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James Valentine (a rock star in Australia!) employs all the tricks of the best storytellers -- cliff-hangers, time travel, romance, and loads of humor -- in this refreshing new book that kids will jump on in a big, big way.
When a defective time-jumping device strands Theodore, a teen from the distant future, in the twenty-first century, he is helped by two high schoolers--Jules, who is having time problems of his own, and Gen, an old friend Jules was about to ask out.
Sand, thought Gen. Lots of sand. Either there's suddenly a lot of sand in my bedroom or I'm somewhere else.
She could feel hot sunshine. Extremely hot sunshine. It was making the sand hot and she lifted up her legs to stop her feet burning. Her eyes struggled to adjust to the sudden brightness that blasted at her from above and bounced up at her off the yellow-white sand. There seemed to be no shade anywhere and as far as she could tell she was sitting on a high point somewhere in the middle of a vast expanse of sand.
"Theodore," she asked quietly, "this is not a beach, is it?"
"Mmmm? Don't make too much noise," he whispered. "No one is really going to pay any attention to us, but we are visible. I wasn't sure what would happen to you, but you're present just like me. This is so unboid. Anyway, right now your boyfriend is probably feeling a bit lonely."
"He's not my boyfriend!"
"Uh-huh. He wants to be."
Gen would have liked to continue the discussion but she was starting to catch up with the fact that she was definitely no longer in her bedroom.
The amount of sunshine starting to fry her was one clue. The other clues were the dust, noise, and stink coming from the valley that stretched out for several miles below the low sand dune on which they were sitting.
The air was thick with dust. Tiny dry grains burnt her nostrils and her throat every time she breathed in. She held one hand over her mouth and attempted to shade her eyes from the glare with the other. Below her, great clouds of dust were being raised by some kind of activity that she still couldn't make out.
The noise was incredible. There was a great grinding going on, sounding somewhere between the fingernails of a huge hand being scraped along an immense blackboard and a very slow avalanche. There were occasional long, drawn-out shrieks as though some rocks were being born and then what felt like great subterranean rumbles and thumps. Accompanying this was the sound of chanting, as though a choir of ten thousand voices was performing at the end of the world.
The stink was unbelievable. It was bad enough trying not to breathe in the hot air thick with grit but the air stank with a sour smell that it took Gen a while to place. It was stale sweat. Great wafts of it coming from the dust bowl in the valley below her.
Gen was overwhelmed by her own senses. She wanted to close them all down. She leaned over to Theodore.
"OK, I believe you. Can we go now?" Gen was starting to feel very scared.
"Oh, come on. Aren't you even going to look?"
She half opened her eyes. She could see a little better now and in the clouds of dust she could make out what seemed to be thousands of men, stripped to the waist, straining to pull and push huge blocks of stone across the valley floor. Thick ropes were attached to the blocks and lines of men hundreds of yards long were hauling on them. They were heading toward a great stone platform about a mile away. Around the platform were ramps, and more teams of men were hauling giant slabs of the sandy-colored rock up the ramps and into position on the platform.
Scurrying around the teams of men were women and children, carrying water. The water was being poured on the ground, sprayed onto the bodies of the teams of men hauling the stones, and poured down their throats.
Gen looked at the platform. There was something familiar about it. Or half familiar at least. She couldn't quite figure out what they were building, what all this effort was for. It didn't seem like they were building a big hall or a big house. It looked solid, with a broad square base a few hundred yards long on each side and smoothly rising walls on a steep angle up to the level where men were dragging stones.
If they keep going like that, she thought, it'll be pointy on the top. Like a pyramid.
That was when Gen knew she really wasn't in her bedroom.
Instead, she was watching the building of the Great Pyramid at Khufu. In front of her was rising the most famous structure ever built. Back in her time, people still debated how the pyramids were constructed. When she got back, she could say, "Well, when I was last there, they used a lot of men to drag the stones over wet clay and up ramps."
Theodore was watching Gen watching the building of the Great Pyramid at Khufu. He was smirking and when she turned to look at him, he burst out laughing.
"That's fantastic. I've Jumped with some first-timers before, but I never Jumped with anyone who didn't even know you could Jump. That was just great. Do you know where you are?"
"Yes, I think. Is that what I think it is?"
"Well, if you think it's the Great Wall of China, nip it's not," said Theodore. "Yip, it's the Great Pyramid. You know the pyramids are still there, in Fifteen Billion and Seventy-three? They were one of the first things we found. So when TimeJumping was invented, this was one of the first Jumps anyone did. Pretty amazing, eh?"
