13 year-old Johnny isn't an ordinary boy. It's not just that he lives in a children's home, with his mother in an insane asylum and his father imprisoned, or his phenomenal skill with computers. It's the fact that his life is entwined with the fate of an intergalactic empire....which, when the book begins, he has no idea even exists.
But soon he finds himself abducted by aliens along with a sister, Clara, whom he never knew existed, saved from them, and taken to the residence of the emperor himself. For reasons unclear to him, the emperor makes him a gift of an extraordinary intergalactic space ship (the titular Spirit of London), and he and Clara head for home....only to find that that they have travelled through time, setting in motion the meteor that will spell extinction for the dinosaurs. And that's not all--their next jump forward takes them to the sinister realm of Atlantis, where a plot to control the universe must be foiled. But that's still not all--what is the mystery surrounding their parents? Who are these kids, and why does the emperor take such an interest in them? And what will happen when they make it back to their own present (more or less) and face down the bad guy aliens???
There's actually more, but that's enough to gone on with. Lots of action, twists and turns of plot, and a generous dollop of suspense make for a page-turning adventure that is, I think, just the ticket for a sci fi loving upper middle grade reader (and the sort of book an adult reader who's willing to suspend disbelief and who's looking for something fun should appreciate as well). The story is told strictly from Johnny's point of view, so the reader only knows what he does, keeping things very interesting indeed.
The emphasis on Things Happening faster and faster means that this isn't a book for everyone, though--it's a cracking good story, but it doesn't have a ton of emotional power--I kept reading briskly not so much because I cared all that much about Johnny and Clara, but because I was so interested and curious.
And that is just fine--I'll be passing this one right over to my ten-year old, and I bet he enjoys it (space ships! computers! aliens! dinosaurs! sinister bad guys!).
Time travel-wise--the journey of Johnny and Clara back in time leads to interesting sub-plots and intriguing explorations of paradox. It's a key part of the plot, in a very sci-fi way (as opposed to time-travel for the sake of exploring the past, or for the sake of exploring characters). And as such it works well, adding zest and excitement to a story already full of both.
Edited, in response to a comment from the author: This is the first of a UK series. It's available directly from Amazon in the US as well (see link above), although it is singularly unavailable on bookstore shelves (at least in my area) and in libraries (not even the Library of Congress has a copy), which is a pity. There is so little middle grade science fiction out there, and I imagine that a fun, exciting series like this would find itself lots of readers....if they knew it existed!