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The Magic Bicycle
William Hill
Otter Creek Press, 322 pages

The Magic Bicycle
William Hill
William Hill's other novels include Dawn of the Vampire and The Vampire's Kiss, both published by Pinnacle, Windsor Publishing.

ISFDB Bibliography
Otter Creek Press

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Todd Richmond

The Magic Bicycle may not be an instant classic, but it is a bit deeper and more thought-provoking than many of the young adult titles being published today. It follows the story of a young boy and his search for answers. Danny Chase is a military brat, living alone with his father after his mother and sister have died in a tragic car accident. Forced to move from place to place and stuck with his cold and unfeeling father who is still grieving, Danny is very much alone. He has trouble making friends and spends much of his time reading in a corner by himself. He's picked on by bullies at school and his father refuses to help, telling him that it is time for him to stand up for himself and be a man.

During a run-in with some of these bullies, Danny encounters Kalyde. Kalyde is an alien attempting to escape from the military at the base where Danny's father works. With help from Danny, Kalyde escapes and in return he gives Danny a gift: a bicycle. It's no ordinary bicycle, though; this bicycle is limited only by Danny's imagination. He can change its shape, its color, ride incredibly fast and travel to any place on earth. Later he inadvertently discovers that he can travel through time as well. Therein lies the main focus of the story. For with the ability to travel through time, Danny realizes that he can go back and prevent the accident that killed his mother and sister.

Danny immediately tries to change the past but fails to stop the accident from happening. He then begins to wonder if, in fact, it is the right thing to do. So before trying again, he decides to do a little research. With the help of his cat Murg, whom he discovers he can speak to when they are on the bike, he chooses to visit four famous people to talk to them about time travel and changing the past. He visits Socrates first, followed by Benjamin Franklin, H.G. Wells and Albert Einstein.

There are many complex elements to this story. Given a wonderful gift which allows him to visit his old friends, Danny discovers that they have grown apart, and aren't the same people he remembers. Worst of all, although he can prevent the deaths of his mother and sister, he's not sure that it's the right thing to do.

The whole idea of going back in time to change the past is one that many authors have written about; The Magic Bicycle just makes it more personal by having Danny decide whether or not he should save his loved ones. Not change all of history, just the small part that affects him. William Hill tells us what he thinks philosophers, scientists, writers and inventors would have said, through their conversations with Danny. These are well done and seem perfectly appropriate to the men in question. The resolution of the book ties together most of the issues raised in the story, and of course, let's you know that Danny will be just fine with the decisions he's made.

I found myself of two minds about this book. On the one hand, I admired the complex issues that the author is trying to deal with. At many levels, I'm sure most young readers could relate to much of what Danny is going through: moving, schools, loneliness, bullies, growing up, death. But on the other hand, I found the writing style to be a bit simplistic, in contrast to the sophisticated content. While the ideas and the philosophies are appropriate to a young adult or older reader, the writing seems more appropriate for the 9 to 12 year-old range. It's hard to judge, but older readers may be put off by the writing while younger readers may find some of the issues a bit difficult to comprehend.

All in all, though, The Magic Bicycle does a good job of dealing with the problems of time travel and changing the past, as well as some of the problems of modern fragmented families.

Copyright © 1998 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.

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