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Moving Moosevan by Jane Palmer

The Women’s Press, 1990, 152 p

 Moving Moosevan cover

Perhaps it was my familiarity with the central premise and the tone, or that the setting has moved mainly to Earth in this sequel to The Planet Dweller but I found myself much less irritated with this book than that one, more willing to go with the flow. (Palmer is trying to send up the SF genre here and I generally find SF and humour don’t mix well.)

Moosevan, who it was established in the previous book lives inside planets, has taken up residence in Earth. Her adversaries The Mott have found a way to break through the barrier preventing pursuit and are intent on mayhem.

Moosevan herself is rather missing from the narrative, revealed only by her actions – of which beginning to move Britain and Ireland south towards the equator is only the most obvious. Most of the talk and action (which tends to be of the relentless sort but rather cartoonish) revolve around the human and alien characters but none of these ever really rises above caricature. Palmer’s technique is very broad brush indeed. There are occasional grace notes which might still jar (not many SF novels of the time mentioned Maggie Thatcher, Bert Kaempfert or acid house parties) but also the odd phrase grounding the narrative. “There had to be better causes for which to ladder your tights.”

Moving Moosevan is light reading. It has its place.

Pedant’s corner:- for goodness’ sake (if the apostrophe is there it ought to be followed by a further ‘s’, goodness’s, otherwise leave it out,) “for them to secure their grip” (them and their, therefore ‘grips’,) “wild creatures … must have been holding their breath” (breaths,) “tried to diffuse the argument with a hollow chuckle” (defuse, that would be,) “a network of thinking metal units were working (a network .. was working,) “‘this planet it about to sneeze’” (is about to sneeze.) “A pile of Ordnance Survey maps were stacked” (a pile … was stacked.) “‘There are a number of species’” (strictly, there is a number of species,) “that the army …. were still trying to” (that the army … was still trying to,) “none of the group were too sure” (none .. was too sure,) “Yat knew that the terrible trio were back” (the terrible trio was back.)

2019 Clarke Award Shortlist

I see the short list for this year’s Arthur C Clarke Award has been announced. I missed it at the time as I was away.

The list is:-

Semiosis by Sue Burke (HarperVoyager)
Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi (Oneworld)
The Electric State by Simon Stålenhag (Simon & Schuster)
Rosewater by Tade Thompson (Orbit)
The Loosening Skin by Aliya Whiteley (Unsung Stories)

I’ve read none of them but note the Tade Thompson was on the BSFA Award list this year (despite doubts as to its eligibility – which would apply equally to the Clarke Award I’d have thought.)

Also on both lists is the Yoon Ha Lee. Having read his Ninefox Gambit I have to say I’m depressed by this.

Daughter of Elysium by Joan Slonczewski

Avonova, 1994, 525 p.

 Daughter of Elysium cover

Raincloud Windclan is from the planet of Bronze Sky where women are called goddesses, and have the dominant role in society. She has come to Elysium with her family to avert a confrontation between its inhabitants and the apparently aggressive planet of Urulan. Elysium is a city established on the water-world of Shora but separate from the raft dwellers of that world familiar from Slonczewski’s previous novel A Door into Ocean. Raincloud’s husband Blackbear is a scientist set to investigate the possibilities of restoring fertility to Elysians, whose “children” – known as shonlings from the crèche-like shons where they are brought up – are artificially generated since Elysians’ longevity treatment has modified their chromosomal DNA and conferred sterility. By treaty with the Shorans, though, the numbers of Elysians are meant to be kept steady.

Elysian society is attended to by genetically modified creatures known as sims, and artificially intelligent servants much given to intoning, “Please refer any fault to…”

There are, then, several conflicts built into this scenario as well as, in the persons of the Blue Skyans, a contrast with the gender norms of the time when Slonczewski was writing. Raincloud is an adept practitioner of martial arts, which gives her honorary male status in the eyes of the Urulite Ambassador to Elysium. Later, on Urulan itself, subjected to an attempt to murder her companions she muses, “Men were supposed to be wholesome nurturing creatures, not predators.”

