Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
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.
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