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Time Salvager #1

Time Salvager

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Convicted criminal James Griffin-Mars is no one’s hero. In his time, Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humans have fled into the outer solar system to survive, eking out a fragile, doomed existence among the other planets and their moons. Those responsible for delaying humanity’s demise believe time travel holds the key, and they have identified James, troubled though he is, as one of a select and expendable few ideally suited for the most dangerous job in history.

James is a chronman, undertaking missions into Earth's past to recover resources and treasure without altering the timeline. The laws governing use of time travel are absolute; break any one of them and, one way or another, your life is over. Most chronmen never reach old age; the stress of each jump through time, compounded by the risk to themselves and to the future, means that many chronmen rapidly reach their breaking point, and James Griffin-Mars is nearing his.

On a final mission that is to secure his retirement, James meets Elise Kim, an intriguing scientist from a previous century, who is fated to die during the destruction of an oceanic rig. Against his training and his common sense, and in violation of the chronmen’s highest law, James brings Elise back to the future with him, saving her life, but turning them both into fugitives. Remaining free means losing themselves in the wild and poisonous wastes of Earth, somehow finding allies, and perhaps discovering what hope may yet remain for humanity's home world.

380 pages, Hardcover

First published July 7, 2015

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About the author

Wesley Chu

21 books1,698 followers
Wesley Chu is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of twelve published novels, including the Tao, Io, and Time Salvager series. He was the 2015 winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. His debut, The Lives of Tao, won the American Library Association's Alex Award, and was a finalist for the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Science Fiction. He is the coauthor of the Eldest Curses series with Cassandra Clare. Robert Kirkman tapped Chu to write The Walking Dead: Typhoon, the first Walking Dead novel set in Asia.

Chu is an accomplished martial artist and a former member of the Screen Actors Guild. He has acted in film and television, and has worked as a model and stuntman, and recently returned from summiting Kilimanjaro. He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife, Paula, and two boys, Hunter and River.

Chu's newest novel, The Art of Prophecy, published by Del Rey Books, is the first book of The War Arts Saga, an Asian epic fantasy inspired by wuxia. The series is currently in development at Sony Pictures Entertainment.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 681 reviews
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,893 reviews10.5k followers
June 2, 2015
When chronman James Griffin-Mars breaks the first Time Law, he becomes the target of the very agency he's worked with for years. Can he flee across time to escape them and help the woman he loves save the Earth?

I got this from NetGalley.

I was reading an interview with Wesley Chu around the time his second Tao book came out and he mentioned Time Salvager. What's not to like about people from the far future plundering dead timelines for supplies in order to save the Earth?

Things get Timey-wimey pretty quickly in Time Salvager: Time ripples, time lag, preserving the chronostream. I like the way the Chu-man handles time travel. Much like the Tao books, Time Salvager is a thriller wrapped in a nice sci-fi wrapper.

James Griffin-Mars is a complicated lead. Honestly, he's pretty unlikeable at first. On the other hand, I get the feeling that a lot of people would be that way if they were largely above the law and had crazily powerful weaponry at their fingertips. His foil, Levin, is nearly as complicated, a rigid, duty-bound man bent on bringing James in at all costs. Complicating things is Elise, the woman James brought back with him from his last authorized jump, a woman with the knowledge to save the future from the Earth-plague.

There were enough unanswered questions for me to not mind that this is likely the first book in a series. I look forward to more adventures involving the chronmen. Wesley Chu is one smooth Wookie. Four out of five stars.
Profile Image for Neil Hepworth.
225 reviews46 followers
July 15, 2015
The short review:
An excellent premise with loads of potential squandered in shallow characters, cringe-worthy dialogue, cliches galore, and clunky writing. This is a bad book. You, on the other hand, might like it. I see lots of glowing reviews on the interweb. So if you don’t want me to pick apart a book that you like, then stop reading. However, if you want my complete list of gripes, then here is...

The longer, more brutal review and other thoughts:
Get out the cliche checklist. Here we go…

Earth and her oceans destroyed by megacorporation misconduct? Check.

Megacorporation and tech giant that abuses a poor and/or primitive tribal peoples? Check.

