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Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle Hardcover – April 19, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Sam Miracle has always been different. An orphan who lives in a group home, he often blanks out and finds himself in vivid dreams that seem almost real. Sam is also disabled; his arms were shattered in an accident he cannot remember, and though they are healed, they are immobile and painful at times. He soon discovers he is part of a small group of people who can walk through time and that he has lived the same life over and over—dashing around time trying to live long enough to stop an evil outlaw who wants to end the world. Now the time of the final conflict approaches, and with the help of another foster kid, a girl named Glory, and his companion through time, Father Tiempo, Sam sets out to meet his destiny. There's tons of action and adventure in this book, most of which is set in the old West, but though Wilson tries, he does not successfully manage all the time threads. Younger readers will most likely be confused by the constant, intricate time line shifting as well as the small details of Sam's past adventures, which are revealed too slowly. Other major hindrances are the problematic elements of stereotypical wise Native American elders and Sam's disabled arms being cured through magic. VERDICT Though some action scenes are satisfying, overall this time-twisting tale takes too long to sort itself out. Recommended only in libraries where the author's previous works are very popular.—Angie Manfredi, Los Alamos County Library System, NM
“An entertaining romp… that lays groundwork for future installments in the Outlaws of Time series.” (Publishers Weekly)
“A wide world of incredible magic.” (Booklist)
“On the charges of wild action, mind-bending fantasy, unforgettable characters, and enough fun plot twists to blow the ten-gallon from any reader’s head, the verdict on ND Wilson’s Outlaws of Time: crazy guilty.” (Peter Lerangis, New York Times bestselling author of the Seven Wonders series)
“A lightning fast adventure with one breathless action scene after another.” (J.A. White, author of the Thickety series)
“An exciting adventure with relentless action and more twists and turns than a sidewinder snake on the hunt.” (Michael Northrop, New York Times bestselling author of the Tombquest series)
Praise for the Ashtown Burials series:“A wild fantasy romp.” (Kirkus Reviews)
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Top Customer Reviews
Leepike Ridge combines Huck Finn with Treasure Island, beating with a Pacific Northwest heart; 100 Cupboards turns Kansas into a Platform 9 3/4 that leads to dozens of different worlds; Boys of Blur springs from the swamps of Florida with bones of football and Beowulf; Ashtown Burials places an entire order of Indiana Joneses on the shores of Lake Michigan; and now here's The Legend of Sam Miracle, a must-read mashup of Western, superhero, and time-hop.
I have to admit, time-travel stories irritate me as a rule. And I hate the desert. But Wilson won me over on both in this blistering adventure about gunslinging misfit preteen superhero Sam Miracle desperate to rescue his sister from the devil of an outlaw: El Buitre. The Vulture.
Sam is destined to kill El Buitre in a gunfight. Sam knows this. El Buitre knows this. Victory has already been written in the book of Sam’s life. But what can Sam do when El Buitre controls time itself? What can he do when El Buitre keeps rewinding the story to kill Sam first? What can he do when he escapes death—but El Buitre’s bullets shatter both his arms?
“Every hero needs to be part nightmare…”
Sam becomes Poncho: the legendary hero with two grafted rattlesnakes for arms and the fastest draw of all time. Only he stands a chance against El Buitre before El Buitre devours all the riches and cultures, cities and peoples of the world.
Sam’s ragtag team includes Father Tiempo, the priest who “walks the secret paths between times”; Manuelito, the tall Navajo with a taller hat and supernatural healing powers; a posse of rambunctious boyhood allies; but especially Glory, the spunky and fiercely loyal fan of the book who is determined to help Sam live his story one last time—live it right.
With their help, Sam just might have a shot at victory. But when it comes down to the choice of all choices—save his sister, or kill the Vulture—which will he choose? And will anyone he loves be alive by the time it’s all over?
This fantastically creative tall tale will have you flipping pages as fast as Sam’s rattlesnake hands. Wilson is an astounding phrase-turner (some of his words are worth a thousand pictures), but he’s also just a crazy inventor, crashing elements from all your favorite Westerns of every decade into one: dust storms, motorcycles, cowboys, Indians, saloons, scorching desert winds, cacti and cool moon nights and coyote howls. Not to mention an EPIC train wreck. You might even run into an Earp brother or two.
