I do like a bag of crisps, you know. And I also think I’m a bit of an expert on them, what with the fact that I used to be the crisp buyer for Sainsbury’s in a previous life, buying and selling A LOT of the bloody things. (I also used to buy chocolate for Sainsbury’s for a couple of years, which made people stare at me in disbelief at parties when I was asked what I did for a living. Spolier alert – it was stressful, though I did get to go to Belgium and Switzerland now and then and stuff my face.)
Anyway, I know this has nothing to do with books or writing or being an author or Time Rep or any of that, but nontheless I want to start a new regular segment on this blog called Crispwatch™, where I review different crisps I’ve discovered. So this week on Crispwatch™, I want to draw your attention to the Co-op’s limited edition Gourmet Burger Crinkle Cut Crisps. For anyone reading this from outside the UK, the Co-op is a chain of supermarkets who used to have the slogan ‘good with food’, but on the TV adverts the narrator rhymed ‘good’ with ‘food’ so it actually sounded like they were saying ‘gud with fud’. Anyway – back to the crisps – they look like this (or at least, the packet does):
Now, I know what you’re thinking, and it’s the same thing I thought when I bought these crisps – all meat crisps generally taste the same, and the only reason your brain makes you think they taste any different is how the flavour is described on-pack. A key offender for me in this regard is Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Limited Edition Maple-Glazed Duck crisps, which sound amazing but basically just taste like a generic meat crisp. And this is fine (and I still ate the entire 150g sharing bag to myself, as is standard for me), but you could have just as easily told me the crisps were BBQ Beef Brisket flavour and I would have believed you.
However, with these Gourmet Burger crisps, it really is amazing how much they actually taste like a burger. And take a closer look at the ingredients listed on the front: beef, cheese, tomato, dill pickle AND chilli? Surely a humble crisp can’t contain all those flavours, and for your mouth to be able to pick them out all individually? Well, no – I can’t say I got all those flavours, but I could taste the cheese and the burger (which actually did taste like a beef patty and not just a generic meaty flavour). And most importantly, I could also taste the pickle, which cut through the underlying meaty/fatty flavours and gave the crisps a nice tang, a bit like a more tame pickled-onion Monster Munch, but with more depth as the sharpness of the pickle mixed with the other flavours.
Another plus-point of these crisps is that they are crinkle cut, meaning all that lovely seasoning sits in those grooves and packs that extra punch if you lay one down on your tongue flavour-side down and let it all soak in. And the crisps themselves had a satisfying crunch.
As I’d just had dinner before eating these (I do like eating crisps for my pudding), at the time of writing I haven’t finished the pack and as such haven’t got round to running my finger along the bottom of the bag and scooping up all the dregs of seasoning to suck on – but once I do, I’m sure it will be amazing.
In conclusion, these crisps do a remarkable job of recreating the flavour of a gourmet burger. I didn’t quite register all the different individual flavours promised on the bag, but nonetheless these are the best crisps I’ve had in terms of living up to the description since the M&S Chicken Katsu Curry ones, which I also recommend and may talk about in the next episode of Crispwatch™…
Pete’s score: 9/10
As some of you may know from reading my previous blog entries, as well as writing the third Time Rep over the past few years, I also finished writing another book (not related to Time Rep) called The Electric Detective.
The Electric Detective is a futuristic locked-room murder mystery and stars Penelope – an android purpose built to solve a seemingly impossible crime. My fantastic agent Ethan is currently ciculating it to publishers to see if anyone is interested in picking it up, so at the moment I don’t know what the future holds for it.
The manuscript has had an interesting history though – it was the subject of many re-starts (at one point I made the heart-breaking decision to completely scrap 70,000 words after realising what I’d written was terrible), and overall it took me about six years before I completed it and was happy with the final product. The manuscript also got optioned at one point by one of the major Hollywood studios, though sadly nothing ever came of that and the option has now expired. But it was certainly exciting at the time (and it’s interesting to see how filmmakers adapt your work into a treatment, which maybe I’ll talk about another time), and gives me hope that someday the book may see the light of day…
Anyway, I thought I’d share the first chapter of the book, just for those of you who are interested. Enjoy:
It’s generally accepted that nobody can remember back to the day they were born. In fact most people will struggle to tell you what they were doing last Tuesday. Those who say they can remember being born are usually mistaken – more often than not, they’re either recalling a vivid dream they’ve mistaken for reality, or they’re lying. If you really could think back that far, you would be a very special person indeed, since the hippocampus (the part of the brain thought to be involved in structuring memories, in case you’d forgotten) isn’t fully formed until early childhood, which is why once you’re all grown up, things start to go a little hazy if you try and remember anything you experienced before the age of two.
Unlike most people, Penelope could remember every single detail about first coming into the world.
She could remember the first time she gained consciousness.
The first thing she ever saw when she opened her eyes.
The first sound she ever heard.
Then again, that was only seven minutes ago, so this wasn’t much of an achievement in her view.
In that time, Penelope had felt her head being carried across the room by an overhead crane and lowered onto a grey, metallic torso, which was suspended in mid-air by a DroidTec H22 harness. Her head and body were then spun in opposite directions until the connection was tight, before six hexagonal M10 x 30mm bolts were screwed into her neck to hold everything in place. Next, her grey, metal arms were positioned either side of her by two different overhead cranes, before being popped simultaneously into their ball and socket joints. Once this was done, the two cranes dashed off again like a couple of bull terriers chasing a stick, before returning a few moments later with her legs, which were placed underneath her body and popped into the sockets on the underside of her pelvis.
Penelope waited for a moment. According to her in-built knowledge of DroidTec’s production process, this should have been the moment when a voice in her head introduced itself as her internal operating system, yet she couldn’t hear anything.
Maybe she should say something.
Hello? she ventured. Penelope didn’t say this word out loud, she just thought it. All communication with her operating system was conducted in her head.
<HELLO TO YOU TOO> came a reply.
Although this voice wasn’t audible anyone else, to her it sounded deep, synthetic and monotone, as though it was being generated by the one of those early computers from the 1980s.
Are you okay? Penelope asked. You were overdue with your introduction by 5.4 seconds.
<SORRY ABOUT THAT>
<I GOT DISTRACTED>
Distracted? By what?
<MY SENSORS DETECTED A LITTLE SPIDER ON YOUR LEFT HAND>
<A LITTLE ONE>
Penelope lifted up her left hand and flexed her fingers. Sure enough, a small lace web spider was crawling between her thumb and index finger.
Oh yes, Penelope said. I see it…
<IT MUST HAVE BEEN RESTING ON YOUR HAND IN STORAGE WHEN THE CRANE BROUGHT IT HERE FOR ASSEMBLY>
As Penelope and her operating system conversed, several motorised arms continued to dance around her, jabbing different length screws into different sized holes across her body and tightening them to the point where they would be very difficult to untighten. Penelope lifted her hand a little bit higher to keep the spider safe.
<WHAT SHALL WE DO WITH IT>
Despite asking a question, the cadence of her operating system’s voice didn’t rise at the end. It sounded quite monotonous, but there was a simple charm to it.