While it is gratifying to a Chemistry graduate like myself to read of acetyl and methyl groups and glucosamine in an SF novel and there is a concentration on domestic life usually absent in such genre works this one is marred by excessive information dumping. Another flaw is that we don’t meet the indigenous inhabitants of Shora till well through the book. The enmeshing of all the elements of the set-up into the plot and its resolution is well-done though.

Pedant’s corner:- dumfounded (dumbfounded.) “Did not ‘death’ equate ‘shame’ in the Urulite tongue?” (equate with,) unsubstantially (insubstantially.) “Her breasts peeped out cheerfully beyond her bare back and shoulders,” (is some anatomical feat,) nanomanipulaters (nanomanipulators.) “What would Public Safety think, he wondered” (needs a question mark,) “either she was growing up – or just saving her spit” (??? Is this a USian phrase?) syllabi (I prefer syllabuses, it’s not originally from Latin.) “His chest was crossed with ropes of milky gems set in good Blackbear stared” (???? ‘… set in gold’ and a missing full stop?) “A number of long-necked reporter servos were on hand” (a number … was on hand,) “until the Gathering sent their messengers” (until the Gathering sent its messengers.) “Raincloud though it very likely” (thought it,) “took things in stride” (in her stride, please,) “‘except prone’” (the context demanded ‘supine’, not ‘prone’,) “who had woken at last and began to wail” (the ‘had’ carries over, so ‘who had woken at last and begun to wail’,) “‘none of the worlds we deal with are as safe as Elysium’” (none is as safe.) “None of the Guardians were allowed to leave” (none of the Guardians was allowed to leave.) “None significant were found.” (None significant was found.)

Paul Darrow

I was sad to see that Paul Darrow has died.

As Avon in the BBC TV SF series Blake’s 7 he provided the grit in the oyster which turned it into a pearl. (There wasn’t much TV SF about in those days in the UK – Doctor Who apart – so we were grateful for what we could get.)

There’s a hint of Davros in some of Darrow’s delivery of his lines in this compilation of Avon’s put-downs.

Paul Valentine Birkby (Paul Darrow): 2/5/1941 – 3/6/2019. So it goes.

Rork! by Avram Davidson

Penguin, 1969, 140 p.

 Rork! cover

The planet Pia 2 is isolated, so isolated it only has a spaceship visit every five years. Despite this it is home to the redwing, a crop which can be processed to manufacture an important medical treatment. In the time of the culture’s Great Wars Pia 2 was cut off for centuries. The humans there evolved into gruff, hardy creatures speaking in a stripped down patois – still recognisable but not standard. These “autochthonous” humans are known as Tocks and exist in tame (near the Station) varieties and wilder ones. It is the Tocks who harvest the redwing and bring it into the Station. The planet also harbours really native animals like crybabies (known as such for their calls at night) and others which can be dangerous, like the rips and especially, the titular Rorks, giant spider like creatures. Rorkland is a no-go area except perhaps in the Cold Time, when Rorks become sluggish.

Ran Lomar has been sent to the Station to see if there is any way in which redwing production can be increased. The local humans – not to mention the Tocks – are set in their ways and very resistant to change. Having entangled, then disentangled, himself with a local Station woman, Lindel, Lomar sets off to the South of Tockland to try to encourage those there to improve the yield of redwing. He, his Tock companion Old Guns, along with his daughter Norna, are captured by a wild bunch of Tocks and Old Guns is killed.

Aided by Norna, Lomar makes his escape, and the pair are forced to travel into Rorkland to evade recapture. It is obvious by now where this is going and what they are going to find out about Rorks on their travels. Davidson handles it well though and had I read this in the 1960s I would no doubt have thought it excellent. It now reads as a little well-worn, however, and its sexual politics are very much of the 1960s.

Davidson’s use of the words wee, besom and pogue indicates a Scottish connection somewhere but the internet is unforthcoming on what that might be. He can string sentences together though and spin out a plot. I’m not averse to reading more of him.