For those worried about violence in a kids’ book (as Wilson is famous for), I’ll say two things. One, Wilson does an incredible job executing the action while skimming over the gore. You’ll feel like you just witnessed a shootout for the ages yet without getting a bucket of blood flung in your face. Two, kids are tougher than you think, or at least they would be if the adults would quit freaking out and actually let them read more stories like this!
The issue isn’t violence per se; the issue is, what is it for? Wilson tells stories of tough times and tougher heroes. His worldview is jolly and robust, his tone filled with strength and honor, and the good guys always win. A spectacular gunfight (or two or three) should hardly disturb the 10-year-olds. Just the opposite. This is the kind of book that will produce more heroes like Sam, like Glory, like Tiempo. And those are exactly the heroes we need.
That’s the best thing about The Legend of Sam Miracle—it’s jet fuel for life. No matter your age, you’ll want to live better, faster, bolder. Like Glory, you’ll say: “I only get one life story. I don't want mine to be safe. I want it to be worth writing a book about.” But beware: There is only one way to change history. “By living,” as Father Tiempo says. “By dying.” So what will it be?
Hurry. Read. Help Sam Miracle finish the story the way it was meant to be written. The way it was meant to be lived. Help him defeat the greatest evil of his time.
And after you turn the last page, what will you do with your story?
How many times have I fallen in love with the Doctor from the new Doctor Who? More than I can count. Every single time Nine, Ten, or Eleven raged against the odds, ignored the plan and decided that “this time everyone lives” I was thrilled to be a Whovian. It is hard to resist a hero who “uses up” his lives to travel through space and time to stop the enemies that would destroy us all while knowing that he is laying out his life for others instead of himself. It is hard not to admire a hero who pushes back against the chaos and evil of a fallen world.
“The man who saved me more times than anyone will ever know just died because of me. Died for me.” (Outlaws of Time)
For several years of my life, Doctor Who filled an important place in my imagination and even a small place in my moral imagination. There was so much about Doctor Who that was courageous, noble, and heroic. So much to love. So many companions who were just normal folks doing extraordinary things and laying down their lives because of their faith in the Doctor and his love for what was right. There was much to feast on.
“I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace.” (Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners)
Over the seasons, however, the moral complexities and the wacky spiritual content grew and evolved into places I just wasn’t comfortable with. There are entire episodes which are prohibited in my home because of the spiritual darkness they bring with them. I have spent several years time trying to find heroes like the Doctor but without the modern morality that Doctor Who often foists upon us.
“What if I really do have to choose? What if I die saving Millie, and then the Vulture gets to do whatever he wants to millions of people? Is it wrong to want to save my sister more than all those people in Tombstone?” (Outlaws of Time)
ND Wilson’s writing isn’t “safe” in the contemporary Christian sense of the word. It is dark, dangerous, appropriately violent (never gratuitous) and surreal. But it is deeply moral. Spiritually sound. Passionately heroic. Incredibly creative. In fact, ND Wilson’s writing reminds me of the best parts of Doctor Who without compromising any of my values.
“Such rabid dogs must be ended, not toyed with. He could have killed two of us even after you fired. When he aims for hearts, do not aim for fingers… never take a life without need… Grieve when that need comes, but do not hesitate when defending the lives of others.” (Outlaws of Time)
After World War II, Americans tuned their television sets to watch cowboys tame the Wild West, and loved heroes like The Lone Ranger and almost any character John Wayne ever played. Americans were attracted to heroes. Men who wore white hats and who would lay their lives down to make sure that the black hats did not win. At the same time, authors like Ralph Moody and Louis L’Amour wrote moral cowboy stories that reminded Americans of their heroic past.
Over time, however, our culture has set those old black and white westerns aside in favor of things more violent. More graphic. More surreal. Flannery O’Connor understood that in our relative prosperity and peace we were getting soft. We were forgetting the broken bodies that paid for that peace and the blood of the Lamb which paid for our very souls.
