Skyring's Reviews > There Will Be Time

There Will Be Time by Poul Anderson
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May 08, 12

Read from May 01 to 08, 2012



Perhaps the forerunner for The Time Traveller's Wife, time travel in this universe requires no machinery or calculations, just an inbuilt ability to travel. With complete control however, rather than randomly. Just like walking or breathing, and you go on until you run out of puff.

Also in common with the later novel, time travel cannot change history. If a thing is done, it is done forever. I like that, although a generation of science fiction writers had fun with the paradoxes of being your own grandfather or stopping Lee Harvey Oswald or whatever. This model imposes a discipline on the writer, who has to keep track of his characters through time and space and through the progress of his story, ensuring that secrets are not inadvertently revealed before or after the dramatic moment arrives. If the character knows how it all works out, then how does the writer keep a straight face at the tricky bits? Or what's to prevent the protagonist from simply skipping ahead to learn how he should handle his various crises?

The discovery of time travel by Havig, the protagonist, is a delightful episode, which also introduces the narrator, a small town doctor, into the story. Nice device, by the way, as the doctor, a remote relative of a science fiction author, anchors the progression of the plot for the reader. Havig visits the doctor at various stages to describe his progress and to explain the complicated bits.

There's a need for this, because the plot shuttles through time and space, moving from rural America to medieval Istanbul, a post apocalyptic future and further, much further in both directions. It's complex, and the characters come and go, meeting each other - and themselves - at various points in future and past.

Poul Anderson is a marvel at this sort of thing. He tells the old story of a man facing horrific peril and the chance of love, and he pushes us into contemplating what is evil and what is good across cultures and eras. What do we really want and need, and what is best for humanity?

It's a thoughtful book, and I enjoyed it immensely. However, I do wish it hadn't been quite so complex as it ducked around. I felt at points that I could have done with some sort of map to work out who was when and where was why. And stuff like that.
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