Staff review by Chris Saliba
Ross Welford's debut novel is an action packed adventure, but also a sweet and tender story about the close relationship between a father and his son.
On his twelfth birthday Al Chaudhury is given a letter from his father who died several years ago from a brain haemorrhage. The letter stipulates it is not to be opened for another sixteen hours. Barely able to contain himself with the excitement of it all, Al opens the letter one hour earlier than stipulated. What he reads is beyond belief. His father for years had been working in secret on a time travelling machine. The machine is set up in the disused bunker of the family’s old house. If Al can find his way into the bunker, he’ll find instructions on how to use the machine.
The letter also explains that if Al is reading the letter, it means his father has died prematurely and so needs him to travel back in time. Al soon figures out he must travel back to 1984, when his father was involved in a go cart accident that lodged a small piece of metal in his brain. It’s this piece of metal that caused the massive brain haemorrhage. If Al can change what happened that day, then he’ll be able to change his father’s fate. He’ll live and Al with have his father back when he returns to the present time.
There’s a big problem. Al’s mum, Sarah, has remarried. Al now lives in a completely different house. His old house, the one with the bunker, has new people living there. How to get into the bunker and work the time machine without being found out?
This is one action packed story. The narrator, Al, shuttles back and forth between time dimensions, experiencing some hair raising mishaps along the way. Several times he comes close to getting stuck in the past and must call upon all his personal resources to get out of trouble. The novel also offers some light hearted science, with references to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. The actual time machine is nothing more than a laptop holding an ingenious programme, connected by some wires to a zinc garden tub. Balancing out the scientific parts of the plot and adding some gentle warnings about over reliance on technology is Al’s grandfather, Grandpa Byron. He has written a book, The Memory Palaces of the Sri Kalpani, on how to cultivate memory and is very close to Al. Lastly, of course, there is the Hamster, named Alan Shearer, who has a key role to play in saving Al’s father.
While Time Travelling with a Hamster is primarily a fun adventure story (think Back to the Future), at its heart is a sweet and tender story about the close relationship between a father and his son.
Time Travelling with a Hamster, by Ross Welford. Published by HarperCollins. ISBN: 9780008156312 RRP: $14.99
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