Pedant’s corner:- In the author information; Wand Moore (Ward Moore.) Otherwise; “Here and they the passed gatherers” (‘there’ for the first ‘they’,) melancholy (melancholy,) Flinders’ (several times, Flinders’s,) “born along” (borne along,) distanthill (distant hill,) “had not know” (known,) “the natural exultance inevitably to the male” (inevitable.) “‘Harb did not even seemed to be waiting” (seem,)”the spaces between the peoples was increased” (were increased,) “grimy impatient” (grimly.) “The mouth seemed trying to say something” (seemed to be trying,) exploitive (exploitative.)

Shoreline of Infinity 11½: Edinburgh International Science Festival 2018

Shoreline of Infinity 11½ cover

In “Pull up a Log” editor Noel Chidwick puts the case for SF as a way to fulfil the question, “Can Science Fiction save us?” posed as the title of the spoken word Event Horizon the magazine was invited by the International Science Festival to put on in connection with the festival.

Some of the contents have appeared in previous issues. Charlie: A Projecting Prestidigitator by Megan Neumann and the poem The Morlock’s Arms by Ken McLeod appeared in Shoreline of Infinity (SoI) 2, We Have Magnetic Trees by Iain Maloney, Pigeon by Guy Stewart and the poem South by Marge Simon in SoI 3, Goodnight New York, New York by Victoria Zevlin and the poem Starscape by J S Watts in SoI 6, Message in a Bottle by Davyne DeSye in SoI 7, the poem Spring Offensive by Colin McGuire in SoI 8, while The Sky is Alive by Michael F Russell, The Last Days of the Lotus Eaters by Leigh Harlen and the poem the evening after by Peter Roberts in SoI 9.

We start with the poem Can Sci-Fi Save Us? by Jane Yolen and then the fiction kicks off with A Cure for Homesickness by Anne Charnock in which a contract employee ponders whether to extend her time.
Winter in the Vivarium1 by Tim Major is set in a future ice age. Ice statues suddenly start to appear outside the Vivarium for the rich and privileged whose upkeep is seen to by viewpoint character, the much less privileged Byron.
Charlie’s Ant2 by Adrian Tchaikovsky is about the dispute between Central Control and the ants of Charlie field over how maintain a farm’s production of grain. (Unbeknownst to both, the human society they were set up to service has broken down.)
In Candlemaker Row3 by Jane Alexander an unspecified disaster has hit Edinburgh. Our narrator is a woman who once lived there, now employed to verify its digital reconstruction – especially its aromas.
The titular Mémé of Juliana Rew’s story is one of the few survivors of her age group left after a flu epidemic wiped out older people. She becomes venerated and an influencer.
Monoliths4 by Paul McAuley looks to have been inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey and the phenomenon of crop circles. Set in the author’s Quiet War universe three conspirators contrive to build a monolith on the far side of the Moon. When touched it will activate a radio signal beamed at the galaxy’s centre. Thirty-six years later more such unattributed monoliths begin to spring up all over the Solar System.
In A Distant Honk by Holly Schofield, a research biologist is tracking the behaviour and habitat of the wild clown population, which is dying out.
The Day it all Ended5 by Charlie Jane Anders shows a worker for a producer of useless but made highly desirable items deciding to tell his boss where to stuff it all only to find that was what the company had been waiting for to put into effect its real plan.
The narrator of Last of the Guerilla Gardeners6 by David L Clements is exactly that. Big agribusiness corporations have taken over seed distribution with only a dedicated few guerrilla gardeners left to scatter wild seed about. And there has been a crackdown on them. This story does for plants what Number Ten Q Street did for food.
This is followed by the poem: Now a Ragged Breeze by Jane Yolen.
Then in “Working the High Steel”7 by Jennifer R Povey, Malisse is a female Mohawk used to being told to get back to the reservation. But she is a construction worker, on a kind of space elevator. The finished project is being tested when one of the transit pods hits a problem. She goes out to try to fix it. After all, “‘Mohawks don’t fall.’”
The Rest is Speculation8 by Eric Brown is set over two million years in the future when representatives of all the sentient species which have populated Earth are brought to witness the planet’s last moments. The story nods to James Blish’s Surface Tension.

