Literature: Time Riders

“Time travel is a terrifying weapon, far more powerful than anything ever before conceived. Mankind just isn't ready for that kind of knowledge. We're like children casually playing with an atom bomb.”
Foster, Time Riders
Mess around with time and the world you know... could become a world you don't.

Time Riders is a series of nine Young Adult science-fiction novels by Alex Scarrow. Three teenagers find themselves saved moments before death by a mysterious agency, who recruit them to travel through time to correct errors in history caused by tampering time travelers from the future. Eventually, the trio discovers that the agency has far more secrets hidden away than they had originally thought.

The books in the series are:
  • TimeRiders (February 2010)
  • TimeRiders: Day of the Predator (August 2010)
  • TimeRiders: The Doomsday Code (February 2011)
  • TimeRiders: The Eternal War (July 2011)
  • TimeRiders: Gates of Rome (February 2012)
  • TimeRiders: City of Shadows (August 2012)
  • TimeRiders: The Pirate Kings (February 2013)
  • TimeRiders: The Mayan Prophecy (August 2013)
  • TimeRiders: The Infinity Cage (November 2014)

The book series contains examples of:

  • Age-Appropriate Angst: Maddy, Sal and Liam are all just teenagers, a valid reason for all of them being driven to tears at least once over the course of the series. Dealing with figuring out the Agency's secrets proves to be even worse for them than the much older Foster, who is already angsty enough as things are.
  • Alternate Self: Foster looks to be one for Liam, until City of Shadows when the team finds out that they are all support units and Liam and Foster are separate Liam units.
  • Archived Army: The team are joined by the likes of Abraham Lincoln and the apparent Robin Hood. However, they can't stay permanently.
  • Artificial Human: The support units - robots created in the future that are almost exactly like humans. They are grown from cloned tissue, deliberately given the appropriate genetic makeup for up to 700% human strength, superior speed and reflexes ... and a brain the size of a walnut. They also have an incredibly powerful supercomputer hooked up to it. Aside from being seven feet tall and laden with more muscles than is strictly fair, they go from completely bald (after 'birth') to having fairly ordinary dark hair and grey eyes. They are flesh-and-bone rather than metal simply because it is better at learning and better at repairing itself on the field (flesh heals better than steel, at any rate). There are only two problems; they can't easily gauge emotional inflections like sarcasm, and they find it confusing and problematic to make a decision.
    • The first we meet, a male, is frequently described as 'an ox of a man', and before being named Bob; Maddy wanted to name him after Arnold Schwarzenegger for a reason.
    • The second, a female called Becks, is much more slender, but muscled like a gymnast. In fact, aside from her robotic coldness, quiet demeanour, and artificial speech pattern, you be forgiven for thinking that Becks was (an unnaturally beautiful, which she capitalizes on at more than one point) human woman.
    • In City of Shadows, Liam, Maddy and Sal later discover that they are more advanced support units, capable of feeling emotions but far less physically strong.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Frequently used, particularly in Day of the Predator, which takes a survival horror edge with the enemy being a pack of highly intelligent predatory dinosaurs. Justified, in that Becks is a robot and doesn't really have blind spots, so not having to worry about her back allows her better computation for what's in front of her. Also, in the finale of the book, she covers the backs Liam and the remaining castaways so they can reach the time portal in more of a 'Save yourself, I'll hold them back' gesture - Becks is not only physically tougher and faster than the children, but she also believes herself expendable.
  • Bad Future: It's constantly referenced that in the 2070s mankind is all but wiped out by the Kosong-Ni virus. Rashim is even close to witnessing it first hand.
  • Butterfly of Doom: The series is centred around stopping people from a seemingly hopeless future from changing the past. Only the odd book has no massive effect on the future due to something being changed in the past as its main plot.
    • In TimeRiders, Kramer tries to lead Hitler to victory and grab some glory for himself too. Kramer eventually goes insane and starts a nuclear war, leaving nothing but savage mutants on the planet.
    • In Day of the Predator, an assassin (later proven to be a Hitman with a Heart when he doesn't kill Chan) is sent to kill young Edward Chan, one of the biggest contributors to the invention of time travel. Thankfully, we see very little of the Bad Future that would occur.
    • In Doomsday Code, Liam finds himself in the middle of a History-changing battle. Time is in a state of flux until the battle is over.
    • In Eternal War, the Eternal War in question is the result of Abraham Lincoln not being around to win the American civil war.
    • In Gates of Rome, the Project Exodus team tries to overthrow the Roman Empire. Instead, everyone but Rashim is killed and Emperor Caligula uses the support units the team had as his personal bodyguards, leaving him to rule for far too long.
    • In City of Shadows, the team run into Jack the Ripper and figure out that they have to let him get away with his murders; he is actually an aristocrat, and the discovery of that would leave London in ruins.
  • Can't Take Anything With You: Originally, the team had to be underwater while time travelling to avoid taking a chunk of the concrete floor with them to the past, as well as... in their underwear. Rashim's method seems to avoid that, but they still can't bring anything modern.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The seemingly insignificant teddy bear Sal remembers in Day of the Predator is later revealed to suspiciously be in the costume shop near the team's archway. Later, this is one of the key plot details when the team realise that they're support units.
  • Delayed Ripple Effect: A common occurrence in the series. First a few small changes ripple through, then larger ones follow. The farther back the change happens, the longer the ripple will take to arrive.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans:
    • Time Riders has a man intentionally travel back to 1941 a) to give Hitler a ton of future tech, b) to convince Hitler not to invade Russia and c) to take over Nazi Germany himself. In the end, Germany steamrolled most of Europe and a good deal of the USA in twelve years, with Russia and China next on the schedule. Hovercrafts and pulse rifles tend to give you an advantage.
    • This also happens in Gates of Rome. Project Exodus, launched from the 2070s, involved aiding the Roman Empire in changing history for the better with guidance from the future, firepower, hover boards and the most advanced support units ever created. Unfortunately, that backfired when the Romans decided to ditch the help and just keep the tech.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: The series features the support units Bob and Becks, especially with Becks. While Liam is the leader of all field missions, it is invariably the support units who bail him out of trouble. They are both stronger than regular men, faster, and are able to process an obscene amount of tactical data in a second. Becks especially qualifies, as she doesn't have the sheer size or strength of Bob, but is no less ruthless and often seen as cruel or monstrous in her ability to dance all over the enemy, exploiting tropes like the Honey Trap. But both swear undying loyalty to Liam, and to start with are near-incapable of independent decisions - they don't just accept being the sidekick, they require it.
  • Naked on Arrival: Averted. Prior to Gates of Rome, the team would have to time travel in their underwear then change into their clothes (carried in a waterproof bag they would later bury) when they got there. Rashim's displacement method avoids this completely.
  • Ripple Effect Indicator: The three teenage main characters police the timeline, living through the same two days (10/09/01 through 11/09/01) in a loop. One of them, Sal, is responsible for walking around the city of New York during the days before and of 9/11 attacks, checking everything for changes caused by the Ripple Effect. Due to them living in a time bubble, they all have Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Kramer, who attempted to avert the horrific wars and environmental damage caused in the latter days of the 21st century, through the use of time travel to create an empire using the forces of Nazi Germany.