would change things in the future. The true way to remove contamination would be to prevent Broken Claw from ever having come in contact with humans in the first place, thus halting his evolution.

END OF SPOILERIFIC RANT

To conclude, while it is a fast paced and exciting read, Day of the Predator just isn’t as good as TimeRiders. It contains all the same plot issues but is also hampered by a slow middle section and poor development for its female characters. I hope that the series does start to address its problems in the next book because, at this point, I’m finding it underwhelming one the whole.

Day of the Predator can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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