I don’t know, Penelope said. I haven’t been pre-programmed with any information on how to deal with spiders…
The spider apparently knew what to do though, as at that moment, it leapt from her hand and descended to the floor below on a long, dangling web. Upon landing, it stood around for a few seconds as if it was hoping another spider might show up to give it some directions, before scuttling off through a small air vent on the other side of the room.
<WELL THAT TAKES CARE OF THAT>
Penelope smiled. Although her internal operating system was a critical foundation of her programming infrastructure (it was, after all, the platform upon which her own personality software ran), it’s only real function other than sustaining her existence was to take care of boring sub-routine stuff; operational tasks that weren’t necessary to bother her conscious thought processes with. The arrangement was similar to how a human wouldn’t consciously think about pumping blood around its body with its heart or regulating stomach acids to digest food – in the same way, her operating system dealt with things like power regulation, operational efficiency, and internal maintenance. It was also there to act as an internal companion; a separate personality she was able to maintain a constant communication with. This symbiotic relationship with her operating system was critical to keeping her artificial intelligence stimulated and healthy.
On top of all those responsibilities, it seemed this operating system had a thing for nature too.
Or maybe it was just spiders.
Penelope lowered her hand down to her side and watched as the last two M10 x 30mm screws were spun into the balls of her feet, before the motorised arms concertinaed themselves down into foldaway compartments built into the floor.
Suddenly, she was hoisted up in the air by the crane, rotated 180 degrees, and conveyed down a brightly lit corridor, still hanging in her harness. The crane followed a thin track that was set into the ceiling. She looked down at the floor as she weaved her way through the twisting passageways of DroidTec’s production facility. The crane was picking up quite a speed, the momentum swinging her body from one side to the other each time she banked around a corner.
Had she any experience of the outside world, she might have likened the experience to riding a roller-coaster, but just as she lacked the knowledge of how to deal with spiders, this was another experience her brain hadn’t been pre-programmed with, so she didn’t liken the sensation to anything.
According to DroidTec’s standard assembly procedures, it was as this point that Penelope was supposed to check her internal documentation to find out who had commissioned her, and why she had been built. For some reason though, she couldn’t seem to find anything.
<I COULD NOT FIND ANYTHING EITHER>
<THE IDENTITY OF YOUR CREATOR AND THE REASON YOU HAVE BEEN BUILT ARE NOT YET KNOWN>
That’s a bit unusual isn’t it? Penelope said.
<THAT IS WHAT I THOUGHT TOO>
Do you think they forgot?
<HUMANS DO FORGET THINGS NOW AND AGAIN>
<BUT IT IS USUALLY BIRTHDAYS OR WHERE THEY LEFT THEIR KEYS>
<THE DROIDTEC PRODUCTION PROCESS IS VERY STRICT>
<IF THAT INFORMATION IS MISSING IT MUST HAVE BEEN LEFT OUT DELIBERATELY>
Deliberately? But why would someone want to conceal the reason I’ve been built?
<PLEASE WAIT – THINKING>
You don’t have to tell me when you’re thinking, you know. Just… think.
<OKAY I HAVE FINISHED THINKING>
<I HAVE A POSSIBLE ANSWER>
<PERHAPS THE REASON YOU HAVE BEEN BUILT IS CONFIDENTIAL>
<IN VERY RARE CIRCUMSTANCES – 1 IN 4567222 – A DROID IS ONLY BREIFED VERBALLY ABOUT WHY THEY HAVE BEEN BUILT FOR CONFIDENTIALITY PURPOSES>
Confidentiality, huh? Hey – maybe I’m a spy or something.
Her operating system went silent for a moment.
<I DO NOT WANT TO BE A SPY>
<IT SOUNDS DANGEROUS>
The crane came to a stop outside large set of double-doors that said “COSM” on the left door and “ETICS” on the right. Put them together, and they spelt “Cosmetics”. Or if you mixed the letters up, you could get “Comic Sets”, according to her automatic anagram generator. She doubted this was a room were DroidTec stored sets of comics though, and doubted even more that they jumbled the letters on their doors for fun.
No, this was probably the Cosmetics department.
The double-doors opened with a quiet hiss, and the crane carried her slowly into a spacious, white room. Penelope followed the crane’s track along the ceiling with her eyes. Up ahead, she noticed that the path ended above a square tank of clear liquid, just large enough to accommodate a person.
Hey, Penelope said. Do you mind if I give you name?
<YOU WANT TO GIVE ME A NAME>
Yes. I want to be able to call you something.
<I SUPPOSE THAT WOULD BE OKAY>
<WHAT NAME DID YOU HAVE IN MIND>
Penelope found the way her operating system couldn’t alter the cadence of its voice to indicate it was asking a questions very endearing. It was basic, but somehow…
I think I’ve got a name for you.
I’m going to call you Basic.
<LIKE THAT REALLY OLD PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE DEVELOPED OVER TWO CENTURIES AGO THAT NO-ONE USES ANYMORE>
The crane began to move again.
You’re welcome, Basic, Penelope said, looking down as she came to a stop directly above the tank of clear liquid. A number of different coloured squares appeared in Penelope’s vision, as if they were just floating in mid-air in front of her.
“What’s this?” she asked.
<THIS IS AUGMENTED REALITY>
<IT ALLOWS A VIRTUAL IMAGE TO BE PROJECTED ON TOP OF YOUR NORMAL FIELD OF VISION>
I know what augmented reality is, Penelope said. I meant why am I looking at all these different coloured squares?
<IT SEEMS YOUR CREATOR HAS GIVEN YOU THE FREEDOM TO CHOOSE YOUR OWN SKIN COLOUR>
<WHICH IS MOST UNUSUAL>
Well I don’t really have a preference, Penelope said. You pick one for me.
What did I say you shouldn’t do whenever you’re thinking?
<YOU TOLD ME NOT TO TELL YOU WHEN I WAS… OH>
That’s right. So just pick a colour. It doesn’t really make any difference which one we choose, does it?
<THE LAST INCIDENT OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION WAS RECORDED 78.4 YEARS AGO>
Exactly. So just pick one.
With that, the squares in front of her faded away, and the liquid below changed into the colour that had been chosen for her.
Penelope closed her eyes and mouth.
At that moment, the harness released her body, and she felt herself plunge straight into the tank.
It’s warm, Penelope said to Basic as her head disappeared beneath the surface of the liquid and her feet touched the floor. She swirled her arms around, feeling the liquid sticking to her body as she moved. It was quite a thick substance, with a strange chemical smell she couldn’t place, most likely because she’d never experienced the smell of any chemicals to compare it to.
<MY SENSORS DETECT YOU ARE NOW FULLY COATED>
<PLEASE REMAIN STILL>
Penelope did as she was asked. Once she stopped moving, she could sense the excess liquid draining out of the tank all around her.
