An interesting take on a future when time is just another commodity to be exploited.
For those coming cold to Book 2, the author’s decision to offer a few pages worth of recaps to bring you up to speed is helpful, if a little disorientating. And there’s a lot to take in: The Chronosphere is the futuristic creation of the aptly named Chronomaster. Inside this spherical world, it is possible for real-world time to stand still, or at least, travel at a much, much slower rate. In essence, one can purchase time within the sphere much as the main character, Raffi Delgado, did.
Raffi is a teenage boy from a rough background who has bought a year in the Chronosphere. He expected relaxation and fun; he did not expect to be arrested, daring an escape from the Underside or the subsequent subterfuge of concealment using an alias and cool gadgetry to present a different face to those around him. Fellow escapee, Dario (also a teenager) is of a different ilk; having the natural openness and optimism experienced by those big enough to never have worries. Then there is Sal, the bright-blue-haired girl that has caught Dario’s eye; but is wrapped up in “rescuing” her older sister, Anna, from the evil clutches of the Chronosphere. And there are many others, flitting in and out of Raffi’s bubble to little or no effect.
Malfunction details the impact of The Event – the series of malfunctions that cause the environment Topside to deteriorate to uninhabitable and forcing a Lord of the Flies scenario, with the incumbent separation into tribes and inevitable inter-wars that follow. It seems only Raffi’s small group have grasped the severity of the situation and resolved that if they are unavoidably heading towards their deaths; they may as well pursue the suicidal mission to rescue Anna from the Underside.
With Raffi’s character leading the way in unpredictability; swinging from mindless heroism to considered cowardice - the narrative itself seems to uproot itself from vaguely plausible, to sketchy, onto outright ridiculous: a Chronomaster who can hide his disfigured body behind a black cube that floats in the air and create the Chronosphere itself; but has no awareness of the monstrous actions of his Hitler-type Chrono-sensei , Avon Daka. A girl so pathologically determined to find her lost sister; she wouldn’t hesitate to abandon her friends or kill. A boy consumed with a sickness caused by prolonged exposure to the Chronosphere, who is yet capable of sudden physical acts of daring and also conveniently having the intellect and knowledge-base with which to conjure up last-minute solutions to the group’s persistently bad situations. You would be forgiven for suspecting that the author is a teenager himself.
That isn’t so say that Malfunction has no merits – it certainly does. Not least the occasional glimpse of originality: weaponry that does not kill, but can erase you from time and space. Or perhaps a gun that emits a beam that encapsulates its victim in a time loop? But the flaws are stark and stick in the brain like the residue on an unwashed mug. From the unimaginatively named “levitators” to replace elevators, or the crudely written sexual demands of Raffi’s MAID; to the evil second-in-command secretly plotting the demise of the master, or the uncanny ability of teenagers to thwart an entire army of trained robots and auxiliaries. Woolf simply doesn’t deliver the narrative the story demands.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012