A Summary of "The Time Hackers" by Gary Paulsen

by Stacy D. Cooper

Gary Paulsen has written more than 175 books, mostly for young adults, although he also has written for children and adults. He has received Newbery Honors for his books "Hatchet," "Dogsong" and "The Winter Room." In 2005, Paulsen published a short science fiction story called "The Time Hackers."


The main characters in "The Time Hackers" are Dorso and Frank. Dorso is a young man who has the unfortunate bad luck of being continuously pranked. His best friend is a boy named Frank. Frank is obsessed with nudity. He wants to figure out a way to bypass the government imposed blocks that prevent him from viewing women like Cleopatra and Helen of Troy naked. A few secondary characters of note are the gamesters and the time hacker.


In "The Time Hackers," humanity has discovered a way to observe the past through use of a special chip inserted in computers. Instead of watching television, people watch time projections or historical holograms of Civil War battles and moments from the lives of famous people like Cleopatra and George Armstrong Custer. Even though the people in "The Time Hackers" can watch history, they are not time travelers. They cannot go back in time, only watch past events. This is important, because if people from the present interacted with the historical holograms they watched, the future could be irreparably damaged, a theory known as the time paradox.

Nasty Pranks

"The Time Hackers" begins with Dorso opening his locker to discover himself the victim of a nasty prank. An old, decomposing cadaver is hanging in his locker. It is nothing new for Dorso, who for the past several months has opened his locker to find holograms of thousands of dead rats, frogs and earthworms, as well as rhino poop, inside. They last for seconds, but the smell remains for weeks. Dorso has no idea who is playing the disgusting pranks on him, and vows to discover the prankster's identity.

Interacting with Time

As the story progresses, Dorso finds himself interacting with historical holograms that randomly appear. Regardless of his location, bright flashes of white light occur; when the flashes disappear, a historical person, creature or scene remains. Dorso unintentionally interacts with the past, an action supposedly impossible. Dorso needs to tell someone, and the only person he can think of is his best friend, Frank. Frank is a disbeliever until he is thrown to the ground by a mammoth. Nobody but Frank and Dorso are able to interact with time, and despite others being around when the past comes to the present, no one else seems affected by it.

A Dangerous Game

The boys sit down and try to figure out why they are able to interact with time, and decide Dorso's computer must have been altered at the factory. Frank and Dorso's time travel experiences become dangerous, and they learn the mystery man is messing with the time paradox as part of a game. The boys discover they are part of the game whether they want to be or not. It is up to them to stop the gamesters before they bring an end to the world.


About the Author

Stacy D. Cooper received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Indiana University with an emphasis in writing and literature. She is fascinated with books, reads constantly and is the owner and publisher of a book review blog and website. She currently writes for online content providers while raising her two daughters.