THE TIME TRAVELLERS CLUB by Mark Roland Landale. Book review

THE TIME TRAVELLERS CLUB, Mark Roland Landale, Matador, p/b,

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

Cast your mind back thirty years or more to the movies, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Journey is one where Bill and Ted are behind with their schoolwork and need to write a paper that will make sure they pass rather than flunk the year. To do this they embark on the impossible, a journey in a time machine (phone box) where they pick up famous people from different periods in history; Joan of Arc, Mozart, Napoleon spring to mind. Initially I thought The Time Travellers Club was going to be the same and I hoped it was not. I hoped it would be much more than that.

Benjamin Digby is a quantum scientist working for the Crick Institute in 2021 in London, though the story really starts in 2061 in a gentleman’s club where various luminaries attend, including Newton and Einstein to name a couple. In this novel are probably what author Langdale considers his own luminaries; Archimedes, Nostradamus, DaVinci and Houdini. At the Time Travellers Club meeting Digby tells his friends Caruthers and Battersby of his real time travelling activities in the Mind Machine, not that anyone is likely to believe him.

So the first two chapters serve as an introduction while the third one has Digby telling his friends of his early studying time and mind mapping. Digby and his dear friend Clara, a fellow scientist at the institute bounce around theories until they start to sound truly absurd. For Digby though nothing can change his mind; he still wants to time travel to the dim and distant past, but rather than for sciences sake, Digby wants to go back to the eighties to watch Back to the Future when it first got released to the masses. You would think the idea was below a scientist, but Digby is seen as much less than eminent by his peers for being somewhat geeky.

Also if you didn’t get it at first, Digby’s constant name dropping of eighties stars, movies and bands is due to the characters (and authors) love of all things eighties, so it’s a matter of going with the flow if you want to make sense of the story. Milton Mildew is Digby’s nemesis who rubbishes all his theories seeing him as a time waster. Once Digby has succeeded with his hourglass experiment, he considers setting up his Time Dream Team to help him out on his time travelling escapades.

Digby dreams of marrying Clara who could easily be a figment of his imagination from the movie Back to the Future 3 as could his friends from the club. In fact every character from the book could be him daydreaming while other scientists browbeat him at the institute. Digby acts as a sort of HG Wells from Time After Time, quiet spoken, intelligent, quirky and mocked but it doesn’t stop him creating the Dreamliner which acts as a plane to take them back and forth in time.

His journey into the Victorian era proves to be what he always wanted; meeting Isambard Brunel the famous engineer only to tell him he lives with Sherlock Holmes. As I worked my way through the book, like The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Digby has also written a time traveller’s guide though it is as yet unpublished. Langdale’s use of characters made me think Digby hadn’t had any time travelling fun at all but as he kept on with his travels to and from Victorian England and beyond, even taking Brunel to the future shows time travel is possible and his brilliance should not be mocked, but Langdale’s earlier constant mention of all things eighties could have become annoying. I was glad he eased up on them part of the way through the novel as I thought he might have relied on them for too much of the story.  As for the story I found it to be a rollicking fun melange of technobabble, humour and adventure I thoroughly enjoyed.