Just One Damned Thing After Another


Jodi Taylor


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

November 17, 2019

he title of this novel is obviously taken from the famous quote: “History is just one damned thing after another.” Just One Damned Thing After Another is the first book in a long series of light-hearted time traveling novels - the Chronicles of St. Mary's. St. Mary's is a secret British institution that trains operatives to go back in time and learn about past events. The heroine, Dr. Maxwell, has just joined St. Mary's. Max goes through training, and then she is ready for her first time mission. The mortality rate of St. Mary's operatives is quite high, because the most interesting places for a historian to visit are often quite dangerous. Battle of the Somme, anyone? See the dinosaurs of the Cretaceous Period? Who doesn't love dinosaurs/

While galivanting up and down the timeline, it becomes apparent that more than bad luck is plaguing the St. Mary's time operatives. There appears to be sinister forces who are also traveling the timeline, and they work to actively thwart the plans of St. Mary's. There is treachery and narrow escapes. The body count climbs unexpectedly.

The time pods allow the historians to travel back in time, but for some reason (if this is explained, I missed it), the people of St. Mary's don't go into the future. It might be awfully convenient to know next year's stock prices, given that St. Mary's is perpetually underfunded. The time pods also allow the historians to travel anywhere on the surface of the Earth. Want to land in ancient Egypt near the Library of Alexandria? No problem! The earth moves fast distances through space as it moves through time, so the pods must be traveling enormous distances as well as vast years as they move. There isn't the slightest attempt to explain how these pods are possible, you just have to accept that time travel is possible and enjoy the rest of the book.

Despite the body count, and the appearance of the rival, villainous time travelers, the feel of the story is one of breezy humor and a joking manner. The story is told in first person by Max, and she offers remarks and commentary. I didn't laugh at the amusing asides (though some of the clever lines made me smile), but other reviewers comment on how funny this series is (this book has over 3000 reviews on the Amazon site, so it is popular), so perhaps you will find it humorous too. It is a quick read, and clearly there is more story ahead - at this moment, I think the series includes ten more novels. There are quite a few plot points unresolved by the end, plus a few obvious hints that not everyone at St. Mary's is who they pretend to be.

Time traveling novels are hard to write. There are paradoxes that must resolved - if you change history, will you even exist? Still, there have been many successful time travel novels - Tim Power's oft overlooked but marvelous The Anubis Gates, the wonderful The Time Traveler's Wife, and Connie Willis' masterpiece The Doomsday Book, and of course H.G. Wells original The Time Machine. I am sure I am forgetting some classic time travel novels. I can't put Just One Damned Thing After Another into that elite company, but it still is entertaining. I might check out the next book in the series, they are easy reads. One problem I always have with time travel stories is wondering why, when something goes wrong (such as a comrade dying), why not get back into your time machine and arrive again slightly earlier (or later) and change the outcome of that nasty event? A lot of stories just skip this aspect of time travel. If I had a time machine, I would go back to the time of Christ and watch the resurrection - who wouldn't make that their first destination? I understand why authors skip this controversial topic - half of their readers will be upset no matter how the resurrection is depicted, but that's my first choice for a time travel journey.