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Tuesday, December 19, 2023

No Enemy But TimeNo Enemy But Time by Michael Lawson Bishop
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This old '82 Nebula nominee seemed to be a good starting point to read Bishop, who, alas, I had neglected up till now. He had just died a month ago but I had heard his name plenty of times in the past.

So there's this book. There's plenty good and some that's slightly icky, but not so bad if you consider the time in which it was written. It obviously wants to be strong and freeing, with a main character that is black, smart, and courageous. He going all out to get what he wants, honoring traditions, using his dreamtime/hallucination power to travel far back in time, make changes there, and most importantly, LIVE and love.

He goes far back enough to encounter and live among near, pre-human hominids, finds love there, and more, the novel is about belonging, growth.

Where I like it: It's smart, well thought-out, and rather deep. We avoid most prejudices by working through them the hard way, by engagement. It may as well be a roundabout way to tackling our own modern issues. Indeed, the science-fantasy bit of a cutting-edge almost Wakanda-like civilization was both heartening and quite amusing in a good way.

Where I don't like it: That same avoiding prejudices bit may as well be a double edged sword for the reader. A snide look at the premise of the book, as it is also written by a white guy, in conjunction with the realization that this black man may as well be marrying a theoretically sub-human hominid, have a baby with her, might come across as -- complicated. And by complicated, I mean under many various interpretations that might very well be -- quite racist.

I don't believe the book is intentionally racist at all, honestly. It is careful and quite exploratory, which makes it a good novel, but let's face it: optics are a thing, and while it's often used crazily, it is always worth considering. Of course, that's rich that I should be mentioning this 41 years after it was written AND after the author's death, but I'm still doing it.

It IS a quite interesting time-travel novel.

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