"I couldn’t wait to delve into the world Sherry and Tyler created. And what a world it is! The world building in the book is incredible, so imaginative. Of course, knowing the authors, I expected no less. But I still wasn’t prepared for how involved it was. I felt like I was transported to different worlds with Lex and Ember." - Goodreads, Michelle
Release Date: September 8th, 2016
Two opposing factions of time travelers vie for control of the future in this thrilling steampunk series opener dubbed “Interesting” and “Unexpected” by Kirkus Reviews.
Lex and Ember—two time travelers with no memories of their lives before being recruited into the time war—are torn between the factions. When Lex accepts a mission that lands him deep within the heart of the Telsa Institute, he meets Ember, and the past that was stolen from them comes flooding back. Now armed with the truth of who they were, Lex and Ember must work together to save the future before the battle for time destroys them once again.
Ember’s Guide to Time Travel
Don’t be alarmed. If you’ve picked up this book by mistake, by all means, put it down and walk away now. While you still can.
I’m Ember and I’ll be walking (okay, more like kidnapping you in a van and screaming at you as we speed out of control down the street) through the ins and outs of being a time traveler. Try not to panic. Breathe deep and accept that if you are reading this, you are most likely one of us and thus, you are screwed. Because for all the glamour, we are really nothing more than glorified slaves.
But more on that later.
The title time traveler sounds so Jules Verne doesn’t it? And trust me on this, that guy was seriously bent. Had the misfortune of meeting him once and fhew! He gave new meaning to the phrase one egg short of a dozen, you know? But I digress. We are Rifters—which is basically just a fancy term for time travelers. There’s some shiny nugget of awesome in our DNA that lets us not only separate ourselves from time, but Rift it like surfing a massive wave. That, in and of itself is pretty cool. Here’s where things get dicey. There are rules to Rifting. I know, lame, right? Most of us have to study for years before we have all the info hammered into our fragile little brains but you—you my lucky friend—are getting the cliff notes version. So keep up. Because there WILL be a test later. (That part is not a joke and you DO NOT want to fail.)
The Tesla Institute is my home turf. Basically way back in the day Nick Tesla (see: Mad Scientist) stumbled across the time stream during an experiment with electricity and radio waves. I’m glossing over the boring details here (and trust me, they are SO boring) to get to the important stuff. He couldn’t actually cross into the stream. But one of his assistants could. She was the first Rifter. Frustrated, he set about discovering why she had the ability that she did. Turns out, it’s part of a genetic condition specific to a family tree. Here’s the problem with that. If you go back far enough in any family tree, most people share common ancestors. So it’s sort of a crap shoot whether one person from the tree will develop abilities or not. Some of us are stronger than others, strong enough to navigate and access the stream on our own.
Once he realized what he stumbled across, Tesla devoted his life to tracking down the most powerful Rifters he could find and bring them together. At the Institute we learn not just how to control our abilities, but lots of other super useful stuff as well. Like combat skills, history, and physics. It’s like a school. Only the headmaster is the disembodied head of a mad genius whose brain is jacked into a massive computer and if you fail the final exams here, you die.
The first class of Rifters Tesla gathered had a couple kids who went all dark side and split off. We call them…
The Hollows. They pretty much the bottom feeders of the Rifting universe. They scavenge whatever Rifters they can find no matter how weak and use them as cannon fodder in their personal war against Tesla. Oh, and remember those rules I mentioned before? Yeah, these guys could give a flying crap about the rules. Actually, I kind of like that about them. Except I know what breaking the time rules can do, and it ain’t pretty folks. Some limits, even I don’t push. But the heathens have zero respect. Or maybe they are just idiots. (Okay, I might be a TINY bit biased)
I mentioned this before. Time is a living thing, flexible in some ways, but things can get very dicey if you tick it off. I’ll start with the hard and fast rules, the ones you NEVER challenge.
1) NEVER Rift into your own path. Because people are only supposed to be able to be in one place at a time, coming into physical contact with yourself could literally destroy the stream. Best case scenario the stream splits like a fork in a river and an alternate time line is created or worst case scenario the universe implodes. No one is entirely sure which, but Tesla has run the calculations on it and he believes it would cause a paradox that would cause time to sort of rip itself part. In other words, BAD THINGS.
2) NEVER change your own history. If you go back and prevent yourself from ever being born, then guess what? You were never born, but the version of yourself that went back to make the change still exists. Boom! Paradox. Yep. Why, you ask? Because once you step through the stream for the first time, you are changed. You become a creature of time, separate and apart from it. The slavery I mentioned earlier? You probably thought I meant the Factions. Nope. We may think we control time, but the truth is vastly opposite.
On to the softer rules. These are really more guidelines:
3) Don’t jump into the future. Yes, it can be done, but it’s risky because you never know where or when your future self might be, thus the best way to avoid Rule #1 is to stick to what’s predictable. The Past. Tesla had a couple of his early Rifters jump into the future to gather the tech to build the Institute and let’s just say, there was a VERY close call.