Pedant’s corner:- 1“Bryan dropped down from gantry” (from the gantry,) “the ha-ha that obstructed views of the town” (obscured is more usual,) jerry-rig (jury-rig.) 2Despite the author being British we have fit as a past tense (fitted,) “sufficient to even take the ants aback” (since this was about the ants’ attitudes this should be ‘sufficient to take even the ants aback,’) “I have had to considerable increase” (considerably.) 3“the skin team are working on it” (strictly ‘the skin team is working on it’,) “the Nor” Loch” (x2, Nor’ requires only an inverted comma, not an end quotation mark.) “Architects drawings” (strictly, Architects’.) “His team have been running behind” (his team has been.) 4 “ratio of 1:4:9, the square of the first three integers” (the squares of the first three.) 5ne280ws (???) CO2 (CO2, x 3,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech. 6lept (leapt,) unlisenced (unlicenced,) gardner (gardener.) 7two odd line breaks on page 147, “a 140-pound woman could not hold a 230- pound man” (either both, or neither, should have a space after the 140 or 230,) “ I don’t really see she could have stayed on when the passenger pod after it started moving’” (no ‘when’ required,) “‘when the pod is stationery’” (stationary.) 8“this lacunae in our memories” (lacunae is plural. Either ‘these lacunae’ or, ‘this lacuna’. The first would make more sense,) eyes-stalks (eye-stalks – unless the stocks had more than one eye each,) “‘And they?’ I Kamis asked?” (The ‘I’ is redundant.) “Time interval later” count; 2.

Interzone 281

 Beneath the World, A Sea cover
Interzone 281 cover

Lying on my doormat – among a whole load of other stuff – after I got back from holiday was the latest issue of Interzone, 281 by number.

I had thought that my review of The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders was due in this one but it’s not there. I assume it will now appear in issue 282.

Also on my doormat (delivered via TTA Press) was Chris Beckett’s latest novel Beneath the World, A Sea. I suppose my review of that one will also appear in issue 282.

Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi

Gollancz, 2018, 328 p.

I had scheduled this post to appear when I was away but for some reason only the title appeared. I’ve now binned that one. Here’s the full version.

 Summerland cover

Rajaniemi’s first few novels were fairly dense narratives where not much concession by way of information dumping was made to the reader who in consequence was forced to do a bit of work in following their stories. As an approach this had its merits, as the rich, layered depths revealed themselves slowly and made for a more enriching read. By contrast Summerland has a more common narrative structure with no corresponding demands on the reader beyond suspension of disbelief. Given its timeline it could be classified as an Altered History but the milieu it depicts is really not one for which that description could fully apply being more sui generis.

Sometime towards the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries radio experiments led to contact with the world of the dead. Now a whole system of communications – via ectophone and ectomail – exists between the realms, the Queen rules from what is called Summerland, the Great War was won with the aid of ghastly apparitions like the ectotank, but still a kind of cold war exists between Great Britain and the USSR. Transition between the realms (ie death) is mediated via Tickets which provide a destination for a departed soul. Without a Ticket a dead person is subject to Fading as their soul evaporates away. This will also happen even to those who had a Ticket unless sufficient suffusions of a substance known as vim occur.

The book is set over several months in late 1938 and January 1939. There is no Nazi threat but renegade from the USSR and its own Summerland god engine, Iosef Dzhugashvili, is fomenting trouble in Spain.

Rachel White is an operative of the British security services entrusted with the protection of a Soviet defector. After telling her of the existence of a mole called Peter Bloom, he blows his brains out. Her report of this revelation to her superior is greeted with dismissal, her gender being seen as making her an obvious target for an attempt to foment suspicion and distrust. Bloom, is, however, known to be close to the Prime Minister, Herbert Blanco West (whose mere name is enough to trigger associations in the reader even before we learn of his past as a draper’s apprentice who had dreams of Martian invasions and invisible men.) Similarly Rajaniemi has a bit of fun in slotting in the likes of Guy Burgess, Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt as minor characters in his tale.

The plot then consists of the usual kind of spy story albeit complicated with interferences from the spirit realm whose denizens can take over bodies in the “live” world on a kind of hire basis but also monitor the emotions of the undead, thus making it difficult to lie to them. The tale is however – unusually for a spy story – told from the viewpoint of the spy, Bloom, as well as the would-be spycatcher, Rachel.

