Score: 92/100 (9.2 out of 10)
The Nazis were the least of their problems... a powerful, technologically-advanced race of aliens threatens to change the future of humanity 400+ years in the future! This is the general premise of The Time Agents: Search for the Leon Key by Sam Libraty!
They don't make them like they used to. This book hearkens back to a time when fiction was fun, wild, exciting and maybe more than a little goofy, silly, and cheesy: the foregone age of pulp fiction. No, not the movie Pulp Fiction, the genre of action-packed, often-bizarre sci-fi/fantasy stories that ran in magazines into the 1950s, likely helping to give rise to shows like Doctor Who and The Twilight Zone.
The Time Agents: Search for the Leon Key by Sam Libraty really reminds us of that exciting, wild age of storytelling, the kind of storytelling that wasn't afraid to go a bit crazy and not have to make much logical sense. In summary, our feelings about this book were largely positive and joyful. We loved reading this book!
It was a really refreshing read, especially considering the serious and often depressing fiction we read. This book is just fun and entertaining, plain and simple. Turn your mind off, get some popcorn, and enjoy it! It's not supposed to be taken too seriously. It's not meant to make some bold, society-altering, ideological, philosophical point. It's just meant to be, and that's probably what we appreciate the most about it considering the weight, pomp, and circumstance of the last two fiction novels we've read.
There are two main reasons to tell and write stories: 1. to educate and inform, 2. to entertain. This really accomplishes the latter.
You don't seriously watch a James Bond or an Indiana Jones movie expecting to learn about the history of communism, socialism, and Nazism. Yes, they might show up in one form or another (as they do in this book), but the focus remains on the action and adventure of those movies. It's the same with this book. Despite beginning under rather serious circumstances in the early days of World War II, and despite the initial conflict featuring Nazi Germans, the book manages to take you away into a conflict that is far more fun than it is serious.
You're soon faced with a plot straight out of a Godzilla film or a classic episode of Doctor Who, Twilight Zone, or Mystery Science Theater 3000: these James Bond/Doctor Who-esque agents led by Jon go from trying to secure a McGuffin (before Nazis can get to it) to fighting alien space Nazis led by an overlord named Moogur.
Moogur is such a fun villain. Yes, he's probably not the nicest person, he's not even a halfway decent person, but he's also a goofball, and we kinda felt bad for him. We felt the same way about Moogur that we did for Zod in Man of Steel or Boris in Men in Black III, he's not necessarily a pure-evil alien psychopath trying to kill everyone just for the sake of doing so, he actually has some understandable motivations. For one, he's love starved. Yes, his followers worship him out of fear, but no one sincerely loves him. He longs for companionship. Furthermore, his world (like Zod's) appears to be dying. He needs to expand into other worlds to ensure the survival of his people, or at least he feels like he does. Next, he is constantly reminded by the protagonists that he's a bad person, that he's evil, that's he's a monster, and—like Boris in Men in Black III--he's an animal.
So, yes, yes, he does kill and torture people including our heroes. And, yes, he does try to force the main heroine to marry and sleep with him (though he's strangely understanding throughout that whole process). However, we can't help but wonder if he could've been redeemed or a better person had he just been raised better and/or existed under different circumstances. Yes, it sounds childish, but we do see some good in Moogur.
Even his name, Moogur, implies that he's supposed to be a pretty ridiculous and over-the-top character. His ambitions also seem a bit far-fetched considering that he overestimates his forces (which number only in the thousands) and severely underestimates humanity (which numbers in the billions). He almost reminds us of those two aliens, Kang and Kodos, from The Simpsons. They constantly talk about how they're going to conquer humanity, yet they constantly flop in their efforts, often to a humorous degree. Moogur is kinda that sort of villain—a Pinky and the Brain-kinda villain.
Another compelling character is the main heroine, Shoshanna—a quintuple agent (or something like that) who doubles as an insanely-hot human dancing girl. But don't let her insanely good looks fool you (like it does Jon), she is a powerful and capable fighter who can knock your block off. Think Xena Warrior Princess or Black Widow. She's definitely a nominee for “Hottest Character.”
If there's anything about this book that's a bit disappointing, it's actually the titular Time Agents themselves. Jon is clearly our main protagonist, but he's practically a blank slate for us to follow. He seems to have no qualms about fighting anyone who gets between him and his objective, even women. He's also easily seduced, something akin to James Bond. Weirdly, despite him being in a position that probably requires a great deal of physical rigor, he's actually more of a thinker than a fighter. He is constantly compared to someone like Shoshanna and said to be weaker or less capable than her (physically). He kinda reminds us of the Doctor from Doctor Who. The Doctor has never been a particularly powerful physical specimen. Yes, he can outrun some Daleks and push a Cybermen away, but he is very limited physically, usually just having the physicality of the average couch potato. Jon is that kind of character. No, he's not sedentary, but he's not a physically-gifted anomaly like a Navy Seal, MI6 agent, or even a pro athlete. He just is. He has many of the same limits that many of us untrained individuals have.
Joining him are his cohorts, many of whom didn't stand out enough to us to even recall their names. We remember Abu because he was the “Muslim guy” and Max because... wait, what did Max do again? Well, we think Max tried to convince Jon to stop being a sucker for Soshanna. Otherwise, these guys were really like those Indiana Jones sidekicks who you kinda wish would just go away and let Indi do his thing.
Anyway, check this out on Amazon!