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A Pandora's box of evil Freitas had commanded the engineers of his vast, world-wide empire to build him a device that could ransack the past. Now all the riches of the ages were his for the taking. But mere wealth was not what Freitas was after. Supreme power was what he sought, and from the past he picked the men and women who could help him gain absolute mastery over his rivals. But one thing he had not reckoned on - the power these creatures fro the past would have over him the reign of terror about to begin

156 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1969

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About the author

John Brunner

414 books391 followers
John Brunner was born in Preston Crowmarsh, near Wallingford in Oxfordshire, and went to school at St Andrew's Prep School, Pangbourne, then to Cheltenham College. He wrote his first novel, Galactic Storm, at 17, and published it under the pen-name Gill Hunt, but he did not start writing full-time until 1958. He served as an officer in the Royal Air Force from 1953 to 1955, and married Marjorie Rosamond Sauer on 12 July 1958

At the beginning of his writing career Brunner wrote conventional space opera pulp science fiction. Brunner later began to experiment with the novel form. His 1968 novel "Stand on Zanzibar" exploits the fragmented organizational style John Dos Passos invented for his USA trilogy, but updates it in terms of the theory of media popularised by Marshall McLuhan.

"The Jagged Orbit" (1969) is set in a United States dominated by weapons proliferation and interracial violence, and has 100 numbered chapters varying in length from a single syllable to several pages in length. "The Sheep Look Up" (1972) depicts ecological catastrophe in America. Brunner is credited with coining the term "worm" and predicting the emergence of computer viruses in his 1975 novel "The Shockwave Rider", in which he used the term to describe software which reproduces itself across a computer network. Together with "Stand on Zanzibar", these novels have been called the "Club of Rome Quartet", named after the Club of Rome whose 1972 report The Limits to Growth warned of the dire effects of overpopulation.

Brunner's pen names include K. H. Brunner, Gill Hunt, John Loxmith, Trevor Staines, Ellis Quick, Henry Crosstrees Jr., and Keith Woodcott.
In addition to his fiction, Brunner wrote poetry and many unpaid articles in a variety of publications, particularly fanzines, but also 13 letters to the New Scientist and an article about the educational relevance of science fiction in Physics Education. Brunner was an active member of the organisation Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and wrote the words to "The H-Bomb's Thunder", which was sung on the Aldermaston Marches.

Brunner had an uneasy relationship with British new wave writers, who often considered him too American in his settings and themes. He attempted to shift to a more mainstream readership in the early 1980s, without success. Before his death, most of his books had fallen out of print. Brunner accused publishers of a conspiracy against him, although he was difficult to deal with (his wife had handled his publishing relations before she died).[2]

Brunner's health began to decline in the 1980s and worsened with the death of his wife in 1986. He remarried, to Li Yi Tan, on 27 September 1991. He died of a heart attack in Glasgow on 25 August 1995, while attending the World Science Fiction Convention there

K H Brunner, Henry Crosstrees Jr, Gill Hunt (with Dennis Hughes and E C Tubb), John Loxmith, Trevor Staines, Keith Woodcott

Winner of the ESFS Awards in 1980 as "Best Author" and 1n 1984 as "Novelist"..

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Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews
Profile Image for Tentatively, Convenience.
Author 16 books191 followers
October 31, 2013
review of
John Brunner's Timescoop
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 30, 2013

The scion of an extremely wealthy family suddenly finds himself at the helm of the empire & is eager to make his mark. Scientists in his employ have developed a "Timescoop", a device that can take a slice from something in the past & incarnate it in the present. One of the 1st things I imagined was bringing a version of the Venus di Milo into the present in a form that predates the damage to it. Lo & Behold! that's precisely what's presented as a possibility in the novel shortly after I imagined it:

""Now just a second!" Harold objected. "Think of all the damaged works of art that people would like to have complete—think of the Venus di Milo! Think of the archeological relics which were robbed before scientists could get to investigate them, like the burial treasures of the Pharaohs which were stolen from the Pyramids!["]" - p 17

The basic premise of the story is that Harold Freitas, heir to a vast fortune, uses this phenomenal Timescoop invention to have a family reunion publicity stunt bringing back from the past his most noteworthy ancestors. Brunner's political subtext being that the ancestors of a wealthy family may've been brutal criminals of the 1st order who've been rehistoricized thru the usual "history of the victor" bullshit. ""No, the Freitas reunion is going to be unique, and—and oh boy! Is this ever going to make the Mellons and the Kennedys and the Schatzenheims look sick!"" (p 19) I don't know whether the Mellons & the Kennedys ever had publicity stunt family reunions but they're certainly wealthy families. The "Schatzenheims" are the Freitas's fictional rival family in the story.

