BOOK REVIEW – GREGORY BENFORD – TIMESCAPE 1980 SCIENCE FICTION MASTERWORKS - #27 Gollancz / Orion
A reliant time travel and time changing story written by a scientist working in the field of quantum mechanics. Moving between a future set Cambridge University of 1988 to the California of 1962-3 the story concerns future scientists in a pollution ravaged dying World sending signals back into their past to warn scientists to avoid taking certain steps that make their situation arise.
Human time travel is impossible, as the only things able to move faster than light, and therefore time travel, are sub-atomic tachyon particles. These cannot move any slower, so getting people onto them is impossible. The scientists do however figure a way to send out Morse Code signals to scientists beginning to research Tachyons in the early 60’s. They try to be cryptic about this so as not to change the future too much and create a paradox, which would wipe out their own research.
In both countries and time periods, the scientists face funding and beaurocracy problems. The future team are affected by the pollution themselves, which causes severe gas clouds and kills the oceans. Anarchy, looting, food shortages, and power cuts are everywhere. The social and domestic aspects of the scientists lives is given as much detail as the research, and proves to be equally well written. One key player is killed when his plane runs into the gas clouds.
In the America of the 60’s the cryptic messages initially lead the scientists to think they are hearing messages from outer space, and their research is dismissed by their superiors until they change the future by going public, attracting crackpots, and also causing a student in Dallas to be in the right place to stop Lee Harvey Oswald killing Kennedy. The future World changes but not before the scientists there tell their story in full, and also receive a cryptic warning from their own distant futures, before their World seems to end in its own separated Universe future.
On Earth, at a Nobel Prize for physics awards ceremony party, the scientists responsible for major discoveries meet the man we saw earlier (or later) being killed in a plane crash that now never occurred.
A slow, but thoughtful, highly intelligent story with utterly credible characters and scientists working in their very real environments. The author seems to have a low opinion of Kennedy too.
© Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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