Out of Time is the fifth and final book in the Out of Time series set in futuristic England where time travel is a reality. This book is really best enjoyed after reading some of the previous titles.
Time travel is managed by the Temporal Research Institute (TRI), founded by Tom Sanders whose wife, Olivia, was lost in time during their earliest experiments. Tom was later trapped in time when home invaders stole a bunch of his plans and technology, leaving their only son, Ben, an orphan to be raised by Tom’s second research partner, Mariam.
Ben Sanders is a genius. He’s been working the time gates since his childhood and grew up in the TRI as a tech, indulged and overseen my Mariam. He’s written and improved the code and technology to make the gates more precise and more stable, all in the effort to bring his father home. A lost time traveler who was later recovered tipped Ben off to documents that seemed to indicate his dad could be found. But, after several fruitless time searches, Mariam had to call off the endeavor. This creates a rift between Ben and his surrogate mum.
Ben left the TRI for a while, but returns, resolved to “behave” himself, but all this time he’s begun building his own time gates and setting up safe houses where he can keep trying to find his father. One of his forays results in the inadvertent time travel of Enoch Baker, who can not be returned to his time. It is discovered that Ben is behind Enoch’s displacement in time, and Ben goes on the run for this illegal breach. Mariam and several members of the TRI have formed a task force to hunt down Ben and bring him to justice, but Ben has an accomplice and lover that no one suspects—and they have been playing a deep game for nearly three years to discover the role of historian Mack Robertson in the workings back at the TRI.
I seriously cannot give too much of this away! Enoch plays an important role, as the task force is using him to try and track Ben—while Mack acts as Enoch’s keeper. Ben’s attempts to evade the task force has him dipping in and out of time, bringing home yet another anomalous person. Ada, a hedge witch from the mid-1800s, becomes Ben’s keeper, helping him through his anxiety attacks and nightmare-riddled nights, as does his TRI accomplice. Mack seems to be the key for both Enoch and Ben’s troubles—for different reasons. Mack’s ambitious, determined to make a time jump himself, but the TRI is holding him in place, and it’s leading to desperate choices. Enoch, as an anachronistic person, struggles with the sheer volume of life in the current world, and this leads to situations that are tough to manage. Still, he’s canny and hopeful to make his life count in this new environment.
Ben’s life is not good on the run, but he still has those who care for him. Mariam never doubts that he’s a good man, and sometimes helps him; she regrets not doing enough to help him find Tom before he became a fugitive. There are so many surprises in this book, it’s hard not to give them away. There are also some tragedies. Ben’s angle is to go back in time and prevent the break-in that led his father to time jump and abandon him, but doing so will create a paradox that will remove Ben’s lover from his life. It’s a hard choice, but they do it together. Unfortunately, or fortunately, life doesn’t work to those plans exactly. There’s some heartbreak, but it’s not exactly Ben’s heart this time.
I really loved how Enoch came out of his shell, and built true relationships with people in the TRI and outside of it. He is a lively character who brings lightness and humor to a story that was otherwise high octane and constant deception. It was good to see his history revealed, and his future mapped in a way that was true to his needs. Expect a lot of silliness from Enoch, and the right amount of tenderness and toughness when he’s got to show his mettle. Ben is mostly a hot mess: on the run, breaking down in anxiety, desperate not to lose his father—or lover—to time. His machinations are always a half-step ahead of the task force, and his few accomplices are loyal and willing to go just as far as Ben does to save his loved ones. In this way, Ben’s story felt a little bit like The Fugitive, only with time travel and a REALLY happy ending.
This whole series has been a thrill ride, with the legalities and moral and ethical dilemmas of time travel constantly considered. Ben changes time streams, just like his mother and father did, but the end result is a pretty satisfying one. Ben’s not able to get off from his crimes entirely, but the resolution is a compassionate one, and I think readers will find that justice is indeed served. I have been a fan from the beginning, and I wholeheartedly recommend the series to anyone who likes time-travel stories or action-packed futuristic plots with a dash of romance.