All of the Freitas ancestors turn out to be total shits. However, it strikes me as a little deficient of Brunner to have the only woman be a nymphomaniac - cdn't he've come up w/ something less sexually based? The reader gets samples of the lives of the Feitas clan in their original periods:

""That's as may be, sir," Peabody said, growing bolder. "But next after Mistress Coolman she named yourself."

"There was a stony silence in the room for long seconds. Reverend Freitas could say only one thing in the circumstances, though, and they all knew it. At length he uttered the fatal words.

""Then it was not a true confession, but a wile of the devil to sow dissension among those who hunt down and drive out his black angels. Let her be put to the question in the morning."

"Ellen uttered a stifled exclamation. "But, husband dear," she objected—thinking of what the order implied, thinking of the lashings at ankles and neck, thinking of the blood pouring from mouth and nose and near strangulation making the eyes bulge and the little vessels in the white burst until the balls were the color of cherries—"she is barely more than a child! She is only a few months older than our Eliza!"" - p 45

Now, I've been to Salem, Massachusetts where the famous 'witch' trials took place that this is presumably a reference to. In those trials, "spectral evidence" was used to condemn people (a movie of mine that touches on this peripherally is here: http://youtu.be/PFtodKMQpXE ). In other words, people wd testify to dreaming about the accused & being bewitched by them in the dreams. This testimony alone was enuf to condemn people to horrible punishment. Young girls were the accusers who started the whole mess.

When I visited one of the tourist spots where the story was recounted, the woman telling the story discounted the girls's culpability by making them out to be victims of the patriarchy n'at. This strikes me as ridiculous & contemptible. These girls were responsible for getting off on malicious destruction of their fellow humans, female & male, w/o the slightest trace of conscience. They were completely sociopathic. It seems to me that Brunner wd've been better off showing this side of females rather than 'nymphomania'. That sd, the Salem sheriff, a man, of course, was one of the people to benefit the most from this heinous situation given that he got to keep the property of those executed.

These relatives are MONSTROUS - but as anyone knows who studies history, such monstrosity is the basis of many a fortune - again, this strikes me as Brunner's most important subtext here. Treachery, slaughter, & exploitation abound:

""They're all set up," Buffalo Hank told him. "When they discover that the guns we're giving them are worn-out relics of the Civil War and liable to jam after half a dozen shots, they'll go crazy—especially with the firewater we're shipping in. You did make sure it was well spiked with wood alcohol?"

""Of course."

""Fine. That means the railroad should be free of Indian trouble by the end of the year; they'll just be creeping around the depots in dirty blankets whining for a hand-out. And now, how about my pay for this job, hm?"" - p 49

Chester Waley, the main scientist behind the Timescoop, is a black man. he imagines his own selection of people to be incarnated:

"And there would be plenty of chances later to bring in the really great men and women of history: Malcolm X was high on his own list, along with Martin Luther King, James Baldwin, Louis Armstrong. The toll call even among his own people was endlessly long." - p 50

Chester knows that Harold's plan will bring major problems but at 1st he's self-searching:

"Maybe that was his trouble. Maybe he was so much a child of the clean, antiseptic twenty-first century that he couldn't face the idea of people from squalid, insanitary days in the distant past. In which case his antipathy to the project was ridiculous and unjustifiable." - p 53

Sometimes when reading Brunner, & other authors too, of course, I imagine what (t)he(y) read before & during the writing of bks. In the case of Brunner's Bedlam Planet (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... ) he relied heavily on the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology (the English version of Larousse Mythologie General). Here, it appears that he was studying history & bringing to the fore aspects of it that mightn't be ordinarily thought of by many people:

"They had talked about books—but what business did a grown man have with books, unless he was a priest? That was why the soft English had caved in before the onslaught of King William's forces: too much book learning had made them forget the martial arts, copying their own King Alfred, who, for all they claimed he had built them a navy, had spent his days in poring over dusty parchments. A king who could not merely read, but even write—it was ridiculous!" - p 68

"There were universal nods. Satisfied, Harold returned to his seat—only to notice with dismay that on his far left the Sieur Bohun de Freitas had picked up his avocado pear and was sniffing at it suspiciously.

""What's this—hog's food?" he roared, his high-speed English lessons having taken to such good effect that everyone for twenty places either side heard him clearly. Panicking, Harold gestured for Helen's attention.