Gen felt like she was dreaming. Or more that she was in a dream and dreaming that she was dreaming. But she was also almost vibrating from head to toe with excitement and sheer aliveness. This was a sensation beyond sensation. She'd ridden on the fastest rides, she'd seen some great films, she'd kissed a boy, but this... this was...
"Amazing," she whispered, now completely dazed by it all.
Theodore stood up. "Want to take a closer look?"
"What do you mean?"
"Let's go down, have a look around. Look how many people are down there. No one's going to notice us." Theodore's hair went to jet black.
"Here, have The Coat." With a gallant gesture, Theodore took off The Coat and flung it around Gen's shoulders. "Desert robes, Coat. Building of Pyramids style."
The Coat changed into light flowing robes with a hood, which Gen pulled up over her head. Theo's shirt took on the same dusty color and his pants looked like he'd been hauling rocks through the desert for years. He kicked off his shoes and stuck them in a pocket.
"Come on," he said.
They joined a shuffling line of women and children hauling water.
"This is fantastic," whispered Theo. "We're joining in!"
"Isn't it illegal or something? What about the Rule?"
"The TimeCode? Woosh, what harm can this do? We're still just having a look."
The line shuffled on. The women were all dark-haired and hooded, the children bright-eyed and strong. They didn't seem overjoyed to be lugging camel-skin bags full of water but they didn't seem that unhappy about it.
"Where're the whips?" asked Gen.
"You know, I thought there'd be big guys in leather masks whipping the slaves on. Slobbering dogs or something. Everyone's just doing it."
"Oh, there's not that many slaves doing this. These are farmers and brickmakers and their wives and kids. They're rostered on pyramid duty while the Nile's in flood. Nothing else to do. If they do this, they don't have to pay as much tax."
Building the pyramids was a tax dodge? thought Gen. She was an accountant's daughter after all. Dad'd love this, she thought.
The line had reached the toiling men. There seemed to be a thousand of them hauling in rhythm. The women slopped water onto the ground and with each surging effort the stone moved forward. Only a little, but there were ten groups of a thousand men, all hauling at the one large rock. Move the rock a little each day and before you know it, a couple of decades have gone by, and the Pharaoh's got himself a pretty nice pyramid to lie in for eternity.
Theodore stopped to look at the structure. Even though it was only half built, it was inspiring. The pyramid seemed to be rising perfectly and effortlessly from the plain. It looked as though it should be there.
As well as a tax dodge, perhaps being part of the most happening civilization yet gave everybody a bit of a buzz, thought Gen.
Theodore pulled out the JumpMan and it hovered in front of him. Some of the women nearby looked at them in alarm and started to chatter and point in their direction.
"What are you doing?" asked Gen.
Theodore shrugged. "Well, that'll do, won't it? You believe me now? Better get going."
"Hey! You two. Stop!" A man had let go of his rope and was now rushing over to them.
Theodore grabbed Gen by the hand and with the other started to fumble with the remote.
"Wait! Are you looking for me? I'm Franklin Nixon. Franklin Nixon One. You looking for me?"
Theodore stopped fumbling with the remote.
"Franklin Nixon? The Franklin Nixon?"
The Franklin Nixon puffing from running managed a nod.
"Unfortunately, yes," he replied after getting his breath. "Quick, put that thing away. It's a Jumper, right? You must be my search party. Come over here, quick. People are starting to notice and they don't like anything here that's out of order."
The Franklin Nixon shepherded them over to a water bag, dipped a cup into the bag, and drank deeply. He made Gen grab the JumpMan and hide it in her robes. Gen felt alarmed to have the machine in her hands but was even more terrified of this strange skinny old man who'd run out of the rock-hauling line and seemed to know all about them.
"Took your time, didn't you?"
The skinny old man had a long, sad, exhausted face, but his eyes were bright and eager. There was almost a greedy look in them, Gen thought.
"Um, Franklin," said Theodore. "I'm sorry, but we're not your search party."
"What? Whaddya mean? What are you doing here, then? Why are you visible?"
"Well, that's a long story, but you've been gone for years. I don't think anyone's looking for you."
The old man's face got even sadder, and the bright look went out of his eyes.
"I mean, we know all about you," Theodore hurried to add. "You're a hero. There's a museum and everything."
"I got a museum?"
"Yeah, there's your original device, and an empty bed and a plaque and all your work. It's your lab just as you left it."
"I got a plaque? What's it say?"
Gen noticed that people were moving away from them. They were attracting attention. She wondered if she should point this out, but Franklin and Theodore seemed to have a lot to catch up on.
"Pheeps, um, it's been a while since I went there," said Theodore. "We all go there when we're about seven, but I think it says something like: 'On This Spot, Franklin Nixon One Attempted the First Manned TimeJump. His last words were, "Here goes nothing."'"
