Book Review and Excerpt: Time Rep by Peter Ward @peterwardauthor
If you’re a geek and a Douglass Adams fan, you’re probably going to love this book. Every notation I made in the book was some short hand of me laughing. I made comments about laughing so hard I was in tears or laughing so hard I was wheezing. The book is almost non-stop laughs.
Somebody less important to the world than certain types of mushroom.
Not very nice, is it?
That’s exactly what happens to Geoffrey Stamp after a man from the year 3050 asks him to become a “Time Rep” – a tour guide for the 21st Century, meeting people from the future who travel back through time for their vacations.
You see, Time Reps need to be insignificant. Otherwise, when you go back in time and interfere with their destiny, the space-time continuum has a bit of a fit.
And we wouldn’t want that.
But when Geoffrey uncovers a conspiracy to change the course of history, he is sent on a mind-bending adventure through time and space involving an imaginary lake, a talking seagull, dinosaurs, aliens, the Great Fire of London, and the discovery that he might not be as insignificant as people thought…
About the Author
He started writing his first book Time Rep in 2002, which took six years to complete. He then left it in a drawer for three years before putting the first draft of it on the internet in 2011. After being downloaded 60,000 times and receiving (mostly) positive reviews, he thought it would be wise to approach a literary agent. This led to a new and improved draft of Time Rep being published by Diversion Books in 2013. A German translation is due later in the year through Piper Verlag GmbH. He began writing his second book Note to Self just as Time Rep was being completed in 2008. The final draft was completed in February 2013 and is due to be published by Diversion Books later this year.
He lives in London with his partner Lucy and a very small cat.
In a sense they were walking past an animal enclosure, except the animal in question was the man who lived there—Geoffrey Stamp. Geoffrey was an average height, average looking man with pale skin, a round face, and olive green eyes. He had a skinny build, narrow shoulders, and arms that looked disproportionately thin for his body. At first glance, it was difficult to determine his age. With a week’s worth of dark stubble blurring his jaw line and scraggy chestnut hair drooping over his forehead like an unkempt bush creeping over a garden wall, he could have been anywhere between twenty-five and forty.
In actual fact, Geoff had turned twenty-seven a few weeks ago. The occasion wasn’t marked with him throwing a big birthday party or having a couple of friends over for a drink—the day just passed without incident, like the first two hours of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He’d received a few cards. Some were from old friends he was on the verge of losing touch with, a couple were from some distant relatives he’d last seen when he’d just entered puberty, and one was from an insurance company who somehow knew his date of birth. “Happy Birthday Mr. Stamp,” the impersonal, automated letter had wished him in two different fonts. “As you’re now another year older, have you considered taking out one of our fantastic life insurance policies?” He hoped that whoever had decided to send out that sort of letter to people had life insurance—they needed it.
His parents had also sent him a card all the way from America. They’d sold their house a few years ago, moving away from London because of his father’s job, which was something to do with IT. Not very interesting. Apparently it was a big opportunity he couldn’t afford to turn down, so they’d taken it, leaving Geoff behind to find a place to live and fend for himself. He was old enough now, they’d said. It would be good for him. Geoff visited them once a year and spoke to his mother on the phone every now and again, although the conversation was the same every time: Had he decided what he wanted to do with his life yet? Had he found a job? And did he have a girlfriend?
You could understand why she was concerned. Most people of Geoff’s age had started to settle to down into a career. Perhaps been in a relationship for a few years. Started to think about marriage. Taken out a mortgage on a place. That sort of thing. But not Geoff. He was still single. And unemployed. The only job he’d ever held down for a significant period of time was as a paperboy (for ten years), and he’d been fired from that a couple of years ago because he was told he was too old. He wasn’t sure why he’d stayed being a paperboy for so long. Maybe it was the same reason he’d made no real effort to find another job since. It wasn’t a lack of ambition that was holding him back—he just lacked direction and any sort of skills or qualifications you would expect to find on most people’s CVs. One thing was for sure though—he couldn’t see himelf working in an office environment. Sitting at a desk all day. Typing numbers into a computer. Passing someone the stapler every now and then. That wasn’t for him. He knew he was capable of something more, but until he discovered what that was, he didn’t want to burden himself with employment. He preferred to live a much more rewarding lifestyle, which basically consisted of him playing computer games.
Lots of computer games.
At this precise moment in time, however, Geoff was doing something else—he was asleep on the sofa, his feet hanging over the armrest at one end, his head nestled in a cushion of old magazines at the other. An empty cereal packet lay across his chest, rising and falling slowly with each breath, and his left arm had flopped over the side to the floor, his limp hand dangerously close to knocking over an old cup of tea. Every now and then he would mutter something incomprehensible or rub his face with the back of his hand. He was dreaming, although it wasn’t about anything job related. In fact, if you really want to know, he was dreaming about fishing.