""Blazes, of course—in his day they ate practically no vegetables!" she groaned. "I'd forgotten about that. Never mind, I'll just ask for his main dish to be served at once."" - p 94

"Accordingly, it had occurred to him to track down Joshua, whose—ah—former existence had overlapped the so-called Age of Reason, who had shared a century with, for instance, the philosophers of the Lunatic Society. he might have some data to indicate how those brilliant but informal experimenters got away with it in face of what could not have been much less frustrating obstacles." - p 104

The "Lunatic Society"? of course my interest is sparked!! I found this online (http://ssmag.wordpress.com/category/h... ):

"Science before the twentieth century wasn’t done by “scientists.” There was no such word. There were educated amateurs and self-taught tinkerers, building their own labs in search of discovery or a patent. And so there wasn’t such a distinction between science and culture — the smart set went to “electrical parties” to see demonstrations of the newly discovered force. Ben Franklin wrote,

"A turkey is to be killed for dinner by the electric shock, and roasted by the electric jack, before a fire kindled by the electrified bottle; when the healths of all the famous electricians of England, France, Holland, and Germany are to be drunk in electrified bumpers, under the discharge of guns from the electrified battery.

"The best example of the public nature of science in Enlightenment England was the Lunar Society, a club of industrialists, natural philosophers, and intellectuals that met in Birmingham at the full moon between 1765 and 1813. The port and talk flowed. Joseph Priestley was a regular member: a self-taught chemist, political radical and Unitarian minister, he discovered oxygen and its necessity for animal life, invented seltzer water, and supported the American and French revolutions. Also a “Lunatick” was Josiah Wedgwood, the great ceramics industrialist and founding member of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. James Watt, the inventor of the modern steam engine, attended meetings regularly. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin visited occasionally; Antoine Lavoisier corresponded with Society members; John Smeaton, the father of civil engineering, and Joseph Wright, the painter of the Industrial Revolution, were also regulars."

Adding further to my fascination is that there was also an Alleged Lunatics' Friend Society that was an advocacy group started by former asylum patients and their supporters in 19th century Britain, & that there was a Belgian Old school punk rock band (est. in 1992), & that there's a Lunaticks Society of Newcastle wch is a society of Newcastle digital and social media enthusiasts. I'm tempted to start my own!

Alas, Chester gets an ugly reminder of what such an aristocrat of the 'Age of Reason' might've really been like:

""And what makes you think a gentleman would wish to talk with you?" returned Joshua, obviously drunk but bright-eyed and clear of speech. "You're a black, damn it! You're not for talking to—you're for buying and selling!"" - p 105

Brunner pulls it off again! This story operates at multiple levels. At one level it's an entertaining story about the possibility presented by a new technology, at another it's a critique of the accumulation of power, at another there's hope for the beneficiaries of such power to benefit from taking a realistic look at their past.
Profile Image for drew petersen.
74 reviews18 followers
May 24, 2019
A breezy enough read but nothing about it really grabbed me.
October 12, 2020
This is such a weird, confusing and ultimately not a good book.

This doesn’t stand the test of time in any way. Many elements are severely dated, and not in a charming way. One of the characters brought from the past is a pedophile. This is played off as a joke at points. Even worse, late in the book, the main characters point out that thankfully only the most stuffy individuals find pedophilia objectionable anymore. I mention it here because it jumped off the page so badly.

Beyond all that, the plot elements don’t stand up either, and this is where the confusing elements enter. Other reviews point out the description on the book itself is inaccurate. The default main character decides to bring to the future his distant relatives and have a dinner party. That is about it. Aside from that not making much sense, the main character talks about his father dying in a car wreck, resulting in him having to take over the company and be in over his head. Why in the world did he not bring his father back? It makes way too much sense to not do this. Yet, the book doesn’t bring it up at all.

After that, they enter a period where it could dive into the ethics of bringing back these people, are they people at all or like false duplicates like they argue about the artwork early in the book, what are the repercussions of doing all this? It isn’t really discussed at all. Instead, there is a very dull courtroom/legal drama thing basically ending with a Kirk confusing the computer climax.

Why not have some real fun with the premise? What if some rich character kept bringing Hitler back to the future to kill him over and over, or put him on trial? How about they set up a company that can bring loved ones back who die in accidents like the father above? Sounds like a true way of making outrageous amounts of money to me.

A dull book that absolutely refused to chase down any of the good ideas they had. Frustrating.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Peter W Blaisdell.
Author 4 books11 followers
November 17, 2017
Actual rating: 3.5 stars. Brunner’s Timescoop is a light piece of science fiction from this genre’s classical era. Though the tone is humorous throughout, the motifs are weighty including confronting the consequences of research advances and how these technologies can be perverted for trivial, self-aggrandizing purposes. As part of developing these themes, Brunner notes that the actual personalities of historical figures differs from our rose-colored images of them. The plot of this short novel (almost a novella) focuses on the head of a corporation whose R&D department has developed the ability to retrieve people and objects from the distant past. Predictably, the CEO immediately plans a public relations coup leveraging the invention. Also, predictably, it all goes badly wrong.