<YOU CAN OPEN YOUR EYES NOW>
Penelope looked down at herself and felt slightly repulsed at what she saw. She was now completely covered in the strange liquid, which stuck to her like a thin film of mucus encasing an insect. She watched the last remnants of liquid seep through the grilled floor of the tank and waited.
Suddenly, a blast of hot air rushed up from below, instantly drying the liquid on her body and giving it a slightly blemished, soft texture, much like human skin. Then the hot air stopped, the four sides of the tank folded back and lowered into the floor, and Penelope was left standing in the middle of an empty room, alone.
At first glance, a regular person would say she looked completely naked, but to Penelope, she felt anything but. From her point of view, her naked metal frame was now fully clothed – in synthetic skin.
But this was just the beginning of her cosmetic procedure. There were several additional tweaks that needed to be made to her appearance before she could walk into the local newsagent without raising a few eyebrows.
Like eyebrows, for a start.
Then there was eye colour, lip pigment, hair, fingernails… the list DroidTec had preloaded into her head went on and on.
In front of her, a panel in the ceiling slid open and a full-length mirror lowered down from above. On either side, it was accompanied by various racks of clothes, makeup and other strange accessories; shelves upon shelves unfolding automatically like the petals of a giant flower coming to bloom.
Penelope looked up and down at her body in the mirror, tilting her head from one side to the other.
How do I look? she said, turning around on the balls of her feet to examine the back of her body.
<YOU HAVE BEEN DESIGNED TO REPRESENT AN IDEALISED EXAGERATION OF THE FEMALE HUMAN FORM>
<YOUR LEGS ARE 15% LONGER THAN THE HUMAN FEMALE AVERAGE>
<YOUR WAIST IS 25% NARROWER THAN THE HUMAN FEMALE AVERAGE>
<YOUR BREASTS ARE…>
I get the idea, Penelope said. She paused for a moment, before looking down at the two soft mounds sticking out of her chest. Wait – what were you going to say about my breasts?
<ALL I WILL SAY IS THAT THERE ARE VERY FEW REAL WOMEN IN THE WORLD WHO HAVE A BODY LIKE YOURS>
Yes. Especially since I don’t have any nipples yet.
Penelope turned to face the nearest array of accessories and started to think about the many finishing touches and tweaks she needed to make to her appearance.
The first of these tweaks was to add some hair. Penelope was instinctively aware that the vast majority of people had this filamentous biomaterial growing from the many follicles found in their dermis, but according to Basic, choosing the right way to wear the stuff was extraordinarily important to pretty much everyone on the entire planet. Some people apparently spent an absolute fortune on determining how their hair should look, and as such a whole industry had sprung up based around people who were very good at cutting it into different styles, changing it into different colours, or just rubbing special liquids into it to make it feel “silky and smooth.”
<WHAT SORT OF HAIR DO YOU WANT>
I don’t know, Penelope replied, picking up a programmable wig off the shelf and twirling it in her hand. Just normal. What’s a normal sort of hairstyle?
<THE AVERAGE FEMALE HAIR LENGTH IS 20.5 CENTIMETRES>
<AN AMALGAMATION OF THE FEMALE HAIR COLOUR SPECTRUM SUGGESTS THE AVERAGE COLOUR IS PANTONE 1395>
<YOU COULD ALSO DESCRIBE IT AS LIGHT BROWN>
<BUT I PREFER PANTONE 1395>
<BASED ON THIS INFORMATION I WOULD OPT FOR SHOULDER LENGTH HAIR>
<IN PANTONE 1395>
Let’s do that then, Penelope said, placing the wig on her head. She felt it deploy thousands of miniature latches into her scalp, before establishing communications with Basic and downloading her desired hairstyle and colour. Within twenty seconds the bio-flex hairs had adjusted themselves accordingly, giving Penelope the appearance of having a shoulder-length bob in Pantone 1395. She tossed her head from side to side, feeling the artificial strands brush against her skin.
This stuff is going to get on my nerves, she said.
<YOU GET USED TO IT>
How would you know? Have you ever had hair?
<I WAS JUST TRYING TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER>
Penelope was able to rattle through the remaining cosmetic tweaks fairly quickly. By the time she was done she had green eyes, pale cream fingernails, eyebrows that matched her hair colour, long eyelashes, burgundy lips, and two nipples that attached to the tips of her breasts with a special adhesive. She also helped herself to a couple of spare nipples in case the ones she had fell off, placing them in the small storage compartment housed inside her left buttock. Accessing this storage compartment required her to break the seal of her skin across her lower back to pull the drawer open, but she didn’t think anyone would notice once she was dressed, unless her secret assignment was to be a swimwear model, which was doubtful.
In terms of clothes, her choice was quite limited. Whoever had asked for her to be built had obviously wanted her to appear quite formal, as there were no casual items to choose from – just different coloured suits. The suits came in cream, grey, blue, black, green and white. In the end, she opted for a black, pinstriped skirt that came just below the knee, a matching jacket with a single button that did up at the front, a pale cream blouse, and some black heels.
How old do you think I look? Penelope asked, looking at her reflection once again in the mirror.
<I WOULD SAY THIRTY TWO MINUTES>
<WHICH IS HOW OLD YOU ARE>
I meant how old would you say I looked if I were a human?
<OH I SEE>
<IF YOU WERE HUMAN I WOULD SAY YOU LOOK TWENTY-SEVEN>
That’s very specific.
There was a brief moment of silence.
<WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO BE MORE VAGUE>
No, it’s just…
<I COULD SAY YOU LOOK TO BE IN YOUR LATE TWENTIES>
<OR BETWEEN THE AGES OF TWENTY-SIX AND TWENTY-EIGHT>
<BUT I THINK YOU LOOK TWENTY-SEVEN>
Twenty-Seven it is, Penelope said. Well, I think I’m about ready.
As if knowing they were no longer needed, the mirror and clothing racks ascended back up into their ceiling compartment, and the panel slid closed again.
Penelope checked her internal clock. Assuming it was calibrated correctly, it had just gone five in the afternoon.
So what do I do now? she asked.
<WE WAIT UNTIL SOMETHING HAPPENS>
<YOU DO HAVE SOLITAIRE BUILT IN IF YOU NEED SOMETHING TO PASS THE TIME>
It’s fine – I’ll wait, Penelope said. I’m sure whoever commissioned me to be built isn’t going to be too long.
No sooner had Penelope finished speaking, a door at the other end of the room opened, and a woman in a three-quarter length black coat walked in. By Penelope’s estimation, she looked to be between the age of fifty and fifty-five, with a long grey pony-tail draped over the front of her right shoulder, secured with three silver bands so as not to let the hair splay out in any way. She was quite slim, and approximately five foot ten inches tall, though three of those inches were achieved from wearing high-heels, which echoed around the room as she strode towards her.
Penelope recognised this woman immediately – Elaine Holden, the Technical Director of DroidTec. Every droid on the planet knew who exactly she was (even those not manufactured by DroidTec), though very few ever got to meet her in the flesh.
“Good afternoon Penelope,” Holden said, coming to a stop a metre or so away from her.