Disillusioned member of the megacorporation having a change of heart at a convenient point in the plot so that the protagonist can escape, but at least he feels good about himself now that he has a clean conscience? Check.

Megacorporation harbors secrets that aren’t really all that secret? Check.

Gruff main character who is a loner and a drinker but discovers his heart of gold when he meets a girl? Check.

Primitive tribal people, who are abused by the megacorporation, take in the hero and show him how the world can be a better place if the people just work together, care for the land, and care for one another? (paging Avatar and Dances with Wolves.) Check.

Scientist who is able to quickly figure out problems that no one else can? Check. (Well, okay...only kinda...but it’s still close enough for me to put it on the list.)

Two female characters who fight with each other because they’re both looking for the affections of the main character, but then come to an understanding and become close? Check.

Scene after scene where a main character escapes but just barely? Check.

That one member of the primitive tribe who, knowing he’s committing suicide, attacks a technologically superior villain so that a main character can escape - the scene is supposed to be emotional (but it’s not)? Check.

That one scene where the villain monologues while hunting a main character who is hiding in the shadow? (paging Darth Vader.) Check.

A main character who “sees dead people” from his past, but they kinda help him make good decisions, and then, at the very end, he comes to peace with them and so his visions literally wave at him - and he waves back!?!? (paging Luke Skywalker.) Check.

It's cliched!

A few other critiques that just add to the mess:
The f-bombs are frequent and akward, used without any thought, and are particularly jarring because the other swear words are made-up swears like Gaia, abyss, and space-it!

So many chapters in the story lead to a climax that is skipped in favor of starting the next chapter with a “Hey, remember that one event from the last chapter that we solved while you turned the page? Yeah, that was awesome - good thing we didn’t die, huh?” Why would you cut away from action that could both advance the plot and flesh out some characters? Also the scenes could be like, you know, exciting and tension filled?

Seriously, the dialogue is really clunky: “No James, open your eyes and let people in. Like you let me in.” (page 295)

Also, this gem: “So you pretend to be an old hobbling man to get what you want? That’s sick.” (page 351). REALLY? Impersonating an old man is SICK? The torture, the mass murder, the general ass-hattery...but this is sick?

And finally, DEAR LORD an EVIL megacorporation who is EVIL to everyone and EVERYTHING it touches! Get a new villain, please!

Final thoughts:
I was really looking forward to this book. I pre-ordered it, but then went out and purchased it from Barnes and Noble anyway because it wasn’t shipping fast enough. I thoroughly enjoyed The Lives of Tao and thought that Chu would be perfect to write a science fiction story like Time Salvager. Boy was I wrong. But the thing that hurts the most is that Chu’s premise is so good: a future where time travelers go back in time to salvage resources and other art/goods from the past to bring to the present because the present is so screwed up. And, to top it off, you’ve got a main character who pretty well hates his job because each time he goes back he realizes what a dump his actual life is and that everyone he sees in the past is dead. It's a great idea! I mean, think of the possibilities that presents - think of the depth of character is could lead to. But it doesn’t. At every turn Time Salvager takes the easy and cliched path.

Once again, I’m left wondering what I would think of this novel if I were not a constant reader of science fiction, or if I were a younger, less experienced reader. Perhaps if this novel were one of my first exposures to science fiction, I’d really like it. But I’m just getting tired of having to read science fiction with that particular hat on my head - for once, I want to read a science fiction novel, and as an experienced reader, be blown away by new ideas and great writing. Such novels are very far and few between. Sigh.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,004 reviews2,596 followers
February 11, 2016
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.com/2015/07/06/b...

Full disclosure, though I am writing this review for the ARC, I actually had the distinct pleasure of being a beta reader for an early draft of Time Salvager last year, and I just want to say now that being able to experience this story again felt even more amazing. Wesley Chu has already shown a flair for writing thrilling sci-fi adventures with his Tao trilogy, and there’s no doubt that his new novel is another strong entry into the genre.

Time Salvager takes us to a future where Earth has become a toxic wasteland. Those who could afford to get off-planet have long since taken their lives to the outer solar system, but this dispersion has also created a greater need for resources to support the population – resources that Earth is no longer in a position to provide.