Brunner is a very capable writer though, in this novel, he’s doesn’t seem to be swinging for the fences. The characters - actually characterizations – are thin; the plot is contrived, and the setting is just a sketch. Whatever. The author’s ideas are fun to watch play out. And, though written about 50 years ago, the conflict between what we can do vs what we should do with our science is, of course, super relevant today in a world ever more influenced by tech intensive companies run by egotistical CEOs.

As an author myself, re-reading any of Brunner’s work offers case studies in intertwining big ideas with other story elements.
Profile Image for Kent.
350 reviews2 followers
October 9, 2021
An interesting premise to the book, but the story is rather strange at times. I feel like Brunner had a lot of fantastic ideas, but a few of his plot lines don't go the best ways. The back description of this book is fairly misleading as well. Makes it sound like the lead character is some evil genius out to control the world by bringing back histories greatest leaders. But really it's some guy with a company competing with another company who wants to be remembered, so he brings back his relatives who turn out to be much less than history portrayed them to be.
Profile Image for Ian Hamilton.
464 reviews8 followers
May 24, 2020
Timescoop is pretty mediocre, but it's absurd and inane enough of a story to hold your attention and provide some mindless low brow sci fi entertainment. I happily plowed through this one over a couple of evenings, but it didn't feel like a slog. Would have been perfect beach reading, but alas, we're all homebound.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,919 reviews
July 31, 2017
An interesting twist on the time travel story. Would you really want to resurrect your great great grandfather?
Profile Image for John.
Author 287 books161 followers
August 2, 2010

Industrial magnate Harold Freitas wants a publicity stunt that will devastate his competitors when he launches his company's Timescoop capability, and so he decides to organize a family reunion -- the other family members being distinguished ancestors of his hauled out of the past by the Timescoop technology. What he doesn't realize is that the genealogist advising him on the distinction of his ancestors has done as all genealogists do in such situations: he gave a flattering depiction of the ancestors in question. So Freitas finds himself trying to limit the damage cause caused by a motley crew of psychopaths, sexual deviants and sleazebags. This is all rather reminiscent of the kind of lightweight, modestly entertaining, moderately amusing novels Robert Silverberg used to write way back in his early days, although to be honest is not as good.

The way that Timescoop works is of more interest, though. The chronon is (for the purposes of the tale) the smallest possible duration -- the unit of time. If you excise a chronon-thick layer (as it were) out of something's or someone's timeline, no one could ever notice, the gap between the two bits of the timeline being substantially smaller than an instant. Thus you avoid any possibility of a pesky time paradox, because you've left the past to all intents and purposes exactly the way you found it. Once you have the "cross-section" back in your 21st-century laboratory, you can simply let it behave the way nature intended: continue to exist along the time dimension as well as, of course, in the three spatial ones. "[R:]ight here, in the shape of this statue, is proof that it can be done, and even though we saw it -- uh -- grow in the Timescoop lab this morning, it is in every possible respect the original which we located in Praxiteles's own workshop and cross-sectioned just before its dispatch to the temple it was commissioned for." (p11)

It's depressing that the man responsible for such significant novels as Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up, who with The Shockwave Rider effectively invented cyberpunk years before anyone knew what it was, probably earned himself a better hourly rate churning out -- quite probably in his sleep -- such dreary, supposedly funny, instantly forgettable, wholly unnecessary crap as this. Them's the commercial imperatives of the book trade, ain't they?
66 reviews
February 27, 2023
In an earlier review I applauded the sci-fi paperback "Groupmind" for being "more than just dumb fun". Timescoop really is dumb fun. Depending on your mood, that might be just what you want, or just what you need. There are definitely times where that is exactly what I am looking for - and Timescoop has the bonus attribute of being a rather "breezy" read. Quick hitting, lots of dialogue, nothing too complicated or abstract. It reads like a TV show or comic book in it's basic goings-on, and I admire fiction that comes at you "at that level". Not every novel needs to be a brain-burner or rich with depth, actually - there is "room for all" in the landscape of literature as a medium, certainly.

And so then on it's own merits I say it's a quick-hitting and fun novel. It is not a book I will remember distinctly plot points or characters or lessons from in a year or two, no. It was instead a fun fantasy sci-fi romp during the act of reading it.
705 reviews3 followers
September 9, 2016
The book jacket description is incredibly misleading.

This book is more about a bumbling man inheriting a vast business and fortune and trying to impress his wife and the world as he steps into his father's shoes. It just so happens it's the future, and he has a vast scientific wealth at his fingertips to fumble with, and he decides to delve into the world's past history to impress everyone by throwing a family reunion... by bringing past ancestors into his present.

It's more vaguely comedic than anything. The jacket description makes it sound very nefarious.
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