The existence in the realm of the dead of shadowy entities called Cullers who will leap on any detected activity in the zone and pounce to ensure its inhabitants will Fade is not made much of in Summerland whose text is mainly Earth-bound and taken up with White’s efforts to prove Bloom is a spy. There is slightly more to Rajaniemi’s story than this but its appeal lies in the idea of a parallel world of the dead and its ability to interact with the ‘real’ world rather than the plot it contains.

Pedant’s corner:- I read an advanced reading copy so many of these may have been changed for final publication. “could really use a person of your calibre” (the British English for this is ‘could really do with’,) “desk a parking lot for memos” (again, ‘parking lot’ is not British English,) “lay low” (lie low,) “none of the security measures were enough” (none … was enough,) “there were a number of small glass vials” (there was a number,) “ we have a bloody mess in our hands” (on our hands,) a missing full stop at a sentence end (x2,) “she lunched with the junior staff with the canteen” (in the canteen,) “more spare time in my hands” (on my hands,) a missing start quotation mark, ”she managed slur the words” (to slur,) “in the in the” (one ‘in the’ too many,) prime minister (x2, Prime Minister,) “reached a crescendo” (a crescendo is a process, not a culmination; ‘reached a climax’, Crookes’ (Crookes’s,) “gift of gab” (gift of the gab,) “‘the benefit of doubt’” (the benefit of the doubt,) “I could use a little flattery’” (I could do with a little flattery,) “‘I just I can’t help you’” (an ‘I’ too many,) “a fearsome, feathered hat” (doesn’t need that comma,) “‘Say, do you see….’” (No English Oxford student would start a question with ‘Say’. ‘I say’, perhaps, but not ‘Say’,) “Peter let go of the drainpipe caught the roof’s edge” (and caught,) “‘you do this it a lot’” (no need for the ‘it’,) “folded his lanky frame into his bench in with great difficulty” (no ‘in’ required,) a missing end quotation mark, “the groans of the old coach” (‘the old couch’ makes more sense,) “times ten” (multiplied by ten,) “‘what are you going ty do next.’” (Is a question so needs a question mark rather than a full stop,) Djugashvili (x3, elsewhere Dzhugashvili,) “Leading up her bar exam” (up to her bar exam,) “‘setting up a meet’” (a meeting,) Symonds’ (Symonds’s,) “rode in their wake of as they pushed their way” (‘in their wake as they pushed’,) dove (dived. Please,) “‘I could, in fact, use some advice’” (I could, in fact, do with some advice,) Rache (elsewhere always Rachel,) “the men’s room” (the gents,) maw (it’s a stomach, not a mouth,) “the car’s hood” (the car’s bonnet,) “on a chair in cell” (in a cell.)

The Great Chain of Unbeing by Andrew Crumey

Dedalus, 2019, 335 p. Reviewed for Interzone 275, May-Jun 2018.

 The Great Chain of Unbeing cover

In his previous eight novels Crumey has constructed a strange niche for himself from his considerations of music, parallel worlds, imagined universes, the rendering of scientific concepts thought to be abstruse into accessible fictional form, all peopled with credible characters experiencing real human dilemmas. He is not beyond literary playfulness. Here we start with “The Unbeginning”, finish with “The Unending” and “The Introduction” comes as part three.

His latest novel is unconventional even in Crumey’s terms. It’s presented as a series of tales, which at first sight appear to have only the most tenuous of links between them (if any at all) yet on closer examination yield foreshadowings and echoes, subtle resonances – both with themselves and the rest of his oeuvre. We have a scene from the life of a man genetically blind due to his father’s exposure to H-bomb tests, a tale of mistaken identity on the international conference scene, an imagined interview, the thoughts of a lecturer undergoing a CT scan, how silk worms came to Europe, a man suspecting his wife of an affair, a fragment from a life of Beethoven, a young woman visiting her father on a Greek island after an abortion, the consciousness of a concert pianist who comes on like a hit man, the spying activities around the military secret that was early FM radio, a postman’s reminiscences, a lecture given by an insect, the story of The Burrows (a vast tunnelling project the length and breadth of Scotland) and the underground habitat which results, the invention of the word-camera which captures a scene and renders it in text, a woman bumping into someone she thought was dead (so reversing the previous collapse of her wave function,) a philosophical discussion of a Moslowski-Carlson machine to replicate Earth light years away, extracts from a truly awful SF novel inhabiting just that universe, a metaphor about the dangers of seeking fire.

