the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘time travel

The Tourist, by Robert Dickinson

published June 2017

where I got it: received review copy from the published (Thanks Hachette!)

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Welcome to the 24th century, where the most exotic vacation a person can take is to a 21st century mall.  Experience germs and cell phones, risk mild food poisoning and interactions with sullen gothy teenagers, and then spend the night safely ensconced in a resort hotel.   There are tons of travel companies that offer these types of tours.  The companies and their employees choose to ignore all the smuggling that often takes place right under their noses. Time travel has become so easy and common, it’s not even called “time travel” anymore, it’s just called “travel”,  and you get to your destination via a high energy technology called translation.

 

“It’s the logic of travel: the past is just another country, and, if you can afford the translation, you can always go back. Nothing is lost, nobody really dies. You die, of course: but, if they have the right resources, other people can always come back and see you. You remain alive.”

                                The Tourist, page 310

 

The opening chapters of The Tourist fall somewhere between Kage Baker’s Company novels and the movie Twelve Monkeys, complete with a shadowy future century no one is allowed to see, rumors of a genocide in recent history, a near extinction event, and the challenges of how to tell someone you are from the past or the future.  There is a “map” of sorts in the front of the book, that on first glance looks like a map of a shopping mall, but then you realize it’s a chart of a time line. The time line is U shaped, with the character’s lives jumping back and forth all over the place. Ahh, the tricks you can play in a time travel book!

 

Spens is a rep with one of the travel agencies, his job is to shepherd his charges to the mall, show them how paper money works, and warn them against 21st-ers who know how to trick naive idiots.  For shock value, he buys a muffin at a coffee stand and eats it.  This is just a job for Spens, he lives at the resort and gets together for drinks with the other reps at night to share stories of their idiot clients.   He’ll work at the resort forever if it means he never has to work the tunnels again.

 

And then one day he loses a client.

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Pilot X by Tom Merritt

published in 2017

where I got it: purchased new

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Do you like Doctor Who?

 

Have you never seen Doctor Who but you’re curious to know what all the fuss is about?

 

If you answered Yes to either of those questions, Tom Merritt’s novel Pilot X might be for you.  I say “might”, because there isn’t much to Pilot X, and if you go into looking for deep characterization or a memorable plot, you’ll come out disappointed. This is a weird little book to review, because plot and character wise, there isn’t much to it. But there are these fun little other things going on that have nothing to do with X’s story that I enjoyed. There is a lot under the surface of the text, and had Merritt explored and expanded on what lies just under the surface, the style of this book would have been very, very different.   I think the trick to enjoying this novel is knowing what it is, and knowing what it isn’t.

 

X is a time traveler.  He starts out as an apprentice, becomes a pilot, and holds other titles during his career as well.  In his culture, everyone has a unique name, with their “first name” being their title or occupation. He was born the first year that single character names became allowed. (Fun thing number one: does the length of someone’s name tell you what era they are from?). This is a society of timelords time travelers, so it’s easy for X to go on a mission that might take him weeks or years, and be able to report back to his superiors twenty minutes after he was given the assignment.

 

As first, I was annoyed by the episode nature of the plot of the book, and much of the actual missions that X  goes on were rather forgettable.  (fun thing number two: This is a non-linear story, so the episodic nature actually makes some sense. When you’re a time traveler, does the order in which things happen even matter?)  As X gets more missions and spends more time with the man who gives the orders, he starts questioning if he’s actually on the right side of the Dimensional War. X doesn’t even know if he’s made contact with a secret operative or not.  If he is successful in his final mission, he will be the only survivor of a race that has been erased from memory.

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Gods and Pawns by Kage Baker

published in 2007

where I got it: purchased used

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I’ve been trying (and not always succeeding) to read Kage Baker’s Company books in the order of publication.   Which meant next up was Gods and Pawns, which was  published in 2007.   The series starts with In The Garden of Iden, a novel that completely broke my heart into a billion little pieces. Then came Sky Coyote, in which I fell a little bit in love with Joseph even though he is a complete asshole. Or at least, I thought he was an asshole until I met Porfirio, now that guy is a piece of work.  The Company books get darker and darker the further you read in the series, and yet Baker’s writing style is full of humor and wit, so you’re laughing at the same time.  With all the research that went into these novels and short stories much of her work reads a little bit like Tim Powers, that of course these crazy things didn’t happen . . . but no one can prove that they didn’t….