Enter ChronoCom and their elite corps of time-traveling agents, aptly known as “Chronmen”. If the present can’t provide the resources that humanity needs, then they shall plunder the past. However, messing around with the chronostream is always dicey, so chronmen are dedicated to keeping their ripples in the past as small as possible so that the timeline can heal itself before effects can be felt in the present. This means that a lot of rules put in place, and the harshest punishments are brought down on those who break them.

Unfortunately for chronman James Griffin-Mars, on his final mission in the twenty-first century to secure his retirement, he experiences a moment of madness and breaks the most important and unforgiveable rule of all. Unstable and already close to snapping, James spontaneously decides to rescue a young woman named Elise from her fated death and brings her back to his time. Viewed as a temporal anomaly that must now be eliminated, Elise is forced to go on the run with James as the full might of ChronoCom descends upon the two fugitives.

Firstly, time traveling stories are always tricky to pull off, and admittedly I can’t think of too many where some willingness to turn a blind eye to temporal paradoxes and contradictions is at least required. Time Salvager is no different, though to Chu’s credit, the time traveling system he proposes is compelling and well-developed. Even though it may not stand up to heavy scrutiny, the process behind the technology lends itself perfectly to the story which will delight readers who are in it for the action and the entertainment. In other words, yes, you’ll probably have to roll with the punches, but at the same time I’m hard pressed to think of any other instance where doing so has been more fun.

Those who have read the author’s Tao series may also notice that the story of Time Salvager has a darker, more despairing vibe. Much of this has to do with the protagonist of James, whose long years working for ChronoCom and salvaging dead-end timelines has exposed him to too much death and destruction. Added to his overall jadedness are the dangerous physiological effects of doing too many time jumps, the character of James Griffin-Mars is definitely not singing a song of sunshine and rainbows. Perhaps the only reason I like Wesley Chu’s Tao books slightly more is because of the emotional cocktail of desperation, hopelessness and pent-up rage that is James’ personality. It fits who he is and makes for interesting development later on in the novel, but it does give Time Salvager a certain gravitas and makes it a heavier read.

Chu, however, did impress me with his characterization of Levin Javier-Oberon, the ChronoCom auditor tasked to capture James and Elise. With his complex view of the world and the way he believes things should be, Levin became my favorite character as soon as he was introduced as a point-of-view character. I can’t even really bring myself to name him as the antagonist; it doesn’t seem fair just because Levin is rigidly tied a set of moral standards that happens to be the antithesis of James’. I hope we’ll see more of Levin in the next book, because I’m not ready for his tale to be over yet, especially given how the book ended.

It goes without saying, I’m really looking forward to the sequel. Time Salvager feels like the next big step in Wesley Chu’s writing career, which continues to rise promisingly. This book does a fantastic job setting up for a fast-paced sci-fi thriller series that is brimming with potential, and you really can’t ask for much more.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,909 followers
September 5, 2015
I really wanted to like this more. There's a lot of great things that can be said about clarity of style, fairly well-developed and interesting characters, and a promising concept, and this novel had it all, including an interesting hard-sf opening with a doomed space battle with highly advanced humanoids, but unfortunately, all the promise kinda fizzled.

This is a time travel book, isn't it? There was too little time travel. Even the rules against doing it too much turned out to be so much hokum, and the worst that can be expected is just the time-traveller's body giving out. (Sure, that's bad enough, but there's always a way around such things. After all, they have time and times that are much better at healing failing bodies, but such a fix was never explored.)

Instead, we have an Evil Corp trope, which can be done smart or not, depending on the author's talent, but the fact that our future is such a shithole because of stupidity and greed is simply a too obvious worldbuilding technique. Clarity of prose can easily lend itself to a much more complex and compelling plot.

Did I really want to wind up reading about a small band of shit-dwelling future bostonians living a stone-age existence while a handful of super-bright and/or super-powerful tech-wielding outcasts befriend and later try to save the earth from the muck of industrial byproducts? No, not really. This was supposed to be a time-travel novel. There's all of HISTORY that could have been plumbed. Including that present's future.

Was I disappointed with the direction the story went?

Well, let me throw out a caveat: The whole novel was competent and the action scenes were fun, the characters were believable and the growing love wasn't too painful to read. James's handler was definitely a bright point in the novel, as was the turnaround of the auditor. From the very start of the tale, I was hooked and flew through the pages, just wanting to see what would happen next, thinking that I was going to be in for a real treat of imagination and discovery.