They’re all beautifully written, pitch perfect to the milieux portrayed but also interspersed with a sly humour. “‘Bradley’s a real philosopher, incidentally, by which I mean a dead one,’” and in The Burrows section, “Some international medical authorities insisted that being starved of sunlight would cause long-term health problems but the Scots had been managing like that for centuries and it hadn’t done them any harm,” with ice-cream having a surprisingly prominent presence.

The text comments on itself, “A conventional novel or story collection is a sequence of parts in some predetermined order. We could of course read them any way we like,” and provides “layers of fiction”. Characters note variously a tendency to inconsistency, that imitation is the most fundamental human impulse, “‘We describe everything in terms of its similarity or difference compared to something else.’” That things aren’t what they seem or are described as being different to what they are. There are thoughts on a “past that wasn’t there,” “spurious influences”, “the night she didn’t have, with him instead of Matt. There is only now, she thought. Nothing else has any existence.” The five-second thrill of a life that never happened. The territory between being and non-being. One character says, “‘what neither of us can imagine is a universe without space and time,’” yet elsewhere we have, “‘Time is an appearance not a reality.’”

Despite “the interconnections by which the world is made a coherent whole,” even the most straightforward mainstream passages are saturated with subtle indeterminacies which it would be easy to overlook. Statements like, “‘You concentrate on that object…. visualise it as clearly as you can. Until it becomes no longer itself,’” or, “‘Alfredo Galli wanted to create a matrix of compositional elements through which numerous paths could be conceived, each a possible book with its own multiplicity of readings,’” and “History is an infinite superposition,” but “‘The universe is a circle…. A great chain of living and dying, giving and taking. Every moment is a link.’” “‘There is only one not many. No Difference, only Alike.’” Yet, “all literary style is really a kind of selection, a form of negation,” and “any path through the matrix of narrative possibilities should be a story not only scandalously disjointed but also inherently inconsistent: an appearance betraying its own unreality.”

What we have here is perhaps a literary expression of sonata form – “in the development the tunes get mixed up,” but with something to be discovered between the tones yet nevertheless totally accomplished.

The following did not appear in the published review.

Pedant’s corner:- jack-in-the-boxes (just sounds odd to me. But what is a more sensible plural? Jacks-in-the-box? Jacks-in-boxes? Jacks-in-the-boxes?) “The audience were applauding” (the audience was,) “All the burden of his father’s ambitions were lifted” (the burden was lifted,) liquified (liquefied; liquefy was used earlier,) “Ten Downing Street” (usually 10 Downing Street,) “the way his generation speak” (speaks,) Guttenberg (Gutenberg,) “umbilical chord” (that’s a cord,) “Marks and Spencers” (Marks and Spencer’s,) midgie (there is no such thing; it’s a midge,) CO2 (CO2,) a missing quotation mark at the end of a piece of direct speech.

Fifty-One by Chris Barnham

Filles Vertes Publishing, 2018, 317 p. Reviewed for Interzone 275, May-Jun 2018.

 Fifty-One cover

This novel is centred on the explosion of a V-1 Flying Bomb in Lewisham, London, in 1944 where fifty-one people were killed, hence the book’s title. It also features time travel in a way which has unavoidably noticeable echoes of Connie Willis’s “Oxford” series of tales but is in some respects better plotted and certainly not so prone to the narrative deferral to which Willis seems so wedded. Do not be put off by the book’s cover, which admittedly does have a doodlebug on it, but otherwise conveys a misleading impression of the contents. There is an element of romance here and it drives part of the plot but it is by no means the narrative’s main concern.

