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Sunday, November 15, 2009

"Time Travelers Never Die" by Jack McDevitt (reviewed by Liviu Suciu)



Order “Time Travelers Never Die Here
Official Jack McDevitt Website
Read FBC Review of The Devil's Eye

Introduction: Ever since I read “A Talent for War” fifteen years or more ago, I have been a big-time Jack McDevitt fan, having bought and read all of his books on publication with the aforementioned “A Talent for War” and “Engines of God” being among my top science fiction novels of all time. Mr. McDevitt does not write “big idea” sf, but is a great storyteller and his books hook you and are impossible to put down.

Since time travel is among my least favorite sf tropes due to its inherently solipsistic nature, I hesitated getting this one despite the above comments about Mr. McDevitt - after all disaster novels are also among the least favorite sf type of mine and the only McDevitt book I disliked was of that kind; moreover in quite a few situations when an author on my buy on publication list started writing time travel stories, they fell flat for me - so I waited for a chance to browse the novel in stores before committing. However once I opened it, I could not put it down, *had to get it then* and I stayed very late in the night to finish it and then I re-read it the next day also to savor it at leisure.

Overview/Analysis: "Time Travelers Never Die" is a typical McDevitt book that keeps you engrossed while you do not want to question too much its premises; our bumbling but endearing heroes, Shel and Dave travel throughout history and have many (mis) adventures, mostly due to their ineptness; Shel's father, the inventor of the time travel device is missing, but several devices are in a safe in his house and when a letter surfaces telling Shel the gist of the situation and asking him to destroy the devices, Shel cannot resist and with best friend and classics professor Dave, they head on a romp through history in search of the elder physicist.

Of the many historical cameos, Aristarchus of Alexandria, the civil rights leaders of the 60's and some of the Founding Fathers are the best, with a Borgia and the goons in the 60's south suitably menacing...

The action in the past intertwines well with the one in the present; as usual there is a mysterious "grandparent principle" that somehow stops paradoxes from happening - if a time traveler tries to generate one, it tends to be fatal or close as both Shel's father and our two heroes discover. There is romance, discovery, fun and tragedy.

A great ending and the book hangs together though it's more "Time Traveler's Wife" with a missing father rather than romance, than "serious" sf; there is room for more and I would welcome another book in the same universe though it stands well on its own; I know there is an Alex Benedict next from Mr. McDevitt though since Hutch is retired maybe we see more Q-pods time travelers after that.

One of the best lighter sf novels of the year and highly recommended with the caveat above.

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