Of course, that's where I went wrong. Perhaps the fact that this is only a book one out of an unknown number will clear up and develop a better story, later, such as turning this primitive tribe into a team of outlaw chronomen, but then again, maybe not. I'd say this novel is redeemed, if it eventually turns out to be true, but otherwise, I'm stuck sitting on my hands and and wondering if I had just read anything more than a mediocre tale.

My only complaint is in the fulfillment of the social contract between author and reader. I wasn't as satisfied as I should have been, based on the promises that the prose started me out with.

We'll see for the later books. I'm not giving up just yet.
Profile Image for Brandon.
895 reviews234 followers
July 29, 2015
Wesley Chu’s Time Salvager presents a bleak vision of mankind hundreds of years in the future. While technology has advanced to the point of interplanetary travel and colony settlement, supplies are running low. Luckily for the human race, they’ve perfected time travel! Using this technology, a select few are tasked with going into the past and bringing back resources in an effort to further humanity’s survival.

Because time travel is tricky and even the slightest modification of the past can have effects on the future, a governing body dubbed ChronoCom was created. This organization trains men and women – Chronmen – to slide into the past, grab what is required and return to the future, hopefully avoiding any activity that could seriously alter the timeline. I say seriously as no matter what chronmen do, a ripple effect will always be created – the key is to make it as manageable as possible. How you ask? By going into what are perceived as “dead time-lines” – think salvaging a ship just as it is about to sink to the bottom of the sea. There’s also a specific set of time laws that everyone must follow – and breaking any time law is met with swift and severe punishment. I’ll get to that later.

Because travel (or jumps) back and forth through time have a tendency to rattle you like paint shaker, Chronmen have a particularly short shelf life, despite specialized training as well as medication provided to try and lessen its effects. So when Chronman James Griffin-Mars receives a job that upon completion would sever his contract with ChronoCom thus pushing him into early retirement, he jumps at the chance to take it.

Remember those time laws? Well, against better judgment, James breaks one of those during said job by bringing back a resident of the past in an effort to save her life. When ChronoCom discovers James’ disregard for the rules, a universe-wide manhunt begins.

Time Salvager reads like a sprawling, sci-fi epic movie – which I suppose makes sense given how quickly the film rights were snatched up. I was surprised with how well everything flowed given what needed to be established in terms of world-building – very impressive work on the part of Wesley Chu considering this is only his fourth full novel!

The ending of Time Salvager isn’t so much an ending as it is a lead in to the sequel Time Siege, which is tentatively scheduled for May 2016. I’m on the edge of my seat when it comes to this one.

Also posted @ Every Read Thing.

Check out my interview with Wesley from 2013!
Profile Image for Scott.
290 reviews295 followers
June 13, 2017
Michael Bay is planning to direct the film of this book. Yes, Pearl Harbor, Transformers, explosions-as-narrative, scantily-clad-girls-and-big-robots Michael Bay. This is indicative of the level of subtlety displayed by Time Salvagers, a novel that isn’t solving humanity’s most pressing questions, or exploring the boundaries of narrative fiction.

Of course, subtlety isn’t everything, and if you’re looking for a straightforward and entertaining read Time Salvagers could be your ticket, providing you’re prepared to look past some clunky writing and some flux-capacitor level clichés.

The basic concept is one I like- the future is a wrecked, resource-scarce dystopia far past humanity's technological prime. In order to keep colonies on the Jovian moons, Mars, etc. going Chronmen- trained, heavily armed operators who can travel back in time - range through history, salvaging resources and energy sources from places where their absences won't be missed (the reactor of a sinking battleship, for example, or logs from a forest that is about to burn down). All Chronmen work for a neutral agency that is regularly hired by a fairly stock-standard group of Evil Dystopia Corporations (Could we start calling them EDCs? They are so, so common in SF) and are policed by even more heavily armed auditors, who enforce strict time laws and work to capture or kill agents who attempt to desert their duty and flee into the past. As you can imagine, looting the past for salvage is a stressful, dangerous job made worse by the fact that humanity's history is so much better than the miserable present that the Chronmen return to, and the suicide rate in the trade is massive.

