Bookworms: Missing Time (313: Volume 1) (2013) by J. David Clarke
“Bobby is gifted! You should see what he can do.” – Rogue
On a normal day a group of normal kids board a normal school bus. Hours later the bus appears on a bridge, careening out of control before crashing through the barrier and into the water. Some of the kids emerge dead. Some of the kids emerge…different. All of them want to know: what happened in the missing time between school and the bridge?
Missing Time by J. David Clarke is a fast moving, fascinating, and fastidious super hero novel. Inspired by comic books, and the worlds of superheroes, Missing Time takes the concept of ordinary people being changed into extraordinary individuals one step further. How would the government react? How would the individuals react? One moment you are on a bus headed home, the next you have the ability to do things you don’t understand, and worse, you don’t know how any of it is possible. Would you revel in your power? Hide from it? Use it liberally? Fear it? Would you lose your friends, your family, your life? And what would you do when you discovered you were being hunted for no other reason that you were special through no action of your own?
Clarke takes eight teenagers, a bus driver, and a guy named Max, and weaves a tale of terror, thrills, and intrigue around a mysterious accident. Missing Time is a book you want to read carefully. The perspective, and temporal location, is constantly shifting. The advantage is that as you read, you encounter the story from all viewpoints. The disadvantage is the disorientation this causes. Are you in the past, the present, the future? Who are you right now? Clarke maddeningly paints the entire picture by leaving out all the details. At the same time, he focuses entirely on one section of the painting while refusing to tell you why it matters. Blink or let your attention wander and you’ll miss something. I had to re-read the beginning of the book because I thought it was more simple than it first appeared. Suddenly I realized that amongst constant pop culture references, quippy dialogue, and vivid descriptions, J. David Clarke was weaving a complex story around a few engaging characters and that nothing was quite what it seemed.
Disconnected from any established super hero universe, yet clearly borrowing from their rich history, Missing Time is the first part in a three part series that promises to present super heroes in a way fans haven’t quite seen them before. After reading the first volume, I can’t wait for the second…or the third. One thing is clear, I have no idea where this story is heading, but I am pretty sure that if I did, it wouldn’t actually be there. I think J. David Clarke is headed for a destination that will surprise and delight even the most jaded of super hero fans.
And now, a few words from the author! I had a chance to conduct a mini-interview with J. David Clarke over email. Enjoy! [Author’s note: sections in quotation marks are Clarke’s actual words. Everything else is set dressing.]
Redbeard: Dude! Awesome book!
JDC: Um, thanks. Did you have questions, or can I get back to writing?
Redbeard: Oh. Right. Questions. Uhhh….where do you get your ideas?
Redbeard: Haha. Just kidding. I bet everyone asks you that.
JDC: *looks awkward*
Redbeard: *clears throat* I did notice a lot of comic book-ish things going on in Missing Time. What’s with that? Do you love comics or just cashing in on Avengers?
JDC: “I’m a lifelong fan of comics. The superhero genre is a rich vein yet to be fully explored by novelists. The very first initial concept for the story that came to me was that of high school kids who were in a school bus crash, and since the crash discover they have powers, with no idea how it happened. So right from the beginning the element of super powers was involved, and I think that springs directly from superhero comics.”
Redbeard: What a total nerd! I mean, cool. The powers seemed to be connected to characters in more than a “hey, that’s cool!” sort of way. Can you tell me about that?
JDC: “There is a higher purpose to the powers of the various characters. All are connected to their own psyches, some from their fears, some from their hopes and dreams, but all derive from their own personalities and connect with who they are on a visceral level. As we move into the 2nd volume you will find they are growing more powerful and gaining new aspects to their powers, and these changes happened organically for me as I was conceptualizing the 2nd volume.”
Redbeard: What’s with Max? He didn’t seem to quite fit.
JDC: I’m sorry I couldn’t hear the question. Next?
Redbeard: Do you identify with any particular character?
JDC: “If I had to pick one who I feel most represents [me] it has to be Brandon. Brandon is the comic/sci-fi geek of the group, and his reactions and references directly reflect my own reading and viewing habits. Brandon is also the most gleeful in the discovery of his powers, which reflects how I ( and most comic fans I think) would react.”
Redbeard: Stop being lazy and write Volume 2!!
JDC: That didn’t sound like a question. But…”I’m feverishly working on it and am in the process of writing Chapter 6 as we speak. Even though the mystery of what happened on the bus is resolved in Vol. 1, not everything has been revealed. In Vol. 2, TIME SPENT, dangerous new super powered people are on the loose, and as the characters are dealing with that, their own internal problems seem to be getting the better of them.”
Redbeard: I totally can’t wait!
JDC: Uh, are we done here?
Redbeard: Why aren’t you writing?
Seriously, my huge thanks to J. David Clarke for his patience with answering my questions and for my own copy of Missing Time. Mr. Clarke sent me a free copy of his book, and in return I wrote a review that is entirely my own opinion and I even poked a little fun at him during my re-created interview just to re-inforce that my opinions cannot be bought.