Fishing was somewhat of a recurring dream for Geoff, although he wasn’t entirely sure why. He wasn’t a fishing enthusiast, didn’t know anyone who went fishing, and didn’t even go fishing when he was younger. His childhood was spent sitting on the swings in concrete playgrounds, cycling up and down council estates with his friends in East London, or sitting in his bedroom playing Sonic the Hedgehog. He supposed there was an underwater stage in Sonic the Hedgehog that used to give him nightmares, but that was about the only connection he could think of. Otherwise, there was no reason for him to be dreaming about fishing whatsoever. He didn’t even like fish, for goodness sake.
And yet here he was, sitting by his imaginary lake, fishing rod in one hand, pickle sandwich in the other, teeth chattering in the crisp morning air. He was slumped on his usual bench, feet squished into the gray mud beneath him, arms hunched close to his chest. The lake was quite large, probably the same size as a football pitch, with a small island of tall trees and thick vegetation in the middle. The water was calm, reflecting the overcast sky above, and a few reeds were sprouting up in odd clumps near the banks, as if the lake had undergone a failed hair transplant.
One thing that had been bothering Geoff recently was the fact that he could tell when he was dreaming. He didn’t know whether it was because he was asleep so often that he was now accustomed to the sensation, or whether … A bite! Geoffrey dropped his sandwich, disbanded his psychological ramblings and grasped the rod with both hands. This was a slight overreaction since whatever he’d caught wasn’t putting up much of a fight. He reeled in his lifeless catch, wondering what kind of metaphor for underachievement would emerge from the water today. A boot maybe? A tire? An old rucksack? Every time he dreamt about fishing, he always ended up hooking some piece of worthless junk, so you can imagine his surprise when the thing on the end of his line turned out to be a fish.
Geoff looked at it. A fish. It began to writhe around desperately on the hook, trying to get back in the water. What did this mean? Was he actually going to achieve something today? Would something fish related influence his life in the near future? Or had he simply caught a fish? It spoke.
Geoff wasn’t perturbed by this. All kinds of strange things happened in his dreams. Some things he talked about, others he didn’t.
“Geoff?” The voice sounded familiar—it sounded like Tim.
Back when he was a paperboy, Geoff had faithfully delivered The Times to 23 Woodview Gardens for seven years, or rather to the person who lived there—Tim, who was much more interested in reading the paper than the house was. Tim was the reason Geoff had been able to remain out of work for such a long time, offering him a place to stay when he got fired. He was a little bit older than Geoff, a little bit taller than Geoff, and a little bit more employed than Geoff. At least, Geoff assumed Tim was employed—they never really spoke about what he did for a living. All Geoff knew was that Tim worked from homemost of the time, analyzing reams of data on a computer. He had a small study next to his bedroom upstairs: walls plastered with line charts, desk overflowing with graphs and complex handwritten equations. Geoff didn’t understand any of it. Quite often Tim would have to go traveling as part of his job. Wouldn’t say where—he would just leave the house and return a few days later. For Geoff, this was perfect—he had no interest in whatever Tim did for a living, and Tim never really expressed a desire to tell him.
They’d struck up a friendship within the first year of Geoff delivering the newspaper to Tim’s house when Geoff was caught staring at him through the front window. Tim had been playing a computer game in the lounge, and Geoff had stopped to watch. Their opening conversation was a little bit awkward, with Geoff having to explain why he’d been standing outside Tim’s house for the last ten minutes, but they soon discovered that they both had a number of shared interests—namely the playing of computer games and the watching of someone else playing computer games.
As a landlord, Geoff couldn’t really fault Tim. He tolerated Geoff’s aversion to housework, never asked him if he was looking for a job, and rarely brought up the subject of rent, which he had consistently failed to pay for the past two years. In fact, if it wasn’t for Tim, Geoff would have had no choice but to settle for the career he was dreading, sitting in a gray office in a gray suit, thinking gray thoughts. It was such an amazing coincidence that he should find himself living in a house on his old paper round with no pressure to do anything, sometimes he couldn’t believe his luck.
But he wasn’t happy about being woken up.
“What is it?” Geoffrey replied to the fish. He assumed Tim was talking to him in the real world—his voice manifesting itself in his dream as the voice of the fish.
Either that or he needed help.
“Come on Geoff. Get up …”
Geoff rubbed his eyes. The fish now had hair.
“You’re a fish.”
“Yes, I’m a fish. Wakey wakey.”
Suddenly, Geoffrey was blinded by an unbearable light—Tim must have opened the curtains. He felt a tugging on his foot.
“You need to wake up, Geoff,” the fish said.