James Griffin-Mars has traveled to hundreds of historic disasters where he has looted useful resources then left the people relying on them to die. He's a burnt out wreck, and is close to suicide, until he breaks the most important time law of all and sets his life on a new and dangerous trajectory, pitting himself against his old employer. Of course, there is a corporate conspiracy to be uncovered, and a love interest, and a chance to save the earth, which the corporations have turned into a ruined ball of brown muck.

You've seen these plot developments before, and the execution isn't great here. The writing is occasionally clunky, and tends towards exposition- there is a great deal of 'tell' rather than show. The characters are also pretty clichéd- the burnt out, alcoholic operative who rebels against a corrupt system, the pretty, idealistic scientist type that he falls for, and who loves him back for little discernible reason, the stick-up-the-ass by-the-rules enforcer, etc. The narrative very rarely opts for a character that confounds expectations, and often engineers some pretty unlikely outcomes between its cast, such as two very different, rival characters settling their difference in the course of an off-screen walk up some stairs.

Despite all this, the story hums along quickly and I found myself enjoying it, if occasionally skipping over the more dull exposition-y bits or Griffin-Mars's annoying flashbacks to the people he has lost/abandoned throughout his career. Some of the tech is cool- Chronmen are armed with a force shield/projector called an 'exo', that they can use to create weaponized force-tentacles of a strength that can crush a spaceship, and Chu smashes out the battle scenes, constantly putting Griffin-Mars on the edge of death as he cuts through enemies, falling buildings, crashing ships, and sundry other explosion-y scenarios.

Time Salvager reminds me of some golden/silver era sci-fi, such as Robert Sheckley's The Status Civilisation in that it follows a simple, linear plot line with no unreliable narrator or other such storytelling baubles. Compared to some of the work that has been done by writers such as Ada Palmer and Iain Banks Chu's novel is pretty vanilla, but if you close your critical eye you can get caught up in a pacey, simple story that moves from A to B with no detours.

This book will make a great Michael Bay film, and if your tastes tend towards his kinetic, broad-strokes style you'll probably love it.

2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Rob.
845 reviews532 followers
August 3, 2015
Executive Summary: Enjoyable, but not as much as the Tao books. I was also a bit disappointed to find out it's the start of a new series.

Full Review
Last year year I discovered Mr. Chu when he did an interview on the Sword & Laser podcast.

I picked up his first book, The Lives of Tao quickly consumed it, and immediately moved onto the sequel. I really loved that series and can't wait for the follow on series.

I was disappointed with Tor's decision to release this book around the same time as several other SFF books I was eagerly awaiting, making fitting it in a challenge. June or August would have been better for me personally. I'm sure that sort of thing will vary from person to person, but I only know one other person who read this book so far.

However, I was eager to support him with his first "big" publisher release, and see how well he could write in a different world. My results were a bit mixed.

Most of my issues are expectations. With a book called Time Salvager and a synopsis saying how the protagonist: "James is a chronman, undertaking missions into Earth's past to recover resources and treasure without altering the timeline" I expected there to be far more time travel than there was. To be fair, there is a decent amount by the end, it was just not what I expected.

I do think Mr. Chu does a good job with the Time Travel. Then again, I'm not a hard sci-fi person who gets caught up in thinking out the consequences/side effects of time travel. Thankfully I don't have to, as many of those things are addressed in the book.

I also didn't realize this was the first book of a series. I guess I should have either assumed so (stand alone books are a dying breed lately) or maybe I just missed that the first time I read a synopsis. When you're nearing the end of a book you think to be stand alone, wondering how the author is going to wrap things up, and it just sort of ends, that's extremely jarring.

After reading his Tao series, I also expected his characters to be a lot more likeable. I came around on some of them in the end, but I despised most of them for a large portion of the book. That's likely by intention, but I have a much harder time reading books with characters I don't like. James character developed as the book went on, making him more likeable. Meanwhile Levin didn't really change at all, he simply was made more likeable by his proximity to another character far more despicable.

The thing is, I always enjoyed reading this book when I picked it up. The writing is excellent, the action is good, and the world building is interesting. There is far less humor in it than his Tao books. That's probably appropriate given the world he's built, but the humor was one of the best parts of those books for me.

