Apr 29, 12
Read in April, 2012
Well, I don't know. I'm not the kind of guy who typically finishes a book in four days, so I guess the way I ate this up must be a compliment, right? I'm very torn on what to say in this review. Typically I'm a sucker for time travel stories and a sucker for Jack McDevitt, so while this wasn't the best time travel story and it wasn't the best McDevitt story it doesn't seem like something I could realistically hate. Ultimately, I'd say it wasn't great, but it was a fast read an entertaining, so I can't complain too much.
Essentially this is the story of Shel and Dave, who come into possession of a pair of handheld time machines when Shel's father, a noted physicist who invented them, goes missing. Shel is told in no uncertain terms by his father to destroy the devices immediately because, you know, they're dangerous. I guess what I liked about Shel and Dave is the way they just... don't care. These guys are not science fiction buffs. They have not studied the causality implications of the Back to the Future series. They don't understand why creating a paradox might be bad. They are, however, history buffs, who get a rush out of meeting historical figures. So they cavalierly travel to every interesting event of note they can think of, meeting Galileo, Hemingway, Calamity Jane, Benjamin Franklin, and a whole host of people that I'm apparently not educated enough to care about.
All this is driven by the search for Shel's missing father. Presumably he was gallivanting through history and his time travel device malfunctioned. This is a pretty thin MacGuffin, though. Shel and Dave, not knowing exactly when and where their quarry would be, are left to ask themselves, "If I were a time traveler and history buff, which interesting places would I go?" No doubt they are the places that Mr. McDevitt would go if he had a time machine.
There are some very strong, suspenseful moments in this book, particularly in times where clever use of the time machine gets them out of a jam. However, these moments are separated by many highly unnecessary episodes where the characters have a nice chat with Thomas Paine or Aldous Huxley.
I can't say I didn't enjoy reading this book. It's well written, a quick read, and for the most part not boring (or at least the boring parts don't last so long as to be distracting), but it wasn't as good as some of McDevitt's other work.