[Review] Can HG Wells save New York from the terrible death ray?

[Review] Can HG Wells save New York from the terrible death ray?

The Wells Bequest
By Polly Shulman
Published by Oxford
ISBN 978 0192793119

Most people walk past the New York Circulating Materials Repository without giving the place a second glance. And it's just as well, because if everyone knew the function of this ordinary-looking building, it would lose its unique appeal.

The NYCMR is an institution that lends rare and special objects to its elite members. Would you like to borrow a real Van Gogh painting for a week? No problem, sir. Or what about, on a sinister note, the gun that shot President Abraham Lincoln in 1865? No problem with that, either. Thousands of famous - and infamous - objects from history have somehow made their way into the vaults of the repository.

So how do you become a member? That's a secret only a very select group of people know. After all, in the hands of the wrong person, an object from the NYCMR could be a dangerous thing.

Robots, rockets, submarines, shrink rays and a very famous time machine are all in its vaults.

New York teen, Leo Novikov, finds himself in the middle of an adventure that starts at the library-like building.

Science is a big thing in Leo's family. His dad is the chief technology officer at a powerful software company, his mum is a neuroscientist, his elder brother is a physics major and his sister wants to be an immuno-oncologist.

Leo likes the fun side of science - doing experiments like fixing a toilet so it plays a tune when it's flushed, or using mirrors and fibre optics to project views from his school's rooftop into the hall. But he knows that playing won't win him first prize at this year's science fair.

So when Leo's science teacher suggests that he visits the NYCMR for inspiration, he is intrigued. Leo gets a job as a helper in the Repository and gains access to the Wells Bequest, a special collection of fantastic objects from the science-fiction novels of H. G. Wells.

When another worker at the NYCMR gets his hands on a death ray, and threatens to destroy New York, Leo finds himself swept up in a race that takes him across the world and back through time.

Polly Shulman's book is a thrilling time-travel adventure that works because it never takes itself too seriously. Shulman is a clever writer, well able to handle the story.

This is a fun slice of fiction that will have readers turning the pages, to find out what happens next. Don't ask questions. Just get on board, and enjoy the ride.

John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com

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This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Can HG Wells save New York from the terrible death ray?

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