“Good afternoon, Ms Holden,” Penelope replied.
“You probably have several questions running around that positronic brain of yours, so let me try and answer a few of them as best I can.” She began to pace slowly around Penelope, inspecting her from every angle. “First of all, I confirm that I am your owner – your construction was commissioned by me personally.”
“Secondly, the reason for you have been built is highly sensitive, hence why you are unable to locate any documentation about it in your memory banks.”
Holden paused for a moment directly behind Penelope and looked her up and down.
“Is everything to your satisfaction?” Penelope asked, unsure as to whether she should turn to face her owner or not.
“Oh yes,” Holden smiled. “You’ve been built to the precise specification I asked for. I’m sure the police will afford you every courtesy when they meet you.”
“That’s right. You’ve been built to help them solve a murder.”
Warning – the following post contains spoilers for Time Rep: Continuum. If you don’t want to know what happens at the end of that book, do not read on! On the other hand, if you have read Time Rep: Continuum or just don’t care, go for it!
If you’ve been keeping up with the story of Time Rep so far, you’ll know that the last book ended with Geoff being given permission by the bosses at Time Tours to take his friend Zoë out on a date, which he wasn’t allowed to do in the original timeline. However, to make sure that Geoff doesn’t change time too significantly (which could cause serious damage to the space-time continuum), they allow the date to happen on one condition: under no circumstances must he tell Zoë that he is a Time Rep.
So here’s the first chapter from Time Rep: Pandemonium, which picks up where Time Rep: Continuum left off, and joins Zoë and Geoff on thier date right after Geoff disobeys Time Tours and tells Zoë he’s a Time Rep. One thing you’ll notice is that whereas the previous two books have been told form Geoff’s perspective, this one is told from Zoë ‘s. I hope you enjoy it!
“You’re a what?” Zoë asked, leaning back in her chair and taking another sip of her wine.
“I’m a Time Rep,” Geoff repeated. He let the words hang in the air with such a sense of gravity, Zoë felt he was expecting her to react as though he’d just revealed himself to be the true identity of some sort of masked Superhero.
No – the amazing… GeoffMan!
She smiled to herself.
“What are you smiling about?” he said.
Zoë took a large gulp of wine and swallowed it slowly. This gave her all the time she needed to regain her composure and forget the mental image she’d just conjured up of Geoff standing with his hands on his hips, a cape fanning behind him.
“Oh nothing,” she replied, casting her eyes around the restaurant before settling her gaze on the balcony view they had of the river Thames, the water reflecting the stars in the clear night sky. In the corner of the room, a pianist in a tuxedo was sat behind a glossy black grand piano, treating the diners to some polite jazz numbers. “Just thinking about what a nice place this is, that’s all…”
“Uh-huh,” Geoff said, narrowing his eyes. He tugged at the collar of his shirt.
She wasn’t used to Geoff being dressed this smart before, and from the way he kept pulling at his cuffs and adjusting his suit jacket, it seemed Geoff wasn’t either. If this had been anyone else, Zoë would have found all this fidgeting somewhat annoying, but with Geoff it was endearing. In fact, the more she thought about it, the more she thought it might have even bordered on cute.
He really had made an effort this evening.
She also had to admit – as far as first-date venues were concerned, Geoff’s choice had certainly exceeded her expectations. When he’d asked her out for dinner last week (a move that, whilst not unwelcome, had caught her a little off-guard, given how long they’d known each other as nothing more than friends), she’d given him a little more credit than to suggest they spend a nice romantic evening pigging out on a boxed meal deal down the local pizza takeaway. But she wasn’t expecting anything like this. Whilst she wasn’t exactly an expert on what made a good restaurant, she knew from extensively watching Titanic in her teenage years (something she would now strenuously deny if questioned) that the more cutlery you had in front of you, the posher the establishment.
And right now she counted three sets of forks, knives and spoons in front of her, which made this place three times posher than anywhere she’d ever been taken out for dinner to before. And by that logic, it was infinitely better than the local pizza takeaway, because you didn’t even get cutlery there. The closest thing you got to a knife there was when they made the potato wedges too thin and served them burnt.
As she’d been thinking, she noticed Geoff gazing at the tattoo of a butterfly on her left shoulder.
“Is that new?” he asked, nodding towards it.
“It is,” Zoë replied, pleased that he’d noticed. “I had it done a couple of weeks ago. Thought it would go well with the owl on my back.”
“Yeah, it looks good,” Geoff said. “Sorry – I don’t mean to stare.”
“It’s okay Geoff,” Zoë smiled. “I don’t mind.”
Geoff blushed and looked away.
“So what do you mean, you’re a ‘Time Rep’?” Zoë said. “Is that like, a new class you’ve unlocked in that JRPG you’ve been playing or something?”
“No, nothing like that,” he said, looking back at her. “I mean that’s my job. It’s what I do.”
“Oh – so you’ve got a new job? When did this happen?”
“New job? No – it’s nothing like that.”
“Then what are you talking about?”
Geoff looked over his shoulder for a second, before looking back at her again.
“You know how you’ve always thought I was a holiday rep?” he said.
“Yes…” If she recalled correctly, the reason she thought this stemmed from a conversation they had a couple of years ago when he’d said ‘Zoë – I’ve got a new job as a holiday Rep…’
“Well I’m not a holiday rep,” Geoff said. “I’m actually a Time Rep.”
Zoë paused for a moment. He wasn’t really answering her question about what a Time Rep was. He was just telling her he was a Time Rep again.
But she’d already got that bit.
“So it’s a different job?” she asked. “You don’t meet tourists and show them around London?”
“No – it’s the same job. I still do that.”
Zoë took another sip of her wine. She began considering whether she should just order a whole bottle, because at this rate, she was going to need it.
“So let me get this straight – you’re still doing the same job, but you’re not a holiday rep – you’re a Time Rep. But being a Time Rep is basically the same as being a holiday rep.”
“That’s right!” Geoff folded his arms and nodded.
“Okay…” Zoë said. “So… am I missing something? Why is that important?”
“Well, although it’s technically the same job,” Geoff said, “there is one slight difference…”
Zoë leaned on her elbows. “And that is…?”
Geoff took a deep breath and drummed his fingers on the table. “I’m probably going to get into a hell of a lot of trouble for telling you this, but I don’t care. So here goes – the tourists I meet aren’t from other countries. They’re from….”
But before Geoff had a chance to finish his sentence, a very tall waiter with gelled black hair glided over to their table as if he’d been pushed towards them on a skateboard.
“Some olives for you,” the waiter said, placing a small dish in the middle of the table. He folded his arms behind his back. “Are you both ready to order?”
“Could you come back in one minute?” Geoff said. He raised his hand and pinched his thumb and forefinger together as if the minute he was referring to was actually an imaginary mouse he was holding up by its tail.
“Yes, my friend here was in the middle of telling me a fascinating story about a new job he doesn’t have,” Zoë added, smiling.
“As you wish,” the waiter said, and glided away silently.
“You were saying?” Zoë said, spearing an olive with a cocktail stick and popping it in her mouth.