“You have to push as hard as the age that pushes against you.” (Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being)
Wilson is not afraid to write like O’Connor. His stories remind us of the fight for good and the rage against evil that is necessary in all times and our time specifically. O’Connor wrote for adults; Wilson writes for boys (and their families). Both shock our culture with the truth of this war and the costs associated with it.
“But every hero needs to be part nightmare. Moses turned a river to blood and called down the Angel of Death. Samson tore a lion open with his bare hands and killed hundreds with a donkey bone…if your will is stronger than the snake’s, if you master her, then she will no longer be wicked. But she will be deadly. And the wicked will learn fear.” (Outlaws of Time)
Infamous American cowboy legends support the plot and remind us that Wilson is an American author who fundamentally understands and appreciates how the wild Western landscape translates perfectly into a hero story. Setting this action packed series starter in the West focuses us in on the epic battles between good and evil that must be wrestled out of lawless land. It also reminds us of the ancient deserts of Egypt and the Israelites who had their own battles of power, law, and submission.
While I read this layered adventure novel, I was deeply reminded of Johannes Verne in The Lonesome Gods. I think that Sam and Johannes share some very similar burdens and challenges. I also think that they respond to those challenges in very similar ways. Having Johannes in the back of my mind while I read helped me to love and understand Sam Miracle better.
“I heal them. Sometimes that means breaking them differently. If a boy’s arms are so damaged and mutilated that he cannot live, a healer may remove the arms to save the life. He makes things worse to make them better.” (Outlaws of Time)
Readers of 100 Cupboards may be wondering about the scariness or the intensity of Outlaws of Time. Our review of 100 Cupboards highlights the spectral and grotesque elements of that series and provides the context to help a reader understand them. Interestingly, Sam Miracles pales in comparison regarding the spookiness. The darkness is equally present (in fact, much more so) but it is manifested in an entirely different way. In Outlaws, we have a long series of life and death chase scenes. It is beautiful, passionate, and free of creepiness. The only really weird bits are obvious from the cover. Sam has snakes in his arms – but the cover is far more unsettling than the actual story.
The intensity and violence of this book is on par with The Hobbit or the final books of Narnia or the last 2 books of The Wingfeather Saga. This is a hero’s coming of age story which requires modern day knight-like behavior and a rudimentary understanding of Just War theory. Our boys need books like these. Our boys need war stories where heroes are heroic, inspiring and self sacrificing. Our culture needs boys who love stories like these.
There are many adrenaline-rich adventure novels for boys on the market today, but we echo the plea of Louisa May Alcott in Eight Cousins: let there be books which are well crafted, wholesome and challenging to inspire our young men to greatness, heroism, and faithful obedience.
“It gives boys such wrong ideas of life and business; shows them so much evil and vulgarity that they need not know about, and makes the one success worth having a fortune, a lord’s daughter, or some worldly honor, often not worth the time it takes to win. It does seem to me that someone might write stories that should be lively, natural, and helpful – tales in which the English should be good, the morals pure, and the characters such that we can love in spite of all the faults that all may have. I can’t bear to see such crowds of eager little fellows at the libraries reading such trash; weak, when it is not wicked, and totally unfit to feed the hungry minds that feast on it for want of something better.” (Louisa May Alcott, Eight Cousins)
Thank you N.D. Wilson! Thank you for giving us a fitting feast for our young men (and their sisters).
The concept of snake arms, I confess, seemed quite absurd to me before reading this book, but I must say that Wilson pulls it off and sells the idea very well. It almost makes me want to have Sam’s quirky snake powers. The only thing that really annoys me is that it has no proper ending. I know it’s because the story isn’t over, and the author wants you to buy the next book, but I still think there could have been something more. Aside from that, I think Wilson has crafted a very good children’s book: The kind that keeps older audiences of any age enthralled.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I loved all the gunfights!Read more
Outlaws of Time is a mix of adventure, legend and fantasy, set in the Arizona desert where twelve year old Sam Miracle is in foster care at the St Anthony of the Desert...Read more