4) Don’t alter history if you can possibly avoid it. This is the one rule The Hollows break regularly. Tesla, being the supercomputer he is, can predict the way changes in the time stream will alter history. He knows whether me stopping to buy that candy bar will somehow change the life of some random person I’ve never met. It’s heavy stuff. It’s also how we track the Hollows. Every change they make leaves a ripple in the stream that he can trace. Some ripples are small. Some are big enough to drown the dinosaurs. We try to stop them, but we only get one chance because…
5) Never Rift to the same time/place more than once. Again, this is to prevent the breaking of rule numero uno. Let’s say I rift back to stop the Hollows from sinking a boat. I fail. I can’t go back and try again because I’m already there, trying the first time. See? Miserable. But there you have it.
Not too many rules, but all very important. I mean, sure, there are other suggestions. Like, don’t rift on a full stomach (because you will barf) or don’t expose your abilities to the normals (it makes them think they are nuts-o). But that’s all common sense stuff.
Rifting has some side effects you should probably be aware of. Nothing fun like hairy tongue or permanent scales, but some are just as awesome.
1) Memory loss. It’s permanent—or so we are taught. Something about the first trip through the time stream throws sort of a mental veil over your memories. It isn’t a bad thing though. Tesla doesn’t snatch people from happy, normal homes. He chooses us because something terrible has happened to us, or we are going to die. His rules. So not remembering it is kind of a blessing really. Of course, some of us have so much damage it leaks out under the door a bit sometimes. But we are taught that to be effective Rifters, we have to have no ties to anyone or anything but our mission. If we don’t like the terms, Tesla can always send us back to our fate. Personally, I choose life, thank you very much. And I’m not going to whine about how I got it.
2) Pain. The first trip through the time stream sort of feels like being rolled on a bed of hot needles. Maybe it’s the trauma that drives our memories away. Whatever. Bite your lip and suck it up. It doesn’t last long and the more you Rift, the less it hurts. Or maybe you just get used to it.
3) Getting Lost. Sometimes, you can get so turned around the the stream will just carry you away. It happens. That’s why we train for so long to prepare. We Rift a couple times with a partner to get used to the pull, then we take our final test. If you fail, you either get dumped wherever the time stream spits you out after chewing you up and you live out your days there, or your heart explodes and you die. If you pass, congrats. You’re one of us.
4) Accidental Rifting. It’s really rare, but it happens. Some of us, when we get scared or angry, can tap into the stream without meaning too. Most of the time when that happens, it’s to kids who have no idea who or what they are and they meet a messy end. Sometimes, if they survive, Tesla or The Hollows will track them down and bring them in. I suppose The Hollows uses them but Tesla just patches them up and sends them home after a good memory wipe. He’s never kept one of the strays, as we call them.
Don’t go yet. We are almost done. Just a few more high points to hit. I’m going to call it the bonus section. And it will be on the test.
1) Tesla Tech.
All the goodies we use during missions. Sure we have some cool weapons, but more important is the life saving stuff.
A. Tether- A device that helps us find our way back to the exact place and time we left from. After losing a couple Rifters who couldn’t find their way home, Tesla made us a leash. It also allows us to set the time and date we are traveling to. It helps us navigate the stream.
B. Earwig- Tesla, ever the micro-manager, developed a small transmitter we wear in our ear so he can keep in contact with us during a mission. We can get directions, he can warn us about potential ripples, pretty much everything but ordering pizza.
C. Bable Stone- A ring that allows the wearer the ability to speak and understand any language. A definite bonus when doing a mission in twelfth century China.
2) Hollows Tech
Ha! Like they have any tech. No, that’s not entirely true. They have weapons too, though mostly standard stuff like knives and swords. What can I say? They dig the pointy. But there is one thing you should be aware of.
A. Contra- a pill that enhances their natural Rifting abilities. We have no idea what’s in it or where it came from, probably the tears of babies knowing that bunch. But it allows even the weakest Rifters to navigate the stream. Unfortunately for them, it’s also a little radioactive. So prolonged use causes all kinds of grossness and, as a bonus for us, it’s pretty easy to track (though it dissipates quickly).
I suppose that’s it. The nitty gritty, as it were. So um, good luck with all that. I hope you don’t die, I really do. We could use a few more players for our weekly poker game.
Tyler H. Jolley is a sci-fi/fantasy author and full-time orthodontist, periodontist (see: Overachiever). He divides his spare time between writing, reading, mountain biking, and camping with his family.
Sherry D. Ficklin is a full time writer from Colorado where she lives with her husband, four kids, two dogs, and a fluctuating number of chickens and house guests. A former military brat, she loves to travel and meet new people. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with a large white hot chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the other. That is, unless she’s on deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness monster, is only seen in blurry photographs.