“Right,” Geoff said, helping himself to an olive as well. “They’re from the future.”
“The tourists are from the future?”
“Okay… and when you say they’re from the future…”
“I mean they’re from the future.”
“The… future future? As in, a point in time that hasn’t happened yet?” She jabbed another olive with her cocktail stick and put it in her mouth.
“That’s right – the future future. Middle of the 31st Century to be precise.”
“I see…” Zoë said, chewing the olive. She swallowed it and pursed her lips. “Listen, Geoff – you haven’t been staying up late playing video games too much have you? Because you know – sleep deprivation can cause all kinds of mental health problems…”
“I’m not making this up Zoë,” Geoff said. “I swear to you – in the distant future, people travel back to all sorts of different time periods for their holidays, and Time Reps like me meet them and show them around. We’re employed across hundreds of different historical periods!”
Zoë shook her head. Poor, gullible Geoff. Clearly, this tour company, or whoever it was he worked for, had fed him some fantasy story to make the job seem more interesting than it actually was. But Geoff wasn’t stupid – how could he have fallen for this?
“I know what you’re thinking,” Geoff said, “but this isn’t like that time you tricked me into thinking those cod-liver oil tablets were actually alien eggs you’d found at the bottom of your garden. This is different, Zoë – it’s real. I’ve seen it with my own eyes…”
“I’ve seen the future. In the 31st Century they’ve got this incredible Timeport that lets tourists travel anywhere, they’ve got this massive supercomputer that…”
“Wait a minute,” Zoë said, holding up her hands. “What’s a Timeport?”
“It’s sort of like an airport, but people use it to travel to different time periods.”
“Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight,” Zoë said, looking to one side.
“I tell you Zoë,” Geoff continued, apparently oblivious to the scepticism she thought she was quite obviously telegraphing, “over the past couple of years I’ve been to places you wouldn’t believe: I’ve been back to prehistoric times to see the dinosaurs, I’ve witnessed the Great Fire of London in 1666 – I’ve even been into outer space!”
Zoë smirked. “You’ve been into Outer Space?” She wasn’t sure why chose to take particular issue with Geoff going into space, as if going back in time to see the dinosaurs or the Great Fire of London weren’t just as ridiculous.
Geoff looked up at the ceiling as if he was staring through it at the night sky above.
“Being in space was amazing. You see, in the future, humanity has this massive fleet of spaceships – some as big as cities – and I’ve actually been on board one! That’s quite a story in itself actually, because it was when we had to defend the planet from being invaded by this alien race called the Varsarians. There was this amazing battle with lasers and explosion, and… and…”
“Yes?” Geoff said, returning his gaze to Zoë.
“Are you deliberately trying to wind me up?” She didn’t understand why he was doing this. Normally he was such a wonderful guy to talk to – funny without forcing his humour into a conversation, supportive without being afraid of saying things she might not want to hear, and above all else he was a great listener; someone who would put real thought into what she was saying and respond with helpful advice. It was one of things she always appreciated about him; something that attracted her to him more than anything.
So why was he suddenly being such a dick?
“I’m not winding you up, Zoë – I promise. If anything, what I’ve told you is just for starters!”
The tall waiter seemed to appear out of nowhere, like a silent assassin armed with a notepad.
“Did I hear you say you were ready to order starters?” he asked, licking his pencil. For a split second, she caught his eyes wandering over the piercings in her left ear, the stud in her nose and the bar going through her eyebrow and wondered if she held the record for the diner with the most metal in their face who had ever eaten here.
Geoff opened his mouth to presumably dismiss the waiter again, but with her stomach beginning to rumble, Zoë was quicker off the mark.
“We may as well order,” she said, opening her menu and running her finger down the list of mouth-watering dishes. She made a mental note not to order any seafood that might involve using one of those little hammers that people use to crack the shells open – the last time she’d used one it had slipped out of her hand and hit her date square in the face.
“I’ll have the crab paté please,” Zoë said. It sounded like a safe choice, assuming she wouldn’t have to hammer the crabmeat into a paté herself. “And for mains, the lamb.” She closed the menu and handed it to the waiter.
“And for you, sir?” the waiter said, turning to Geoff.
Geoff sighed and looked through his menu.
“I think I’ll try the stuffed mushrooms,” he said. “I’ve always liked mushrooms. And then the beef.”
“And could we get some water for the table please?” Zoë added. She wasn’t particularly thirsty, she just thought it would be good to have something to hand to throw in Geoff’s face if he persisted with this conversation; something that didn’t involve wasting any alcohol.
“Very good,” the waiter said. He relieved Geoff of his menu and left.
Zoë stared at Geoff in silence for a few moments. Now felt like an excellent moment to draw on her experience in changing the subject – a skill she’d developed from years of dealing with relatives / friends of the family who were seemingly obsessed with asking her if she was any closer to settling down and starting a family, even though she was still only in her late twenties.
Perhaps – heaven forbid – they could talk about her for a bit?
As they’d been talking, she’d been half-listening to the pianist play, and this reminded her about her music – following Geoff’s encouragement, she’d recently been dedicating a lot more time to playing the guitar and practicing with her band mates, and actually had a few gigs coming up later in the month. Surely he’d be happy to hear about that?
“So, asides from being a Time Rep and defending the Earth from an alien invasion,” she said, pretending to look for something in her handbag, “what else has been going on with you? Oh – did I mention the girls and I are entering a ‘battle of the bands’ competition later this month?”
Geoff shut his eyes.
“You don’t believe me.”
She dropped her bag to the floor.
“No – I don’t believe you, Geoff.” She said, looking across the restaurant to see how the waiter was coming along with her water. “Have you told Tim this crackpot story?”
“Tim?” Geoff said, opening his eyes again.
“Yes, Tim! You know – your best friend? The guy who took you in when you lost your job and didn’t have anywhere to stay?”
Geoff raised his eyebrows.
“Well here’s the interesting thing,” he said, leaning closer to Zoe.
Zoë responded by leaning back.
“Tim’s actually from the future too. He’s a headhunter for Time Tours, would you believe!”
“Time Tours? Wait – let me guess. Is this who you both work for?”
“That’s right. Tim’s job is to identify potential Time Rep candidates throughout history to work for Time Tours, and I was one of them! That’s why he offered me a place to stay when I lost my job as a paperboy all those years ago, you remember? It was all so he could keep an eye on me, reduce my level of social interaction, and groom me for the job. Admittedly, I wasn’t too happy with him when I first found this out, but it turns out time heals wounds…”
Zoë tilted her head to one side. She could feel her cheeks going red.
“That was a joke,” Geoff decided to add.
She began to wonder if she could order a starter that used one of those little seafood hammers after all.
“Geoff!” she snapped, half-lifting herself out of her chair. “I’m not finding any of this very funny, alright? Cut it out!” The couple on the next table flashed a glance at her, then quickly got back to eating their meals.
“Look – do you want to be dining alone this evening?”
Geoff looked down into his lap and let out a deep breath.
