10/12/10

Time Piper, by Delia Huddy

Time Piper, by Delia Huddy (Greenwillow, YA, 1979)

In contemporary England (book-wise, not 2010), young Luke is biding his time waiting to go study math at university. The boredom of life at home is broken when he sees the village lads savagly pursuing a strange girl across the countryside. Luke comes to her rescue, and is enchanted by her strange, fey beauty...Hare, as she is called, has drawn the ire of the villagers because of her differences (if the book were being written today, she'd be called autistic). But though she's set apart from normal human interactions, Luke is obsessed by her.

It is something of a relief both to Luke and his own family when he gets a job in London, working on a tremendously exciting scientific project. A renowned scientist has formulated a way to make a time machine (explained pretty convincingly--it involves tacheons, and polarities, and that sort of thing). But it is hard for Luke to immerse himself fully in the project, because Hare has come to London too, and is squatting in an abandoned house nearby. And joining her are other young people like herself, people similarly detached from human relationships.

They have been drawn to the time machine...and when at last, the switch is turned on, the reason becomes clear. The book's title is a Big Clue; it's easy (even for a usually clue-less reader like me) to guess what story these kids are implicated in (especially with the cover showing a prancing medeivally piper).

The book itself, however, stays very much in the here and then of Luke's life. Although time slippiness is involved, no characters travel back to the past, and the travel to the present is a very small part of the book, right at the end...So although the timeslip is a central foundation to the plot, it's not exactly what the book is about.

It's much more a rather gripping story about a teenaged boy moving away from his family, finding a place with like minded people, falling into impossible love in London in the 1970s (there's lots of smoking), and trying to figure out a mystery (why are these strange kids being draw to London?). And this made for fine reading--the characters were interesting (Luke's own family life, in particular, was nicely done), as was their situation. It just wasn't exactly stirring fantasy, and the science fiction part of the time machine was likewise somewhat limited--they built it, turned it on and it worked (8 pages), it turned itself off.

Although Time Piper was first published in 1979, the edition I read was 1984- it was number 11 of the "Magic Quest" series (Tempo Books). The cover takes me right back to the bookstore I frequented in high school in the early eighties. I am glad we have travelled forward in time sufficiently so that prancing pipers such as this aren't appearing in cover art anymore.

That being said, the books in the MagicQuest series are a very appealing bunch--The Throme of the Erril of Sherill, by Patricia McKillip, The Perilous Gard, by Elizabeth Marie Pope, and The Power of Three, by Diana Wynne Jones, among others I haven't read. It's not surprising that its such a strong list--Terri Windling put it together. Here's what she says about it:

"MagicQuest was an early attempt to create a publishing line of children's fantasy novels. I confess that I never much liked the "MagicQuest" name or logo (they came from publisher's marketing department), but I was very pleased to have the chance to put this line together, and the books themselves were wonderful.

This was back in the 1980s, however -- when many reviewers, librarians, educators, and parents still had grave doubts about the value of modern fantasy fiction (in those pre-Harry Potter Days). Thus it was an uphill struggle to get magical fiction, aside from a few annointed classics, into children's hands." (you can read more here; scroll down).

I couldn't find a list of all the title in the series--if anyone knows of such a list, I'd love to link to it!

2 comments:

  1. Well, I trust Greenwillow, and I love time slip books. So I want this! You're quite right, it's one in a list of excellent books. :)

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  2. I've just had two separate online conversations about the awesomeness of The Perilous Gard, which is a major favorite of mine. I didn't know its publishing history though--how interesting!

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