Series: Time Salvager #1
Published by Tor Books on July 7th 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Time Travel
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Convicted criminal James Griffin-Mars is no one’s hero. In his time, Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humans have fled into the outer solar system to survive, eking out a fragile, doomed existence among the other planets and their moons. Those responsible for delaying humanity’s demise believe time travel holds the key, and they have identified James, troubled though he is, as one of a select and expendable few ideally suited for the most dangerous job in history.
James is a chronman, undertaking missions into Earth's past to recover resources and treasure without altering the timeline. The laws governing use of time travel are absolute; break any one of them and, one way or another, your life is over. Most chronmen never reach old age; the stress of each jump through time, compounded by the risk to themselves and to the future, means that many chronmen rapidly reach their breaking point, and James Griffin-Mars is nearing his.
On a final mission that is to secure his retirement, James meets Elise Kim, an intriguing scientist from a previous century, who is fated to die during the destruction of an oceanic rig. Against his training and his common sense, and in violation of the chronmen’s highest law, James brings Elise back to the future with him, saving her life, but turning them both into fugitives. Remaining free means losing themselves in the wild and poisonous wastes of Earth, somehow finding allies, and perhaps discovering what hope may yet remain for humanity's home world.
James is a Chronman, sent back in time from the twenty-sixth century to salvage resources for the declining human population. Earth is a toxic wasteland, but there are still tribe-like populations scraping existence out of the land. When James breaks one of the cardinal Time Laws by bringing someone else back from the past with him, he and Elise must make a run for it and attempt to hide in the ruins of old Boston.
I read Time Salvager during a very busy period for me, when I didn’t get a lot of time to devote to reading. I thought that might have been the reason I felt this book was slow early on, but when I did eventually get to sit down and read the second half, it was still quite disjointed. The action sequences were kind of sporadic and occasionally actually cut short at the end of chapters, which makes the reader lurch between scenes as though we’re jumping around in time as well. That, paired with the use of modern slang, really made my internal editor cringe from time to time.
Despite my feelings on the story pacing, the overall concepts were really interesting. The time travel and time law concepts, the different time periods throughout history, and the technology used by the society elite were all amazingly put together and I really enjoyed those aspects of this story.
The psychological implications of time travel and salvaging from ending timelines was also thought-provoking. James was a ruthless killer, disposing of people left and right while on his trips into the past, but then when he finally starts to feel the responsibility of all those deaths weighing on him, it really takes a toll.
Unfortunately I think the main problem I had was that I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, although I thought Grace Priestley was awesome. I also enjoyed the development of Levin as a character, although his actions at the end baffled me. I won’t say more for fear of becoming spoilery, but it all wrapped up a bit too neatly.
There is a sequel planned called Time Siege, set to be published in May 2016. I’m interested to know where the story is going next so I’ll be keeping an eye out for it. I’m just not sure that this story lives up to the amazing concept that it started with.