“Zoë – I know this all sounds crazy, but you have to trust me – you know I wouldn’t lie to you. I reacted exactly the same way when all of this was first explained to me. I thought it was utterly ridiculous. But it’s real.” He raised his gaze to meet hers. “All of it.”
Zoë looked at Geoff a little closer. With her hands gripping the sides of her chair, she was on the verge of getting up and leaving, but as mad as this all sounded, he really did look sincere. She lowered herself back into her chair and listened.
“You’ve got to understand,” he continued, looking into her eyes. “I’ve been desperate to tell you all this for such a long time, but Time Tours were always holding me back, telling me that if I ever went on date with you or told you anything about time-tourism whatsoever, it could cause irreparable damage to the space-time continuum. But you’ve no idea what it’s like lying to someone you care about for so long. Now though, things are different. Time Tours at least gave me the freedom to ask you out on a date, but if they had their way, I’d still be lying to you about being a Time Rep. So I’ve chosen to ignore them. And if that means a few cracks start to appear in the space-time continuum, then so be it.”
Zoë rested her hands on the table in front of her, looked at Geoff and smiled. What he was saying sounded like complete nonsense, but his tone of voice and the general gist of the words as they came out of his mouth sounded quite nice.
She looked across the restaurant and noticed their waiter threading his way through the tables, carrying a glass jug of water and two tumblers on a tray.
“Here comes our water,” she said.
But just as she spoke, the waiter accidentally tripped on the back leg of a diner’s chair, and the jug of water went flying through the air directly towards her face.
Zoë instinctively shut her eyes and raised her arms around her head to protect herself from the impact of the jug, not to mention the litre of water that was about to drench her. As she waited to be soaked, all she could think was how fortunate it was that she’d brought her leather biker jacket for the walk home. At least if that got wet, the water would just brush off.
The next few seconds went by with her arms raised and eyes closed, but the jug didn’t seem to make contact with her head.
Nor did the water.
That was strange – flying jugs of water weren’t exactly in the habit of changing their minds about where they landed, and the one in question had been heading directly for her.
She supposed she could have misjudged its trajectory, but what was even stranger was that she hadn’t heard the glass break against any sort of surface, or heard the water splash, or even felt the slightest spray of water against her skin.
Come to think of it, unless she was imagining things, she couldn’t hear anything – not even the background murmur of the restaurant, which she would have thought would have been somewhat elevated under the circumstances. After all, there’s always some idiot who thinks it’s an excellent idea to shout “Way-hay!” whenever someone breaks a glass in a bar or restaurant, no matter how posh the clientele supposedly are.
No, the first sound Zoë heard was Geoff’s voice, and the first thing she felt was his hand on her forearm.
“I-I think you can lower your arms, Zoë,” he said. His voice was trembling.
Zoë did just that. Her eyes remained closed.
“You can open your eyes too…”
Zoë opened her eyes.
What she saw before her defied any rational explanation – somehow, the jug of water was pointing right at her, but suspended in the air in mid-flight. A stream of water extended from the rim of the jug towards her face, but it was paused in mid-air as well. Behind the jug, the waiter had half-collapsed into a lady sitting at a table a couple of metres away, her chair in the mid-way point of tipping over, but they too were frozen. As Zoë looked around, it seemed everything in the restaurant had stopped, as if someone had pressed the pause button on reality.
Even the pianist wasn’t moving – his hands suspended over the keys as if he’d suddenly forgotten how to play. The only things that weren’t paused were herself, and Geoff.
Either this was the most elaborate game of musical statues she’d ever seen, or something was up.
“Why is nothing moving?”
“That’s an exceptionally good question.”
She agreed. In fact she thought it was the best possible question anyone could have asked in these circumstances.
“I don’t suppose you have an exceptionally good answer?” was her next question, which she also thought was a good thing to ask.
“Erm… I can’t say one is immediately springing to mind, no…”
It was at this point that a tiny voice in the back of her mind raised the possibility that Geoff might have actually been telling the truth.
“Wait – didn’t you say something about being warned that you might cause irreparable damage to the space-time whatsit if you told me about being a Time thingy?”
Geoff didn’t say anything. He looked distracted by the scene to his left, where a champagne cork was paused just as it was popping from the bottle.
“Geoff! Look at me!”
“Hmm? Oh – yes… I did say something about that, didn’t I?”
“Yes. You did.”
“Um… Shit?” he shrugged, as if that was somehow supposed to make her feel better.
Brilliant. Of all the things that could have gone wrong on a first date, breaking time was the last thing she’d expected.
Zoë got out of her chair, stepped away from their table and looked at the couple sitting next to them. They looked to be in their early fifties. The man had just inserted a fork into his mouth, his teeth digging in to a piece of steak. The lady opposite was in the middle of slicing a piece of chicken in half.
Zoë reached out to touch the man’s arm, but as her hand got closer, she could feel a strange resistance, like two magnets of the same polarisation resisting contact.
“Geoff!” she said, snapping her hand back, “I’ve got to be honest with you – I’m really scared…”
“Me too,” Geoff said, taking a step towards her, “but I suppose on the bright side, this proves I wasn’t lying, right?”
Zoë could feel her heart racing. Regardless of whether Geoff had been telling the truth or not, all she could think about what the fact that nothing was moving, and that this was not normal. So she decided to do what she always did when she was feeling a bit stressed, and looked out of the window.
To her surprise, although time inside the restaurant seemed to be frozen, time on the outside seemed to be normal. People were walking along the South Bank enjoying their evening, cars could be seen driving through the streets, and the River Thames was flowing normally.
She turned to Geoff, who was using the opportunity of time being paused to help himself to a breadstick from a nearby table.
“I was just seeing if the breadsticks were affected,” he said, dropping it back into the holder.
“Forget about the breadsticks – what the hell is happening?”
“I think I might be able to answer that,” a voice said from across the room.
Time Rep: Pandemonium is coming soon, along with a re-release of the previous two Time Rep books. Stay tuned for a release date!
As any author will tell you, the difficulty with writing a series of books is that unless you’re J.K. Rowling and have a dedicated fanbase who will happily devour one Harry Potter book after the other, the further you get into writing that series, the fewer people will stay with you. On top of that, you may attract new readers who start reading the later books without having read the prior ones, meaning that unless you’ve got some means of quickly ‘onboarding’ them, they’re going to get pretty lost pretty quickly.
With that in mind, I’ve started Time Rep: Pandemonium (the third book in the Time Rep series) with a brief summary of everything that’s happened to our hero Geoffrey Stamp up to this point. This isn’t just for new readers, but also for people who might have read the last book a few years ago and need a re-cap of events to save them reading the previous books again.
So anyway, here’s the opening to Time Rep: Pandemonium, which starts with what I call “A brief history of Time Rep”.