Franklin laughed a sad laugh.
"They were too! How wrong can a guy be?"
"True," said Theodore. "But we still remember you. You're even in the language."
"What do you mean?" asked Franklin suspiciously.
"Ah, well, we say 'Lucky as Franklin,' or 'You've got Franklin's chance of that happening,' or 'I've had a real Franklin of a day'..."
"Yeah, well, thanks kid. But that's not how I was hoping to be remembered."
Franklin fell silent and looked at the scene around him with great weariness. "I was here when the astronomers laid out the foundations. I don't want to be here when they finish the thing."
Gen coughed nervously. People near them were muttering and pointing. Everyone else was busy and organized into a specific purpose. No one else was standing around chatting.
"Um, I'm sorry," she said, "but everyone's pointing at us. Theodore, shouldn't we get going?"
Theodore turned to her shaking his head.
"Gen! Don't you realize who this is? We've just solved one of TimeJumping's oldest mysteries. What happened to Franklin Nixon? Where did he go? He wasn't meant to Jump until the next day, but when they came to his lab, he'd gone."
"Hmmph." Franklin grunted. "I just thought I should test it. I slipped out of the present, particle scan was fine, set the dial about twelve nanoseconds out of synch, bang I'm here. It was fantastic. I got right into the Pharaoh's palace. He was having a dinner party. No problem. I'm taking a look around, it was fantastic. All of a sudden, just as the feature dish comes out - Roasted Rhino served on a Corn Polenta with a Scarab Beetle Jus - I'm present. I felt this tiny little jolt, and snap, everyone's looking at me. I had my finger in the sauce. I just wanted a little taste. Try explaining that to a Pharaoh who feeds his crocodiles with people who sneeze while he's speaking. I don't know what went wrong."
"Umm, it was your wife, Franklin," said Theodore.
"She didn't know you'd Jumped. She came in to use the computer to z-mail her sister. She pressed Send and it must have somehow sent you into the present. You hadn't saved yourself, and no one knew where you'd gone."
"Everyone knew where!" Franklin yelled. "Chester, George, all of them knew this was going to be the first Jump. Quincy did the original calculations. He knew. It was such a great question to answer. How did the pyramids get here? Who built these things? Great publicity for the Time Travel Six. Why hasn't anyone come looking for me?"
Gen was getting frightened. Franklin had started to yell and look very angry.
"I've been here for forty years! No one's come here since?"
Theodore looked uncomfortable again.
"Sorry, Franklin, thousands of people have been here. It's a really popular Site. Standard pre-set on all JumpMans. It's a training Jump. It's one of the first we do."
Franklin looked astonished and slumped down on the sand.
"Oh, I don't believe this. I've been here under everyone's nose, for forty years, and no one noticed?"
"Well, no one told us to look. And we're all invisible, and we're way over there."
Theodore pointed at the dune where he and Gen had just come from.
"Where? There're people there now?" Franklin struggled to his feet. "Hey, it's me. Franklin Nixon. Come and get me!" He waved and yelled like a madman in the direction Theo had pointed.
"Shhh!" hissed Gen. "Whips!" A giant of a man was looking over at them. He had bulging muscles, metal rings on his arms, and a whip made of plaited leather and metal studs.
"Oak eye, oak eye," said Franklin, quieting down a little. "Everyone's invisible, you say? So that's what they went with? No one Jumps visible?"
"No, it's against the Code. Don't Touch Anything."
"Oh, that's awful. Is that the best they could do? In my day, it was 'Leave Well Enough Alone' and we had a huge fight getting someone to work on changing that."
He sighed and slumped to the sand again. Things seemed to have settled down. The work had stopped for the moment and the people seemed to be in the middle of a shift change. Everyone was moving about and so no one was really taking any notice of them. Gen tried to lift Franklin's mood.
"It must have been great to be here," she said. "You know everything, you're from the future, you could do anything you like."
Franklin looked at her like she was a silly little girl.
"Yeah well, once they decided I wasn't a god, I spent a long time in the Pharaoh's service. I wasn't fed to the crocodiles.
Excerpted from JumpMan Rule #1 by James Valentine Copyright © 2002 by James Valentine. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted June 21, 2006
Pretty Good. The writting is solid. You can actually see what's going through young Jules head. All he can think about is Gen and that's all he wants but wacky Theodore just keeps interrupting his plans. The characters are ones to remember.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 6, 2004
this book is awesome i am 12 going on 13 and i always look for books that involve dating and i have to read meg cabot's which are chick flicks and i dont like readin chick flicks but finallya dude that understands me i read this book in 2 days and im still amazed at how this man writes science fiction pick it up it will keep u plugged into the bookWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 26, 2004