 

Gods and Pawns is a collection of short stories that take place in the Company world. Similar to her collection In The Company of Thieves, these mostly light-hearted short stories are excellent entry points into Baker’s Company world.

 

What is The Company? In the future, time travel is discovered. However, you can only travel backwards in time, and recorded history can not be changed. The owner(?) of The Company sends operatives back in time, where they take in orphaned children and turn the children into immortal cyborgs who are now employees of The Company.  For the cyborgs, it’s a post-scarcity life – they never need to worry about money, or a job, or a roof over their heads. The job security is great because they are immortal. But what are they working towards? What is the point of finding and then hiding all the valuable paintings and manuscripts and gems in the world for some future you may never see? Is this a good gig? Is it slavery?  What’s the retirement policy like?

 

I have condensed and vastly oversimplified Baker’s amazingly complex world. If you enjoy long running space opera series with fantastic writing, time paraxodes (paradoxii?) horrible secrets, lots of dark humor, all written by an author who is a genius at playing the long game, this is a great series for you.  If you’re not sure if that is something you’d like, the short stories are a great place to start.  For more information, and possibly epic spoilers, checkout the Company reread that Stefan Raets did at Tor.com last year.

 

While I was disappointed that Mendoza doesn’t star in a larger portion of the stories in Gods and Pawns, I was happy to see my favorite side character, Lewis, get the spotlight.

 

Surprising nobody, my favorite short story in Gods and Pawns is the Lewis/Mendoza story, “To The Land Beyond the Sunset”, in which our two immortal operatives act as mortal guests of a family of supposed gods.  Mendoza is excited about the rare plants she finds on their property, and Lewis is trying to figure out how exactly these people are related to each other, and why they seem so ignorant. There’s also the whisperings in the walls of a secret family member who keeps getting moved around the villa so the “visiting mortals” can’t see him. There’s the expected humor in this story, Mendoza and Lewis are immortal, and do have what could be construed as godly power. And this lonesome family appears to be underfed, ill-informed, living in a ramshackle villa, and not godly at all.  Everyone is playing a role, it seems.  Mendoza’s first discovery makes me hope these people die a horrible death for what they are doing. The next discovery makes me feel so terribly sorry for them.

I always imagine Lewis looking like Cyril from Archer.

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time-salvager-book-coverTime Salvager, by Wesley Chu

published 2015

where I got it: purchased new

 

 

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I do like me some time travel books. And a time travel story where objects and people are brought into other times, and you have to go. . . . back to the future?  Great Scott, sign me up! Seriously though,  I’m a sucker for a good time travel.  That movie Looper? It made no sense and all, and I loved it.   So, it makes sense that Wesley Chu’s Time Salvager would be right up my alley.  The gist of the plot is in a few hundred years, Earth is in shambles. Chronmen go into the past to get resources, batteries, energy sources, valuable minerals, just about anything that’s worth anything.  ChronoCom uses the time travel technology to give Earth a few more years of existence. Anyone who can afford to left Earth long ago to live on a colony elsewhere.

 

Chronman James Griffin-Mars self medicates his way through too many dangerous missions. He’s left too many ghosts behind, too many people he couldn’t save, too many people he had to let die, because the history books said they died. You can’t rewrite history, you can’t change the future, everyone knows that.  When James brings a woman back into the future, he breaks every law of time travel, and he seals his own fate as a traitor to everything he thought he believed in.

 

Cinematic action sequences and high octane pacing,  this sounds pretty intense, right?

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life of the world to comeThe Life of the World to Come, by Kage Baker (Company #5)

published in 2004

where i got it: purchased used

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As this is the fifth book in Baker’s Company series, spoilers are unavoidable. You’ve been warned, and I am not at all sorry.  If this is the first you’ve heard of Kage Baker, or of her Company series, stop reading right now and type “Kage Baker” into that search box thingy on the upper right.

 

I can never decide if I want to wait in-between Baker books, or binge read the whole thing. Because I want to know what happens . . . but I’m enjoying the anticipation.  And like my Banks books of which I have become so fond, I must ration Baker. Because there will never be any more.