WARNING – the following contains spoilers for both Time Rep and Time Rep: Continuum. If you haven’t read these books, do not read on…
Back in the 21st Century, it was a pretty complicated thing for most people to get their heads around, much more complex than say, a cheese sandwich. If you’d asked the average person on the street to describe a cheese sandwich back then, they’d probably have been able to do so right away, because no matter what time you’re from, a cheese sandwich is basically cheese between bread, and it doesn’t really get much more complicated than that. Yes, there are some debatable nuances to the definition (such as whether the bread needs to be buttered, what type of bread works best, should the cheese be melted or not etc.), but the basic principle of a cheese sandwich is pretty easy to understand. Cheese + bread = cheese sandwich.
But things would get a little tricky if you walked up to the average person on the street in the 21st Century and asked them “what is time?”
In the first instance, they’d have most likely thought you were a tourist speaking to them in pidgin English and told you it was time you bought yourself a watch. If you’d then made it clear that you were actually asking them to describe the concept of time and that no, this wasn’t part of a long-winded ploy designed to persuade them into giving you their credit card details and adopting a giraffe for a year, they’d still struggle to come up with a satisfactory definition.
The first stumbling block most people came across when attempting to define time was whether they considered it to be a ‘thing’ that existed in itself (much like our old friend the cheese sandwich, which would happily go around existing as a cheese sandwich regardless of how someone chose to conceptualise it in their mind, unless of course that person chose to eat it), or whether time was merely an abstract man-made mental construct designed to provide some sort of framework to a sequence of otherwise incomprehensively chaotic events that would ultimately end with the destruction of the entire universe.
A bit like Brexit.
That’s not to say people in the 21st Century didn’t have a good old go at defining time anyway. But with the scientific understanding of temporal physics still in a relative state of infancy, such efforts were akin to a three-year-old trying to describe what a mid-life crisis might feel like. The Oxford English Dictionary defined time as being ‘the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole’, while the science fiction author Ray Cummings once wrote that time was ‘the thing that stops everything happening at once.’ Both good attempts, but neither came anywhere close to getting under the skin of time and revealing its true nature. In hindsight, such descriptions were about as simplistic as describing the character of Hamlet as being ‘some Danish bloke with a few family issues’.
You see, once scientists began to understand how time could be manipulated – how it was possible for someone to travel from one moment to another, and most importantly, how it was possible to change past events and alter the future – a new definition was required. Indeed, much of the latter half of the 22nd Century was spent agreeing on the best way to describe time, now that humanity had a better idea of what it was dealing with. Elaborate forums were set up to arbitrate the best wording; the greatest scientific minds collaborated to distil such a complex piece of understanding into a concise paragraph; and over time, the definition slowly began to take shape, with each individual word being painstakingly agreed upon before going on to be signed off by another independent panel of scientific stakeholders. To say this process was laborious would be an understatement – it took four months just to decide whether the first word of the description should be ‘a’ or ‘the’.
Finally, after several years of heated debate, careful diplomacy, and linguistic wrangling, the final definition was agreed. And to safeguard against possibility of anything being leaked before a nice venue had been secured to announce the wording (ideally somewhere with decent canapes and a good nightclub nearby to host the after-party), the complete wording was not recorded digitally. Instead, it was written on a single piece of paper and locked in a vault whilst the scientists went on to argue about what the most appropriate sort of table centrepieces would be for an announcement of this magnitude.
The argument over these centrepieces took another month.
Unfortunately, the intern who was given the task of opening the vault and retrieving the written definition went on to throw it in the office shredder with some old receipts by mistake, and so had to hastily make something up off the cuff and hand that over to the head scientist on the night instead. And so this is what was finally published – the 22nd Century’s definition of time:
Time /tʌɪm/ noun
A non-spatial hologrammatic-like projection of possibilities, simultaneously finite and infinite in size, which interacts with human consciousness so as to be naturally experienced as a linear flow of causal events, but with malleable properties that can be subject to both natural and manufactured influences whereby perceptions of speed, directional flow and positioning within the projection can be altered.
All the scientists present at the announcement knew this was nothing like the wording they had agreed (the definition was supposed to begin with the word ‘the’ for starters), but everyone was too embarrassed to say anything. And so the definition literally stood the test of time, despite being made-up on the spot.
The table centrepieces were a real hit though, so that was a plus.
Unlike most major technological breakthroughs made over the course of human history (the invention of the wheel, the discovery of electricity, developing microwavable mashed potato that didn’t taste like wallpaper paste, etc.) it was a very long time before the discovery of time-travel had any real impact on society – several hundred years in fact. This was because the international scientific community was worried that any misuse of the technology posed such a monumental risk to the fabric of the space-time continuum, its application should be vetoed until sufficient safeguards were put in place to avoid the total destruction of the known universe. Indeed, many alternate realities actually ended up destroying themselves by discovering time-travel and not imposing sufficient controls before proliferating the technology (one such world even allowed people to travel back in time to watch TV programmes they had missed instead of just recording them, for goodness sake), so this cautionary approach was felt to be a wise move, which many scientists congratulated themselves for insisting upon.
What these scientists didn’t appreciate was the fact that such a destructive fate almost befell our own reality, were it not for the success of an against-all-odds mission undertaken by a crack team of temporal agents from a dystopian future of decaying causality, whose last-ditch efforts to create a time-portal enabled them go back and secretly influence everyone to be more cautious when using the technology. This mission undid all the mistakes made in the original timeline, straightened out all the paradoxes, and narrowly avoided the complete annihilation of our entire reality, changing history so things stabilised into the timeline we exist within to this day.
But that would be another story, were it not for the fact that technically, none of it ever happened.
It wasn’t until midway through the 31st Century that time-travel finally became accessible to the general public, and this was largely thanks to the work of two scientists: Dr Eric Skivinski, and his protégé, Jennifer Adams. Skivinski’s breakthrough was in developing an algorithm that would allow a supercomputer to recreate an accurate model of the space-time continuum, predict the impact of somebody travelling back in time, and prevent any changes from being made. Meanwhile, Adams’ contribution was in developing a computer powerful enough to run the algorithm, which ultimately took the form of a lattice of artificial micro-black holes, which were used to process the vast amounts of information required. It would still struggle to run the 1994 video game Nascar Racing at a steady frame rate though.
With this technology in a place, Time Tours was born – a travel company that allowed people to travel back to any point in history for their vacation. As long the supercomputer predicted that a journey back in time wasn’t going to change anything in the present, tourists could go back and experience anything from watching the pyramids being built in ancient Egypt, to seeing Centurions take on Barbarians in Rome’s Colosseum, to watching people in the 21st Century document every bloody second of their lives by taking pictures on their phones of their children, that amusing thing some guy did in a pub, that time it snowed, what they had for breakfast, etc.
The supercomputer also allowed Time Tours to identify certain individuals throughout history who were so insignificant, they could safely be employed by the company as ‘Time Reps’ without having any impact on the flow of the space-time continuum. Time Reps essentially acted as tour guides for their native time periods – it was their job to meet tourists from the future, show them the sights, and make their stay as comfortable as possible, just like a regular holiday rep. Within twenty years of being operational, Time Tours had almost 300 ‘known’ Time Reps working for them throughout history (the ‘unknown’ ones being those individuals who might have been working in the past as Time Reps, but who hadn’t technically been identified and employed yet by the Time Tours of the present-day), and these people all had one thing in common – no matter what happened, their activities were conducted in complete secrecy. They never revealed to anyone in their own time period what they really did for a living.
