Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Wesley Chu's Time Salvager

Time travel, like evil mustache mirror universes and megalomaniac robots, is a pretty common thing in science fiction. In pretty much a sci-fi franchise, they will eventually get around to a time travel episode. Cliché as it can be, a well done time-travel story can have some very interesting and powerful points in terms of history, culture, and societal perceptions. Wesley Chu's Time Salvager touches on all these factors and tells an excellent story.

Set in the resource strapped 26th century, we follow James Griffin-Mars, highly trained ChronoCom operative that is quickly approaching the projected life expectancy in his field, time travel. The future James is in has slowly been collapsing, Earth is polluted beyond recognition, they have forgotten many technological advances and while humanity has colonized many planets and stars in the solar system, they are constantly low on resources.  James is sent back in time to moments before disasters to retrieve resources; metals, technology, food, even trees. Yet, since his missions occur right before disasters, James is constantly witnessing people die and the justifications that they were already doomed are wearing thin on James’ stressed mind. Finally, on a very high-profile mission, James snaps and breaks the first law of ChronoCom and brings back Elise, a scientist from the 21st century. Now, he has is on the run from both ChronoCom and the corporation that bankrolled his mission.

Time Salvager takes a little on the set up and the very obvious set up for a sequel are slightly frustrating. But Chu’s vision of a declined humanity and pollution choked earth hits close to home. He also does a wonderful job with his main characters. James is highly skilled at what he does but is also a convicted criminal and a very flawed character with impulse control, a drinking problem, and exceptionally fuzzy ethics. But he acts as a wonderful foil to the unrelenting optimism of Elise and Chu does an amazing job of telling both sides of the story from each characters perspective. I will admit that I was annoyed to end the book with the realization I would have to wait until a sequel to completely resolve all plot points, I am certainly going to grab that sequel as soon as it comes out. 

On a side note: the cover design and artwork for Time Salvager is simply excellent and does a wonderful job of capturing the feel of the novel.

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