YOU DON’T BELONG HERE by Tim Major, Snowbooks Ltd, p/b, £8.99, www.snowbooks.com
Reviewed by Sandra Scholes
H.G. Wells wrote about one, Marty McFly and Doc rode in one and this is Tim Major’s quintessentially English version. Daniel Faint has stolen a time machine from a lab – as a way of fleeing his past away from detection by the ones he imagines is chasing him for his theft. His way of evading the powers that be involves him signing up to an agency to be a house-sitter for a huge, sprawling mansion. There he can be able to experiment with the time machine and see what it is capable of. The mansion is in a remote part of Cumbria and two owners are interested in what he will be doing with the time he spends in their house while they are away. They imagine he will be bored stiff, but they have no idea what will happen while they believe he is looking after the place.
Tim only gives us a brief few moments with the owners while Daniel frets and becomes nervous around them, wishing they would leave. There are clues that readers can imagine would make him even more nervous; Florence says she wants to go back to university if she could and is interested in time, he thinks the police are already after him (he imagines sirens) and in the fridge is a single beer called Homunculus. Daniel is already concerned by Florence’s words as he is already paranoid about the outside world as he is harbouring a time machine in
his van. Once the owners leave, they also assume Daniel will be making use of the grounds, their library and the swimming pool, but he will be using none of it, his only concern is the time machine he wants to offload and experiment with, bearing in mind he has no idea what it can do with inanimate or living matter.
Once he starts to experiment with the time machine, you can imagine his trepidation, and fear at what might happen at any given moment. Tim enables the reader to become him; you become him while reading the book, as you can sense his fear at being noticed by outsiders. He thinks, foolishly that he is now on his own to do what he wants, but others interrupt his experimenting; peacocks on the grounds, mice running around in the shed, and groundsman, Tosh annoys him at certain points in the story. He practically experiments on anything he can get his hands on, but he needs to keep what he does a secret, and to do that he pretends to be an amateur photographer as well as a house-sitter for Tosh’s master. I could imagine he didn’t believe a word of it, but didn’t argue, yet the paranoia of what he has done stays with him for the whole novel.
Daniel is one of those men who wants to start again. His life hasn’t gone the way he wanted it to, and wants more than life has given him so far – though stealing a time machine is going a bit far. There are some elements in the story that are hints at what happens later, he has a strange brother called William who we never hear much about, but he has flashbacks about him, people at the lab you imagine he worked with, though he doesn’t act like he’s particularly intelligent as far as the sciences are concerned and he isn’t friendly with anyone around him, so obviously he strikes me as a loner. If you’ve read the blurb, you could surmise that by using the time machine Daniel has created his own time paradox he has to get himself out of (him thinking about having a twin brother, or the fact he thinks another Daniel is watching him). He has either gone mad by being alone in the mansion for so long, or something has gone wrong and he is as sane as most folk. This is pretty much what the reader has to decide, and to be honest from the moment I picked the book up, I got straight into it as Tim had put enough action and feeling into the story. All that was left was for him to guide us through the shaky and dangerous world of his main character.