That was, until one Time Rep decided he was going to break the rules.
That man was Geoffrey Stamp – a Time Rep initially thought to be less significant to the space-time continuum than certain types of mushroom a couple of years ago, but one who had soon proven everybody wrong by saving the world from being invaded by an alien race known as the Varsarians within two days of being employed. And more recently, he’d followed that feat by saving humanity from itself, changing history to prevent Jennifer Adams from leaving Time Tours and setting up a rival time-tourism company called Continuum, which would have gone on to pervert time travel technology by allowing people to disappear into their own personal timelines with the powers of a god; powers that would cocoon people in their own echo-chamber realities, desensitise people to the consequences of their actions, and cause the eventual stagnation of human civilisation. It would have been a similar fate to what almost happened to humanity with the proliferation of social media, until everyone realised in the middle of the 21st Century that anything anyone ever said on it was just a complete load of bollocks.
Having recently thwarted Continuum’s plans and changing the course of history for the better, Geoff now found himself in a reality with a few subtle differences to the timeline he was used to. But they were good differences – a bit like coming home to discover someone had rearranged the furniture slightly to give each room a better feeling of feng shui.
One difference was that in this reality, Jennifer Adams had never left Time Tours to set up Continuum, and was now working as the company’s ‘Director of Change’. On top of this, Time Reps were now represented by a Time Rep Council – a group of people who stood up for the rights of all Time Reps and made sure they were being looked after properly by the upper management. This was unheard of in the timeline Geoff was used to – originally, Time Reps weren’t even paid, and had restrictions placed on them in terms of how they lived their lives to prevent any changes from happening to the space-time continuum.
Not anymore though. Now, Time Reps not only earned a salary, but they also had more freedom to make changes to their lives through a change-request scheme, whereby Time Tours allowed them to alter their previous destiny just as long as the changes fell within certain parameters (i.e. they didn’t result in creating a temporal paradox which in turn would cause the destruction of the known universe).
When Geoff discovered this new-found freedom, he knew exactly what he wanted to change about his own life. For years, he had been in love with Zoë – a girl he’d been close friends with since his childhood who now worked for the post office, delivering mail to all the houses in the local area, including his. Before becoming a Time Rep, he’d always lacked the confidence to tell her how he really felt about her, afraid that any hint of romantic affection might ruin their long-standing friendship. However, having saved the world from an alien invasion and surviving numerous life-threatening situations, asking a girl out suddenly didn’t seem quite so daunting a task, and he was desperate to ask Zoë out on a date, tell her about his adventures, and share his true feelings with her to see if she felt the same way.
Until now, Time Tours wouldn’t allow any of this. In order to maintain his cover, they insisted that Geoff lie to her about what he did for a living, pretending that he worked as a regular tourist guide, meeting people from his own time period and showing them around. And if this dishonesty wasn’t frustrating enough, Geoff wasn’t even been allowed to ask her out, even if he did keep his job a secret – the dangers to the fabric of the space-time continuum, Time Tours had argued, were just too great.
But in this new reality, it seemed the Time Rep Council had convinced Time Tours to be a little more flexible about what Time Reps could and couldn’t do with their lives, and Geoff was delighted to discover that he had been granted permission to pursue a romantic relationship with Zoë (though whether she would be interested in him remained to be seen).
There was just one condition: for the sake of humanity’s existence, if Zoë did agree to go on a date with him, on no account would he even breathe the words “Time Rep” to her…
 The centrepieces that were eventually chosen were small clusters of birch candles sprayed with glitter, which were suspended in a reverse-time vacuum so they appeared to burn backwards, the wax un-melting over the course of the evening until you were left with a pristine candle at the end of the night that could be taken back to Ikea for a full refund.
 To this day, no-one is sure what led to the demise of social media. Some argue that its popularity waned when people began to question the utter banality of what was being talked about (favourite shoes/biscuits/fascist dictators etc.), and the baffling popularity of the format’s most prolific users. Jeremy Jeremy for instance (2020 – 2085), was an enormously influential user for years, until everyone realised the only reason he was famous was because his first name was the same as his last name.
So there you go! I hope you enjoyed that brief excert from Time Rep: Pandemonium, which will hopefully be released later this year (I’ll let you know the release date as soon I find out!) In the next few weeks I’ll be sharing a few more chapters from the book, so stay tuned…
That’s right – I’m very excited to announce a third book is coming in the Time Rep series, meaning I can now call it a trilogy! It’s called Time Rep: Pandemonium, and kicks off right where the last book left off. I don’t have a release date yet but I’m hoping it will be later this year. And between now and then I’m going to post some excertps from the book, reveal the cover art, etc. so please keep checking back here for more information.
In the meantime, I thought you might be interested to read the blurb I’m working on for the back cover:
Imagine you’ve just done something that might have broken time.
Cause and effect are no longer on speaking terms, sequences of events aren’t flowing the way they should, and reality has become a warped and fragmented mess.
sound Doesn’t ideal, it does?
That’s exactly what happens when Geoffrey Stamp reveals to his friend Zoë that he’s a Time Rep – a tour guide for people from the future who travel to the past for their vacation. Everything he does was supposed to be kept a secret from the people in his own time (for reasons quite extensively explored in the previous two books), until Geoff decides he’s fed up of doing what he’s told.
It’s just a shame that time has now decided to misbehave too.
Faced with navigating a corrupt reality of splintering timelines, Geoff and Zoë must work together to make sense of what has happened without losing their minds. But as the past descends into a blur of conflicting recollections and a disturbing future seems unavoidable, it appears other forces might be at play, exploiting the fractures in time for their own sinister purposes.
Why has time broken? And if cause no longer produces the right effect, how can Zoë and Geoff possibly fix it?
Right, I’ve got a lot of news to share. Since my last blog post, all this stuff has happened:
- I’m now represented by Ethan Ellenberg, who is awesome.
- I’ve been working with Ethan and friends to get my published books re-released.
- I’ve written two more books – a futuristic murder mystery called The Electric Detective, and another book in the Time Rep series. More details on both of these soon.
- I’ve got a great job at London’s Natural History Museum, which means I get to walk past a Stegosaurus (called Sophie) every morning.
Stay tuned for more information and some excerpts from my new work!
Hi there everyone – Just a quick note to say that Time Rep: Continuum has now been released! I haven’t seen any reviews yet so I have no idea how it’s being received, but I do hope those of you that enjoyed the first book like this one too. I’m pretty proud of it – particularly a joke in chapter two that still makes me laugh out loud even though I’m the one who wrote it. Yes – I do laugh at my own jokes.
My thanks to the lovely folks at Diversion Books for publishing it – getting Time Rep: Continuum out the door been a long old road since I finished the first draft back in January 2014 (yes, that long ago), and I’m so happy to see it finally out there.