David Fickling Books, 2008 (2000)
Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke
(published in the UK in 2000, entitled
) is a challenging read, an SF time travel mystery like no other I have experienced. The book-jacket's front-lapel speaks truly of '
more twists than a coiled spring
', as within minutes one travels from one spot to another in a saga that covers all centuries and geographic locations.
he plot: an undercover investigation into the death of Commissioner Li Daiho, who supposedly died from a heart ailment that led to a plunge off of his residential Himalayan balcony. The setting and territories: lots of them, ranging from but not limited to Africa; Antarctica; Isfahan (circa 1029); the Spanish mainland; and the Port-Royal-des-Champs, France. Transport includes super vehicles that whisk travelers from place to place in minutes, including taxis described as: '
a hollow sphere with a transparent membrane and a padded bench all around its circular cabin
he place: in
and the College created by Jean Morbern along with his tenets, known as
. To prevent his creation from dissolving, he willed the College as overseer so that billions of residents, along with tourists, are able to '
walk in the same streets and breathe the same air
' as past individuals such as Shakespeare, Al-Nasir, Einstein, Kennedy, Genghis Khan, Beethoven, Galileo, and Dabrowski. The College is '
sparkling white like the land around it and perched like a miniature city overlooking the Ross Sea. A city, not an ecopolis; the College was made of old-fashioned steel and concrete and plastic, not land coral, and the outlines were straight and regular: the truncated pyramid that was the transference hall and a host of smaller shapes, like a child's collection of play bricks
'. Morbern's Code was hatched to govern the ops of the College, and safeguard rights of bygoners.
he cast: Field Operative Ricardo Garron and his supervisor/partner Su Zo; Acting Commissioner Dr. Marje Orendal, also Head of Psychological Profiles at the College; her assistant Hossein Asaldra; Journeymen/Partners: Jontan Baiget and Sairi Killin; Phenuel Scott (wealthy with plans for evil deeds); Li Daiho (former Commissioner of Correspondents (presumed dead); Correspondents (the lowest rank for misfits, assigned to hundreds of years of interviews and reporting), Specifics, Bygoners, Patricians (at the top of the ladder - wealthy, and powerful in the Patricians Guild); Registers, Field Technicians, Security Technicians, and more.
echnology, vocabulary and nomenclature: projecting, transference, eidolons, agravs, and agrav harnesses - which allow leaps ten-twenty feet with one bound (and come in handy when in a mess of heavy undergrowth); field computers (imbedded into the forearm); gelfabric (automatically garbs the body designing and adjusting to uniforms or suitable garments); synjammer; transference; forcefield; hypersonic; plasma bolts; terawatts; and the symb fieldsuit from which sparks can be cast; chain of ecosystem link, as per some descriptors: '
Life was engaged in a constant, to-the-death battle with itself and yet was involved in an intricate balance, every organism depending minutely on every other
urther background: Rico and Su were
, i.e. not born in Home Time. Rico was an orphan, raised by the College; demoted and on suspension twice so far for his outspokenness. But Acting Commissioner Marje knows a good PI when she meets one, so she assigns Rico to investigate Daiho's
. Rico's detective jaunts begin to implicate powerful people, further revealing that Home Time is in dire danger. Entwined in one story is a second - Jontan Baiget and Sairi Killin, chosen by Mr. Scott for a particular mission the two Journeymen soon realize is illegal; without their knowledge they are drugged one night, and each wonders, why lowly me?
is a complex spiral of subterfuge and power play, threatening the future of the time-travel world and spanning 7,000 years of history. The storylines come together in the last pages, like leftover pieces of a puzzle. Be prepared for more than one sitting in a read you can sink your teeth into (so to speak).
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