Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dinosaurs, Texas, and Time Travel REVIEWING: Chronal Engine

Chronal Engine
Author: Greg Leitich Smith
Genre: Science Fiction
Year of Publication: 2012

       Being from Texas and purposely mentioning that in my header, I like to sometimes read books that are set in Texas or that are written by authors who are from Texas. This is one of those books that qualifies as both. Chronal Engine is what I would a middle grade chapter book. It isn't large and it isn't too complex in language. This doesn't mean that it isn't the least bit entertaining though!! The local library here just got this one and I was so excited to get started on it. 

      Why Chronal Engine is a good book:
  • Dinosaurs, enough said
  • Time Travel
  • Texas
  • Cool cover
  • Not too lengthy and overwrought with technical descriptions of anything

Seriously, this book has a pretty cool cover. The blue shade is really nice and the tyrannosaur skull is eye catching. The cover, like the book, is simple and straightforward. It is fitting to the contents and I think it was well designed. Anything with dinosaurs on the cover has to be good. I don't think I've run into a terrible dinosaur book yet. I haven't read a whole ton, but I've read quite a few and am only hoping to read even more in the future.

This book has good characters and a good plot. 3 siblings from Austin are going to be staying with their grandfather on his ranch while their mom goes off to do things for her paleontological career. They haven't really ever known their grandfather and he's pretty reclusive overall. On the ranch there are dinosaur footprints and paleontology just seems to run in the family. Then they find out that he has a machine called the Chronal Engine, which is essentially a time machine. After he suffers a heart attack he seemed to know about, he gives the kids certain instructions to follow. Emma, the sister of two boys and one of the leading characters, gets kidnapped and disappears. Her brothers and their new friend Petra need to go back in time to rescue her. 

Dinosaurs and lots of information about them is scattered throughout the book, but never really gets tedious. Most of the information comes from the youngest brother, Max, who has followed in the dino-frenzy of his mom and grandfather. His siblings Emma and Kyle haven't. Kyle is a sporty guy. Emma is the jack-of-all-trades. She can do a lot and is very good at everything she does. Petra is the daughter of the housekeeper who works for Max's grandfather. They are a pretty good cast of characters that were fun to read about. I also liked the use of references to different areas in Texas that I've been to. There is mention of a hotel in Dallas and some spots in Austin, as well as throwbacks to Texas weather and geography. I thought these were nice touches that made the book a little more personalized for Texas readers. 

The plot is interesting. It's rather simple and is kept that way throughout the book. Some kids go back in time to find their sister and rescue her, while surviving dinosaur encounters in an attempt to make it back home. At 171 pages, it was really quick for me to get through, but nonetheless enjoyable. I enjoyed the simplicity and straightforwardness. It would've been so easy to make things extremely complicated with terminology and technology, and I'm very grateful for the author's ability to keep things clear-cut. I honestly wanted a little bit more when it was over. I wanted to have a bit more closure on certain things, but in a way where I saw it and wasn't just told what might happen next. For some reason, I don't really feel like this should be where the story ends. The kids still have a lot to learn about their grandfather and there is a lot that could still be used for further adventures. One of the more lackluster points was the grandfather. Mr. Pierson is a very mysterious character who doesn't end up being very well-developed when the story comes to an end. He really just exists as a way to get the story rolling. Beyond that, there isn't much of him. I think that he should've been a bigger presence given his attention to all the details in the beginning. We still don't know why he wanted the book Max was reading or his heart attack may affect him. I'd like to see him interact with the kids a lot more. I'd like to see some more from this author about these characters. I also want to know what happens to Aki, since it could definitely be problematic to bring an extinct dinosaur back to the present. 

Overall, Chronal Engine is a quick and interesting book about some younger protagonists surviving in prehistoric times while on a rescue mission. There is a need for more character development and there is lots of room to continue playing with the story. I really hope the author is planning to do another book because I feel like this could be a really good start. I have to give Chronal Engine a 3. Its fun and light, but will serve as a great springboard for future works. It isn't the most incredible time travel book ever, but it is definitely worth reading. I'd highly recommend it to young readers, particularly those who are fond of dinosaurs and are looking to find a good survival adventure.

Thanks for reading another review here at The Real World According To Sam. Hope to see you back again next Wednesday!!!

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