TIM: Defender of the Earth by Sam Enthoven
Take an oversized Tyrannosaur, a swarm of self-replicating nanobots, two kids, and an ancient relic. Mix them all together in central London and what do you get? Destruction, on a biblical scale.
TIM, or Tyrannosaur: Improved Model - to give him his Sunday name - is the result of years of government-funded scientific research. After the money gets withdrawn, the decision is made to “retire” TIM, but he has other ideas. Breaking free of his captivity, deep below central London, TIM heads for the open seas, breaking most of London’s infrastructure en-route.
Meanwhile, Professor Mallahide is working on something so revolutionary that he believes it can help humanity make its next evolutionary step. His nanobots can break anything down to their constituent parts, then use these parts to synthesise whatever they are told to, even replicating themselves. Like all good mad-scientists, Prof. Mallahide decides that he should get his nanobots to break him down and transfer his essence, and his memories, to the swarm of nanobots, safe in the knowledge that he can always recreate himself, should he ever need to.
Things rapidly get out of control when Prof. Mallahide decides to invite the population of London to join him in the swarm, to be assimilated – if you like. His daughter, Anna, and the majority of London aren’t so keen on the idea so Prof. Mallahide decides to take the decision out of their hands.
When the swarm attacks London, only TIM can save them, but even TIM isn’t strong enough to take on a trillion microscopic assailants alone. What he needs is an ally; one who can unite humanity behind him. What he needs is Chris, a fourteen year old boy who is obsessed with fitting in, and the ancient bracelet that he finds. With Anna’s help, Chris must unite the people to help TIM.
And so the stage is set for a titanic fight between the Godzilla-like TIM and Professor Mallahide’s swarm of nanobots. Of course, every major landmark in London is in for a good tanking in the process. At times, this can result in the writing sounding like a tourist guide gone wrong.
The book has nice echoes of War of the Worlds; the monster rising from the pit, the panic in London. Unfortunately, these are few and far between. It feels too much like an episode of Doctor Who, without the Doctor, with the two children playing the parts of the assistants. The constant, clumsy, disorientating shifts in point of view, early on in the story, reinforces the feeling of a badly cut T.V. show.
Another issue that I have is with the two children. Where is the benefit in having two protagonists? Why not have Anna find the bracelet, and get rid of Chris? I don’t feel that he added much to the tale (apart from one comic scene of him sitting in his underpants addressing the nation). Anna, on the other hand, provides the glue to the narrative.
My other major grumble? A cover price of £10. I had a quick check on Amazon and seen it was now available around the £6 mark (at the time of writing), which seems more realistic for a young adult’s paperback, so perhaps the price was an oversight on earlier editions of the book.
Something that I was glad to see in this book was a believable villain. Too many sci-fi / fantasy books have an antagonist that is completely devoid of humanity (and this is true with the adult genre too). Anna’s father, Mallahide, is portrayed more as a flawed human than a heartless demon (even if he does try to assimilate her in to the swarm). His relationship with his daughter is the most believable and enjoyable part of the book.
Younger readers of Doctor Who stories will enjoy this book, and perhaps it will help to broaden their horizons.
This TIM: Defender of the Earth book review was written by David Gilchrist
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