 

In the year 2350, a group of hobbyist re-enactors use their nearly limitless resources to change history. Or at least, sort of.  One of the so-called rules of time travel is that history can not be changed. So how are these naive idiots doing it?  Frankie Chatterjie and Foxen Ellsworth-Howard meet at their friends Rutherford’s home, which also serves as a museum.  Wealthy, bored, (and thus supremely dangerous) and connected with Dr. Zeus, Inc, the three friends use anachronistic slang, sip fake brandy, and fuss about with genetics. You see,  they’ve been tasked with coming up with a better, smarter, more contemporary version of the Company’s Enforcers. An upgrade, of sorts. This perfect person that they are genetically creating will be bright, irresistible, and willing to die for a noble cause. Each iteration of their fellow will tell our genetic dabblers what changes they need to make to build the perfect enforcer.  He will be tall, not exactly handsome, determined, and irresistable. Sound familiar?

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the graveyard gameThe Graveyard Game (Company, #4) by Kage Baker

published in 2001

Where I got it: purchased new

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I really enjoy Kage Baker, but life is full of so many fun books it’s hard for me to monogamously read one series until I finish it.  I’d read Mendoza in Hollywood (Company, book 3) a while back, and was a little underwhelmed by it. It felt like a rehash of the first book, and I thought it was kinda slow. Anyways, thanks to this tweet from fellow blogger Lisa, I decided to dive back into The Company series and pick up the next book in the series, The Graveyard Game.

what is this book doing to me

 

I’m too lazy to type up a summary of the series so far, and what exactly The Company is. Go read my review of In the Garden of Iden for all that (and to get hooked on the series).

 

As this is book four in Baker’s Company series, spoilers are unavoidable. #SorryNotSorry.  It’s kinda funny how things are all coming together now, actually. The first book in the series, In The Garden of Iden, functions perfectly well as a standalone.  the next book, Sky Coyote is most definitely a sequel, but if you read them out of order the universe wouldn’t end.  Book three, Mendoza in Hollywood circles back to some stuff that happened in book one and feels a smidgen apart from the other books in the series. And now, in The Graveyard Game, everything comes crashing together as Baker rips everything wide open for the gist of the rest of the series.  I zipped through this book in just a few days (which if you’ve seen my work schedule, you know is a miracle), it kicked me in the feels and then tore those feels out and kicked them some more.

 

Some things that happen to you when you are an immortal cyborg:

 

  • your broken heart never heals because your memory is so good that you never forget anything
  • a “long standing grudge” has a whole new meaning
  • you can play a really, really really long game.

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then againDivision by Zero #3: Then Again, an anthology of the MiFiWriters group

published Nov 6 2014

Where I got it: borrowed

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I knew there were a bunch of speculative fiction writers groups here in Michigan, but I didn’t know one of them published annual anthologies! How cool is that?  MiFiWriters is based in Michigan, and exists to promote the writing of science fiction by Michiganders.  They recently published Then Again, the third anthology in their annual Division by Zero series.  They choose a different theme each year, and the theme of Then Again was time travel. Imagine all the things you could do if you could travel through time: save lives, stop horrible things from happening, solve crimes before they happened. But what about the dangers of time travel? What if you only made the situation worse? What it time travel tore holes in spacetime? Ah, the beauty of what if!

 

Here are a few of my thoughts on some of my favorite stories from Then Again.

 

Time Enough, by Matthew Rohr  –  This was my favorite story in the collection. When Wilson Andrews successfully crosses a Campbell Bridge to go back in time, he doesn’t exactly come out when he expected.  He knows his mission to kill a certain person, but first he’s got to find her.  The scientists knew the journey through time would scramble his brain a little, so they’ve imprinted him with briefings and recordings to help him along the way.  The story involves a lot of flashbacks and partial memories, so it feels like it is not told chronologically, giving it a feeling of wonderfully off kilter weirdness. Remember the movie Memento? This story feels like that a little, with Wilson coming across faces and voices that jog his memory. As his memory slowly returns, Wilson is able to put the puzzle pieces together. Once he realizes what is going on, will he be able to carry out the murder?  Even though there is closure at the end, I liked that this story feels like a prologue or middle chapter of a longer book.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.