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Time Pressure by Spider Robinson

Time Pressure (original 1987; edition 1988)

by Spider Robinson

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354430,811 (3.7)6
Title:Time Pressure
Authors:Spider Robinson
Info:Ace (1988), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:sff, fiction, consider

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Time Pressure by Spider Robinson (1987)


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This is the work that finally did me in. I find it telling that two of the three blurbs on the back are from reviewers of earlier works. He has a feel for the pun like very few living authors do. He is indeed strongly reminiscent of Heinlein, but I do not consider that to be a compliment, necessarily. Up until "Stranger in a Strange Land" Heinlein was one of my favorite authors. After that, not so much.

It's a decent book, and probably better than 90% of what's out there, but it's not to my taste. So it goes. ( )
  Lyndatrue | Dec 10, 2013 |
Time Pressure - there were parts I thought were good. There were parts I thought were really good. There were some nice lines and lots of references to classic sf writers and an interesting picture of counterculture in the 1970s, but then the ending was too convoluted and info-dumpy. I feel like maybe I should have read Mindkiller first, but maybe that would have made all the exposition at the end even more boring. I don't know.

The summary:

It's the early seventies and Sam is twenty-something university drop-out, a hippie living alone without running water or electricity in a mountain cabin in Nova Scotia. He's empathetic about never having loved anyone and he has a mysterious pain in his past that he's running from.

It's the middle of the night and the middle of snowstorm when he leaves his cabin to retrieve a dropped memento. A ball of blue fire appears, disintegrates a tree and drops off an unconscious naked bald woman wearing a gold circlet. Sam, who has read a lot of science fiction, deduces she must be a time traveller, and takes her back to his cabin. The next morning he calls his friend, Snaker, who lives in a nearby hippie commune. When the strange naked woman wakes up, she reveals that their guess is correct, and she is in fact a human time traveller from the far future. She will not reveal much about the future, except that she gave up immortality for a one-way ticket back to study their time period, their "fiction," as she calls it. Her name is Rachel. Sam thinks about her nakedness and her breasts a lot. They have sex with Snaker watching. Later, they have a foursome with Snaker and his girlfriend, Ruby.

". . . every single thing that human beings do, from making love to looking for cancer-cures, comes from the striving for immortality, the wish to live forever. You had immortality, and threw it away, for what seems to me trivial reasons. That makes all the rest of us look like fools. . . . Everybody wants to be rich and to be loved and to live forever. I've been rich and it wasn't all that great. I've been loved and it wasn't all that great. If living forever isn't worth it, what the hell is the point of life anyway?" (p. 64)

But there is more to Rachel then a time-travelling archeologist. Rachel wins over everyone she meets, instantly, and has lots of sex.

Then we reach the ending and the big reveals that just feel too big for the book. It's sudden and convoluted and confusing. There's a bizarre after-life interlude that goes on and on and a massive info-dump that tries to explain the future Rachel comes from, when humanity has evolved into a web of linked minds, and who Rachel is, an edited clone of four minds given a new body, and her mission, to go back and "save" dead people from the past so that they can become part of the Hive Mind of the future.

I don't know if reading Mindkiller would have made it better or worse.

There were some great lines, though:

"Sitting in judgement upon oneself may be a uniquely human pastime; some feel we invented deities at least in part to take the job off our shoulders. (Whereas we always seem to have enough spare time to sit in judgement on others.)" (p. 207)

"Cruelty is love twisted by pain, malice is love twisted by fear, and indifference is love twisted by loneliness . . ." (p. 221) (not sure why but I was particularly struck by this.)

"And the majority of human beings had always, in their heart of hearts, at least wanted to love all mankind - if only there had been some sane, practical way to do so." (p. 222)

". . . worship is a kind of fear." (p. 225) ( )
  catfantastic | Jul 1, 2013 |
Quite simply one of my favorite books of all time. In going through my bookshelves today, I found I have three copies of the first edition, all of them well worn. I've probably re-read it once a year since it came out. This highly unusual time travel tale does an excellent job of conveying the difficulties of being a time traveler, and presents a very interesting set of characters. One of the things I like about Spider's books is the multi-faceted nature of his characters, for example, the lead character is very smart, clever about many things, and makes a brick dumb decision about another. The characters are a fascinating group of different people, with phobias, brilliance, and issues unique to each.

The book makes me laugh and weep in different parts, even reading it for the 20th time. How many books can drag that emotional response from you even once? The words "from what year?" will make me ROFL- go read that scene! The ending is anything but pat, rather it's delightful and sad. The technology works, makes extrapolative sense, which is critical, but often missed, to be science fiction, not science fantasy. ( )
  sfcat | Mar 24, 2010 |
Spider Robinson is one of the more unique science fiction writers out there, and this book is no disappointment. The time is 1973, and the place is the wilderness of Nova Scotia where a group of Americans has formed a commune free from the modern world. One day, however, they are paid a visit by Rachel, a beautiful woman from the future, on a one-way mission to collect data on the past of the human race. There is much more involved, and Robinson is adept at using the situation to illuminate the absurdities of the human race. There is a fairly graphic homosexual interlude that gave me the collywobbles, but it works within the context of the book. ( )
  burnit99 | Feb 16, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Spider Robinsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Warhola, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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