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by Wesley Chu
Books Read in 2017 (1,860)
KayStJ's to-read list (1,282)
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There's a lot of pretty good stuff here--good characters and world building, which are important--but the line of the story wandered around a lot. And I am never happy with a book that doesn't conclude a story, but rather sets up a series without resolving any of the issues. ( )
Whoof, not good. Poorly written, dumb ideas.
Chicago Nerds discussion notes: http://positronchicago.blogspot.com/2016/02/chicago-nerds-time-salvager.html
Time travel that does some new and interesting things, mostly to do with motivation and the psychology of it. Science fiction with a richly developed setting and inventive gadgets. People and problems that, for all they’re 500 years from now, feel real—not always relatable, but real. (It is, after all, a sign of good writing when things are so believable they make you angry.) Some of James’ character stuff felt a bit off to me, like it was either really well-done mental illness or poor narrative motivation, but I suspect at least some of that will get resolved or clarified in the next book. Which I will be reading.
In a distant future in which humanity, having utterly depleted the solar system of resources, is clinging to existence by a thread, chronmen are employed to travel back in time and mine the resources of the past.
[a:Wesley Chu|5990662|Wesley Chu|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1337892454p2/5990662.jpg], you had me at time-travel. Full review.
I really wanted to like this more. There's a lot of great things that can be said about clarity of style, fairly well-developed and interesting characters, and a promising concept, and this novel had it all, including an interesting hard-sf opening with a doomed space battle with highly advanced humanoids, but unfortunately, all the promise kinda fizzled.
This is a time travel book, isn't it? There was too little time travel. Even the rules against doing it too much turned out to be so much hokum, and the worst that can be expected is just the time-traveller's body giving out. (Sure, that's bad enough, but there's always a way around such things. After all, they have time and times that are much better at healing failing bodies, but such a fix was never explored.)
Instead, we have an Evil Corp trope, which can be done smart or not, depending on the author's talent, but the fact that our future is such a shithole because of stupidity and greed is simply a too obvious worldbuilding technique. Clarity of prose can easily lend itself to a much more complex and compelling plot.
Did I really want to wind up reading about a small band of shit-dwelling future bostonians living a stone-age existence while a handful of super-bright and/or super-powerful tech-wielding outcasts befriend and later try to save the earth from the muck of industrial byproducts? No, not really. This was supposed to be a time-travel novel. There's all of HISTORY that could have been plumbed. Including that present's future.
Was I disappointed with the direction the story went?
Well, let me throw out a caveat: The whole novel was competent and the action scenes were fun, the characters were believable and the growing love wasn't too painful to read. James's handler was definitely a bright point in the novel, as was the turnaround of the auditor. From the very start of the tale, I was hooked and flew through the pages, just wanting to see what would happen next, thinking that I was going to be in for a real treat of imagination and discovery.
Of course, that's where I went wrong. Perhaps the fact that this is only a book one out of an unknown number will clear up and develop a better story, later, such as turning this primitive tribe into a team of outlaw chronomen, but then again, maybe not. I'd say this novel is redeemed, if it eventually turns out to be true, but otherwise, I'm stuck sitting on my hands and and wondering if I had just read anything more than a mediocre tale.
My only complaint is in the fulfillment of the social contract between author and reader. I wasn't as satisfied as I should have been, based on the promises that the prose started me out with.
We'll see for the later books. I'm not giving up just yet.
Time Salvager:a fast-paced time travel adventure from Wesley Chu, the John W. Campbell award-winning author ofThe Lives of Tao. In a future when Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humanity has spread into the outer solar system to survive, the tightly controlled use of time travel holds the key maintaining a fragile existence among the other planets and their moons. James Griffin-Mars is a chronman--a convicted criminal recruited for his unique psychological makeup to undertake the most dangerous job there is: missions into Earth's past to recover resources and treasure without altering the timeline. Most chronmennever reach old age, and James is reaching his breaking point. On a final mission that is to secure his retirement, James meets an intriguing woman from a previous century, scientist Elise Kim, who is fated to die during the destruction of an oceanic rig. Against his training and his common sense, James brings her 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, and discovering what hope may yet remain for humanity's home world.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.6 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
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