For some reason though, I just never was in a rush to pick it back up, which is part of why it took me so long to read it. I suspect if I had different expectations going in, or on a reread I'll like this one a bit more.

I do plan to pick up the sequel. Things end in a pretty awful place. I want to know what happens next. It's always hard to stop books in a series. The unresolved issues aren't nearly as bad as The Deaths of Tao, but I immediately had to go look up if/when there was a sequel coming.

Overall, a decent book, but I'm looking forward to the next book in his Quasing universe more than I am to the sequel to this one.
Profile Image for Rinn.
287 reviews217 followers
December 9, 2015
I received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. Also posted on my blog, Rinn Reads.

How do I review Time Salvager? Well I know there’s one thing I can say: this book swept me away, completely and utterly.

The basic premise is that, by the 26th century, the Earth is toxic, a wasteland. Thanks to humanity, it has been pretty much destroyed. Within this future is a company called ChronoCom, who employs ‘Chronmen’. These Chronmen travel back in time in order to retrieve important things – technology, documents, natural resources – but never people. That is, until the protagonist James decides to rescue a scientist from an exploding research base, bringing her from the 21st century to the 26th. That’s when things get messy.

Elise, the scientist that James brings back with him, is ripped from a time where mankind is finally fighting its wrongs – with peace, medicine, etc – and placed in one that feels like it could almost be the past, not the future. The Earth she knows and loves has been ravaged, and is now covered in pollution and smog. I really liked Elise, she was intelligent and quickly adjusted to this new time period. She was a wonderful contrast to James. And speaking of James, it was nice to have a flawed protagonist. No-one is perfect.

From the very first page, I was gripped. I’m a big fan of time travel in books, film and television, especially when it involves travelling BACK in time, rather than just forward. Sometimes it’s hard to pull off. Sometimes the author feels the need to overexplain. Chu doesn’t explain one bit how time travel works in this universe, and to me, that didn’t matter. Everything felt so established: ChronoCom, the Time Laws, James’ slow spiral downwards, that I didn’t really feel a need to know how the time travel worked. It just did.

This was a book that made me want to do nothing but sit down and read it for long periods of time, and it’s been a while since I’ve felt like that, thanks to my studies. The last few chapters were incredibly tense, and the ending was very open, allowing the reader to make their mind up about what happened.

Time Salvager feels like the sort of science fiction I’ve been yearning for. To me, it is on par with greats such as Hyperion and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. It’s clever, it’s fast, it’s action-packed, but it also carries a message. And most of all: it is DEFINITELY worth your time.
Profile Image for Micah.
76 reviews5 followers
October 5, 2015
A quick read and - with its half-baked, videogame premise; reducibly simplistic plot; and multiple chases and fight scenes - ripe for screenplay adaptation. Unfortunately, despite some psychologically plausible and undeniably compelling character work, and an accessible style, Time Salvager doesn't work.

Not as a novel.

Not as a reading experience.

Not even as an exercise in IP development.

Its just another shitty dystopian YA book, disappointing, even by the standards of the category.

Its prose is elementary, without any recognizable stylistic elements beyond a flat, thoughtless directness.

Its plotting is worse: a haphazard botching of attempted novelistic digressions to Syd Field structure that reads as unguided and repetitive.

The mystery it's built around is neither effectively posed nor solved. In fact, the book's plot never resolves. It simply pauses at an arbitrary point -no better, worse, or different than a half dozen other like points in the story - ending with a handful of tossed off character developments (the most interesting of which is for a secondary antagonist with little relation to the main action), an obligatory sequel hook, and a mercenary shrug.

Even the action scenes (which could be expected to shine in an SF-thriller) are uninspired, echoing superhero-movie cliche and failing to generate excitement, suspense, or really any visceral reaction at all.