In the early 2020s experiments at CERN led by one Axel Darnell showed certain particles to be travelling back in time. Soon (too soon?) this discovery was extended into sending back animals then humans and the OffTime organisation was set up not only to explore the past for historical knowledge but also to monitor and amend any changes in the timeline.

There are two main settings, London in 2040 where the offices of OffTime are located and the same city during the 1940s war years. A prologue set in Koblenz in 1954 does rather give the game away about where we might be headed and we return there for the epilogue.

In the main story Jacob Wesson and his partner (in the romantic sense) Hannah Benedict are part of an OffTime team sent to 1941 to thwart an assassination attempt on Churchill. From the off there are odd aspects to this venture, including why it is even necessary, and of course things do not go smoothly. Jacob’s retrieval to 2040 in the middle of an air-raid is interrupted by a mysterious voice. Instead he jumps to 1943. While in 1941 Jacob (literally) bumped into one Amy Jenkins – about whose life we had been told in a previous chapter – then disturbed her wedding preparations. In implementing the “lost retrieval” protocol he meets up again with Amy (widowed in the same air-raid which disrupted the retrieval), and eventually despairing of being brought back to his own time allows himself to form an attraction to her. When contact is finally made Jacob has no option but to return to 2040, leaving Amy behind. But she follows him to the pick-up point and is projected into her future – against the supposed laws of time travel. Jacob and his team are faced with the dilemma of what to do with her and more importantly, what else have they not been told?

If you examine this in any detail it all vanishes in smoke of course. Any alteration of past events scenario is necessarily prone to that, however – unless it restores the time we know. There are certain pointers, though, that the past into which the team is sent is not our past (the “real” past?) and the 2040 shown here always seems contingent.

There are some problematic aspects to the narrative. Barnham has a tendency to tell the reader things rather than show them. The information dumping is not well integrated into the text and at times too crude. There is a bagginess to the prose, a tendency to repetition of things we already know. The necessity to make a time jump naked in order to avoid temporarily debilitating nausea was also a bit of hand-waving overkill. The dynamics of the relationship between Jacob and Hannah are underplayed and, for a supposed grand passion, that between Jacob and Amy is too restrained.

This is a US publication and so accommodations must be made but putting transatlantic speech patterns* into the mouths of 1940s Londoners can only jar with the British reader. Particularly egregious was the substitution of “Mum” by “Mom” in the wording of a famous wartime poster which consequently totally fails to embody the pun necessary for its effect. And that’s a pity as it immediately hauls said reader out of the story.

For all that, fans of a good time travel romp will enjoy this. The plotting is clever (if transparent, so that the twist in the tail came as not entirely a surprise.) Were Barnham to be more confident in his ability – and in the reader’s – eliminate repetition, tighten up on info-dumping and expand on characterisations sometimes too closely linked to plot necessities, his creations would breathe more freely.

The following did not appear in the published review.
Pedant’s corner:- *eg “‘we can go help them’” (go and help them,) “‘will go find’” (go and find.) “Be Like Dad, Keep Mom” (“Keep Mom” makes absolutely no sense. Unlike “keep mum”, which means “don’t say anything”.) “to get back with the program” (not a phraseology appropriate to a 1940s Londoner.)
Otherwise; “probably” appeared twice within the space of one line, “‘Keep out of sight and be ready to get into position right on the dot?’” (isn’t a question so needs no question mark,) “Code One” (really? Nothing more original for an emergency signal?) “The Heinkel bombers” (just “the Heinkels”, bombers is unnecessary,) “and what was doing there” (what was he doing there.) “‘But I finally I have some news’” (drop one of those “I”s ), “or tables, to be precise since she’d pushed” (the comma is misplaced “or tables to be precise, since she’d pushed”.) Jenkins’ (Jenkins’s,) “Amy had never seen a color (sic) photograph” (but coloured cinema films surely?) “the shops on this side of the Thames were closed for the weekend” (for Sunday maybe, but not the whole weekend,) practice (I thought the USian was always practise,) “get ahold” (get a hold,) “within a few days they’d break out and advance south towards Paris” (the D-Day breakout took longer than a few days after D-Day and Paris was east of the landing area, perhaps an indication of this not being “our” past.)

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