A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor
The second book of Taylor’s “Chronicles of St. Mary’s” to appear in paperback in the US, “A Symphony of Echoes” continues the tales of Max and her colleagues. Picking up from the first book, Max is now COO, charged with organizing expeditions through time for clients and the defense of “History”—threatened by, well, time travelers.
These stories were originally presented as a series of short stories, which have been bolted together in this “chronicle”. I’m afraid the seams really show. There are a half dozen or so short stories, joined by almost no transition or even logic. One mission over, there is a new mission starting tomorrow. There are bright spots, and there are sections I thought I would never finish.
This book also carries forward the sub-plot of Max’s romantic life, which is very confused and not especially interesting, at least to me. Get a grip, Max. Sheesh!
The time travel continues to be illogical and unbelievable. The travelers take all sorts of precautions, such as not using their last names and not carving death dates on gravestones. These measures are supposed to reduce personal stress and the danger of paradox. (I.e., knowing the date of your own death would be bad.)
They also expend tremendous efforts researching and dressing up in period costumes, and so on. I’m sure this reflects Taylor’s interests (and wish fulfillment). But these measures are sure to fail, and generally do. No amount of theatrical costume and make up are going to make 21st century people fit in to past societies.
The most illogical part is how they take strenuous measures to avoid inadvertently moving “objects” through time, because this would threaten “History” with a capital “H”. But the second they step out of the pod, the historians enter the biosphere, shedding skin and bacteria (and excretia), breathing in mold and microbes, eating and drinking, and picking up parasites. How have they not wiped out the past through the introduction of diseases from the future, and brought back interesting parasites and diseases from the past?
If the time travel makes little sense, then the human relations and the conflicts are even more illogical. St. Mary’s makes no sense as an organization, and their adversaries in the time stream are just as incomprehensible.
All that said, if you suspend disbelief (and logic), there are flashes of fun here. For example, the dodo roundup is only a few pages, but it’s possibly worth the rest of the book!
- Jodi Taylor, A Symphony of Echoes, New York, Night Shade Books, 2016.
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