Johnny and the Bomb (by Terry Pratchett)

I've been a fan of Terry Pratchett's books for many years now. I love the Bromeliad trilogy: "Truckers", "Diggers", "Wings", and also his lengthy Discworld series including the ones intended for children. But for some reason I have never got around to reading any of the Johnny Maxwell trilogy. I knew they were intended for older children (or younger teenagers), like the Bromeliad series, and set in the real world - or roughly so.

But it was only recently that I saw 'Johnny and the Bomb', third in the series, in a charity shop, and decided to buy it.

It's a strange kind of book, exploring Pratchett's oft-mentioned theories about the 'trousers of time', with each event triggering possible new worlds. A staggering thought in itself, let alone when confused by time travel that can change events in history.

Johnny and his friends find the strange supermarket trolley owned by the even stranger Mrs Tachyon. And travel back to 1941, shortly before an air raid is due to destroy a street and several people in their town of Blackbury. Johnny happens to know a great deal about this, as he recently did some research for a history project on this topic. He has even read the local paper reporting the event.

Johnny's friends are a strange bunch: Kirsty, a very intelligent and rather stroppy girl who changes her name every so often; Yo-less, a quick-thinking young man of African origin, who never says 'yo', and is used to people getting the wrong idea about him; Wobbler, a large young man who likes to eat a lot and doesn't think fast; and BigMac, who also likes to eat a lot, and frequently finds himself in trouble with the police, whether or not he's done anything wrong.

These unlikely friends all travel to 1941; unfortunately they get separated, and something Wobbler does will have enormous repercussions on his future... unless, of course, they can manage to make yet more changes in what has happened.

Fast-moving, confusing, mildly amusing, mind-boggling... altogether this is entertaining, though not recommended to people who like novels to be realistic.

I didn't enjoy it as much as Pratchett's other books, but it was still a good light read; I shall have to look out for second-hand editions of the other two 'Johnny' books.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 6th October 2008

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