Ben Travers has gone missing, and Ben Travers needs to find him. Returning home from his harrowing adventures through time, Ben just wants a normal life with the girl he loves, but tying up the loose threads of his fragmented existence is proving more difficult than he ever suspected. Someone is attacking time travel labs - threatening the safety of the Quickly family - and Ben is getting messages from a version of himself that he thought was dead. When a strange cult of consciousness-shifting time travelers called The Eternals begins to worm its way into the past - endangering the very nature of time and space - Ben will have to solve the mystery of his own disappearance to stop them. He'll journey farther into time than he's ever been before, to protect the family and friends he has come to love, and to discover his own inevitable destiny. Join Ben and Mym in this third novel in the In Times Like These time travel adventure series.
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I loved the first two books - and I loved this one. First I should say that I listened to the audio version and didn't read it. Sometimes that's a bad thing, but not in this case. Narrator Neil Hellegers was brilliant and brought the book to life in a way that reading it might not. His ability to differentiate the various characters was exactly what you need in a book like this one, especially when several of the characters are versions of Ben Travers and when at times you are in the 'real' world and at other times in the Neverwhere.
This time (sorry) we travel back to the far past and forward to what the not-too-distant end of the world when it encounters a Black Hole - unless Ben can save it. The second book ended with Ben Travers dying to save his girlfriend Mym Quickly. This one starts with "Dead Ben", calling himself "a time traveller who broke the rules". We meet him as he finds himself in the Neverwhere. Expect to spend a lot of time wandering through space and time in the strange world of the Neverwhere. Hellegers' narration does a brilliant job of conveying the otherness of the Neverwhere and excels at making it clear when you are listening to Dead Ben and conveying the otherness of the Neverwhere. While in the Neverwhere Dead Ben meets "ragged me", Benny, and travels with him to his childhood home in Oregon, to the far past and to the future, learning that the Neverwhere is made of memories and that it can be manipulated through them. We also discover that we first met Dead Ben trying to communicate during the Chronothon.
Some of my favorite characters from earlier books play important roles in this one. I love Tucket, who we last saw helping Ben at the Academy of Temporal Sciences during the Chronothon. He plays a jester role and shows up early in the story having remembered Ben's off-the-cuff invitation to come visit him when he graduated from the academy. Tucket's in love with the late 20th/early 21st century, and boy does it show. One of his first bits of dialogue is "Do you have a landline? I read about landlines. I really love rotary phones." Cowboy Bob, Dr. Quickly, Mum of course, and a variety of other characters including another version of Ben
We also meet some new characters, and they aren't all human. Captain Mira Jumptree is a starship pilot who is a synthetic human who isn't exactly fond of humans, until Tucket convinces her otherwise. I also loved the Henry Drexel the elevator mechanic. Not the space elevator, although that's pretty cool, but the Tempus Mobilus elevator. We only meet him for a short time but his explanation of the Neverwhere and the role of memories cleared up a lot of unexplained questions for me.
And then there's Zurvan and his cult followers, the Eternals. Quick lecture: Zurvanism was a Zoroastrian heresy which had a deity called Zurvan, the god of infinite time and space. Our Zurvan isn't a deity but a mysterious figure leading a cult of "Eternals". And remember Jonah (the boy with the dog and the snail helmet)? We meet him again, his father (watch him, he isn't what he seems), and his brother "Jay". Dead Ben sees Jay being sacrificed by Zurvan, who uses Jay's death to communicate with his followers, saying: "The Lost Star returns as I have promised your prophets. You will bring it to me and I will grant your reward—spare you from the fate that consumes humanity. Those who would be saved should heed my words. Bring the Lost Star to the eternal fires of Yanar Dag. Restore me to my body and assure your eternal salvation.” The identity of the "Lost Star" was a big surprise.
Some of the reviews express unhappiness with the Zurvan/Eternals part of the story, and I admit I found it hard to grasp at first. My advice is just to be a careful reader and don't ignore anything because you don't understand it. It does come together, although it does take time and I was as lost as Dead Ben for a while. And to be honest, I hope in any sequels or related books Nathan avoids any more long excursions into the Neverwhere. I really enjoy the time and space travel bits, the Neverwhere and the role of memories, not so much.
The story is drive by several story lines. Besides of course saving the world, a major part of the story is the attempt by Dead Ben to communicate with live Ben (something live Ben sometimes fights against) and to somehow escape the Neverwhere. Then there's the struggle against Zurvan and his followers. A driving force throughout the book is Ben's love for Mym. As Dead Ben says at the beginning of the story, "I came here for one reasons, I came for her."
Disclaimer - I was given a copy of the audiobook to review. I then bought the Kindle copy to help me with this review.