Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
A new novel from the author of the ‘Tao’ books.
In this story, Chu explores time travel, and follows the troubles of a time cop. In this case, the future is a post apocalyptic dystopia, after a great ecological crash and massive wars. Humans survive (barely) on Earth and in various parts of the solar system, partly through raiding the past for technology, energy, and natural resources (including timber and other bulk commodities!)
When a “retrieval” goes awry, troubled Chronoman James Griffin-Mars becomes enmeshed with a complex and dangerous mess in his own time, uncovering political and corporate conspiracies, and driving him underground and out into the hinterlands of a destroyed Earth.
Chu again demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses seen in his earlier writing.
He is well versed in martial arts, and gives us plenty of fight action. Indeed, he seems to have designed his future technology to require hand-to-hand fighting, when it clearly could just as well prevent close combat. Actually, there is more fighting than I really needed, though nothing too graphic or unpleasant.
Chu also has studied and thought a lot about ecology and scenarios for the future of Earth’s environment. His dystopia is realistic if over the top, and all the more frightening for its detail and unfortunate plausibility. He describes it first person and with intense clarity, which gives us a visceral feeling for how horrible life will be if we mess up the Earth this badly.
Chu’s characters are fairly simple, and some—especially the bad guys—are one dimensional. I didn’t find the psychology all that plausible or interesting. This is an area he can still improve in future tales.
The worst shortcoming of this story is that he doesn’t give us very much of the backstory, even when we need to know it. Who were the “Technological Isolationists” and what were they up to? For that matter, who were they fighting that wiped them out? What are the corporations actually doing out there in the solar system? Several global and solar system wars are mentioned, with no explanation of who fought or why or what happened (other than the devastation of many billions of people). And so on.
C’mon man! Don’t do tease us this way!
For that matter, the whole “time cop” thing is hard to credit. There doesn’t seem to be a central government, or even local governments, yet there is an incorruptible, powerful, system-wide police force. How is this possible? How did this come about?
Myself, I would have been happier with a bit more future history and a bit less future Kung Fu, if you know what I mean.
Still and all, Chu has given us a fast-paced adventure with some interesting technology and a few people we care about. We can look forward to more from this author, who is still improving.
- Wesley Chu, Time Salvager, New York, Tor, 2015.
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