Dorso Clayman is getting annoyed. Who wants to open a locker door and find a cadaver? Especially one partially cut open, with stink rolling out in a green cloud. Or 72 dead lab rats packed in tightly, or four cubic feet of dead, rotten earthworms. Who's playing these pranks, and why? The future world depicted by Gary Paulsen in The Time Hackers is one in which time projections are a reality. Students are used to seeing and using holographic images in their studies. Dorso knows, for example, that Cleopatra wasn't especially pretty, Shakespeare had bad teeth and the bad habit of picking them with his pen, and John Wilkes Booth looked like a drugged ferret. But these were only images brought forward in time; everyone accepts the paradox that one cannot go back in time or affect time. You could not go back in time and kill your ancestor, for example, because that would mean you wouldn't exist to be able to go back in time to kill your ancestor. So, where do these ghastly critters come from? And how is it that the holographic image of Custer appears in the hallway next to Dorso and turns to look at him? It turns out that extreme gamesters have discovered how to cheat the time paradox and tap into the time line, and things from the past have begun appearing in the present.

When Dorso and his friend Frank realize the seriousness of these events and the potential for the destruction of the world, they go into action to stop the gamesters. As they are transported across time, Dorso sees Beethoven and is nearly punched by him, a wooly mammoth grabs Frank and throws him on the lawn at the library, and pirates abscond with the boys. During their travels, they notice a guy with a laptop who seems to be the source of their time travails. The chase is on, and Paulsen's brief, fast-paced, plot-driven escapade will be a thrill to reluctant readers and to young science fiction fans. A sure-hit for those with time on their hands.

Dean Schneider is a middle school English teacher.

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