Just One Damned Thing After Another (Jodi Taylor)

Just One Damned Thing After Another is the first novel in the Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor.
Finished on: 17.10.2019

Madeleine Maxwell, called Max, is a historian who – at the suggestion of her teacher – applies to St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, an odd little institute with promising research. As usual in academia, the working conditions don’t exactly sound great. But it is only after Max actually gets the job that she realizes what it actually entails: actual time travel to observe events in real time.

A friend recommended this series to me as pulpy fun, but I have to admit that I couldn’t really get into it – I got hung up on the pulpy bits so much that I didn’t manage to get to the fun.

The book cover showing a burning antique city and a watchface that is not a circle but a spiral.

I think the most engaging fact about the book is how very British it is. There is not a second that the writing doesn’t seem to announce that it’s written by a British/English author set in England. If this had been an effect they consciously worked towards, it would have been annoying, but it just happens as a natural byproduct here, and its fascinating to watch how little “globality” (more often than not, this means Hollywoodness) is part of the novel

But Britishness alone isn’t really a selling point for a book, at least not for me. And I found that the rest of the book never felt as organic as its Britishness: it all was trying so very hard. Especially trying very hard to be funny and failing at it as a result. With Max, Taylor also went for quirky a little too much – Max is just shy of being actually annoying.

There were also some things that just didn’t work for me. The drama with Chief, for example (and by that I don’t mean that Max continues to call him Chief or Chief Farrell even after they started dating, although that weirded me the shit out) – it just came out of nowhere and really bothered me.

Another very real and kinda ironic problem was that I never knew how much time had passed at any given point. It’s disorienting at the best of times, in a time travel novel, it sucks. Plus, the entire “we need to do this quickly, we don’t have much time” thing just doesn’t work when you can literally travel through time. (The “history reasserting itself” trope is not bad in itself, but also slightly annoyed me here.)

In short, there was just too much here that I couldn’t ignore, but ignoring it would have been necessary to actually enjoy the book. And so, I’ll be leaving the rest of the series to other people.

Summarizing: meh.

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