Friday, July 17, 2015
The Next Sci-fi Read in Your Summer Stack: Time Salvager
Wesley Chu has been on my radar for a couple of years. I had heard that The Lives of Tao was roller coaster ride of a read. Being in the book business, occasionally you let authors earlier works slip by, and in sci-fi it makes it hard to go back and pick them up as the one book becomes a series. When I learned of Wesley Chu coming for an event on July 21st, I decided this was my time to make up some ground. To find out that the book was the beginning of a new series made it so much easier to jump in feet first.
In Time Salvager, Wesley Chu has built a pretty bleak existence in the 26th Century. There was a golden age at some point between where we are and where Time Salvager goes, and something went horrible wrong. Humanity is running out of resources, energy, food--the Earth's oceans have a solid layer of dead brown muck on top of it and most cities are vast wastelands of abandoned and crumbling buildings. At times, this book reminded me of some of the best of the dreariest sci-fi ever, something akin to a Philip K. Dick or Paola Bacigalupi story. Having a lack of resources and with the world tumbling ever downward, the only hope humanity has is to look to the past.
Enter James Griffin-Mars, a chronman. His job is to pillage the past and bring back resources for the present. It is not an easy job. There are laws governing time travel and what can be taken from out of the past. ChronoCom controls all time jumps and sets up where and when a chronman will go and take his target. The target can be an energy source, a valuable item that was destroyed, or something else that is about to leave existence as to ensure that the time line does not become compromised. This reminded me a bit of the sci-fi b-movie Millennium, where the time travelers would replace airplane passengers with dead bodies just before a plane crash was to happen.
Long story short, James brings back a scientist from one of his missions, which is the biggest time law that he could break. If ChronoCom finds him, it will mean the execution of Elise Kim, the scientist, and it could mean his indentured servitude for the rest of his days. Of course, ChronoCom monitors all time travel activity and are wise to James law breaking. He and Elise go on the run and attempt to evade the corporations hunting them down.
There are a lot of neat story lines and concepts circling around in here. First, there is the concept of time travel, I really like the ethical dilemma that Chu puts the chronmen through. How would they react to always going back to humanities greatest tragedies of death and destruction, how would that mess with their psyche? Next is the idea that humanity has gone to the stars but only made it to our closest neighbors. James was born on a colony on Mars. What stalled them or prevented the technology from being invented to move further? Then, there is how corporations really rule the future and are willing to do anything to keep it that way. I never witnessed any government actions in this book, it was all corporate controlled interests moving humanity forward or standing still in perpetual stagnation. Finally, the history that Chu creates feels so well thought out. There is a definitive set of events that leads to the 26th Century and humanities bleak existence.
You can think of all that as you read, or you can just read it as a thrill ride that is and hold on. The action starts off quick and goes by in a flurry. I am positive that I will sign up for more adventures in this universe. There has been some great reviews out for his new book, one of them is from SF Signal which I attempt to read daily and find out all the great things happening in the SF world.
Do yourself a favor if you are a sci-fi fan and come to the event on July 21st. And, if you are like me, start reading his early books. The Lives of Tao (full disclosure, I had my sci-fi book club read this book for July so I could sneak in two Chu novels in one month) is a brilliant amount of kick-butt fun. My book club agrees that it is worth the time to read this martial arts body snatching book!