Were it not for its characters, its marriage of gritty SF high-concepts to a grade-level writing, and my fascination with all things even tangentially related to Michael Bay, I'd rate this as a failure. Instead: much like a pretty-face movie star who only begins to learn how to act after a decade of steadily headlining movies, SF&F community rising star Wesley Chu is, on his fourth novel (the first of his I've managed to finish), beginning to show some promise as an author.
Profile Image for Joel.
622 reviews226 followers
July 17, 2015
A really creative, enjoyable, and well written book wime time travel. Great characters, no overuse of tech or plot devices, and great dialogue. Not normally my "thing" per say, but it sucked me in and I plowed through it in just a couple of days.
Profile Image for Holly (The GrimDragon).
983 reviews234 followers
March 7, 2020
“Each year, humanity died a little more. ChronoCom’s charter was to fight that decline, yet things had never gotten better. Every year, there was a little less power to utilize. People went hungry a little longer. Lived lives a little harder. They were losing this war.”

Time Salvager is the first book in the Wesley Chu series by the same name. Having originally picked this up because of the Richard Anderson cover years ago, Time Salvager is a series I've been looking forward to ever since. Naturally, it's taken me nearly a handful of years to finally get to it, but so goes the life of a reader with a never-ending TBR!

I've since learned that before Time Salvager had even been published, it was optioned and being adapted for the big-screen by none other than Michael "EXPLOSIONS!EXPLOSIONS!EXPLOSIONS!" Bay with Paramount. Zak Olkewicz is/was tapped to write it, as of 2017. According to various websites, Bay has been trying to get this made for some time now, but it's been a slow process. I haven't been able to dig up any other information about the future of this project, whether it's in limbo while Olkewicz finishes the Fear Street adaptation or if something else has come up. I'm curious to see what becomes of it! With time travel and dystopian themes being as popular as they are, I can envision this being made into a cinematic blockbuster, for sure. In fact, it may be similar to Ready Player One, where I had a feeling that an adaptation would be more compelling for me than the actual book. It's one of those rare instances where I *need* the visuals playing out in front of me, in order to be entertained or at least interested.

Case in point - Time Salvager.

The year is 2511, the Earth has become a toxic wasteland and the only way to survive is to mine the resource-rich past for materials such as food, fuel and technology. Chronmen are highly trained individuals tasked with the job of jumping back through time in order to retrieve these goods without breaking Time Laws or altering the timeline. Time Laws that get broken result in permanent consequences.

The best places to salvage from are those sites that have gone through disaster and destruction, which causes much conflict. Having to make difficult decisions to put off the demise of humanity, these time agents have to endure a lot - physically, emotionally and mentally. Going back in time and experiencing historical tragedies over and over again, the trauma that they must go through.. it results in PTSD, depression, anxiety, addiction. As one would expect, this leads to many Chronmen suffering from mental illness, torment, guilt and suicidal tendencies.

James Griffin-Mars is a Tier 1 Chronman, the best there is. After many years on the job, James is heading out on his final mission before securing a comfortable retirement. Unfortunately, he makes a choice to break the first Time Law, which is to never bring someone back from the past. Elise Kim is a scientist from the 21st century that James falls in insta-love with and saves from certain death ::eyeroll:: Bringing her to the 26th century, now they've both become fugitives in the eyes of the BIG EVIL CORPORATION™.

“James could have just saved them all that time and energy by telling them that chronmen became the way they did because the job fucking sucked.”

Time Salvager is a dystopian with glimmers of humor. I read it all, enjoyed certain aspects, but unfortunately didn't absorb much of it.

The characters felt one dimensional and bland; the plot was muddled; the pacing was janky; the dialogue bordered on cringey more often than not; and it was lacking excitement.

Time Salvager is basically a bunch of movies thrown together, with no real conviction.

Sadly, this one just didn't do it for me.
Profile Image for  Charlie.
477 reviews215 followers
August 10, 2015
Though there were moments I consider great I never quite felt settled into this one. It starts as Science Fiction with an obvious emphasis on time travel, and then becomes a discussion on Capitalism and corporate espionage leading to a layer of moralising about the treatment of the poor by the rich. I got the same feeling finishing as I do when a movie ends with the main character waking up from a dream, disgruntled and left wanting, with too many questions left unanswered and a suspicion the Author has taken a very easy out.

I loved the premise that time travelling in the future is restricted to salvaging just enough from the past to keep the future going. I loved the horrible head space that James Griffin-Mars has to inhabit as he shifts back and forth constantly, always knowing that the places he is visiting are like heaven compared to the state of the world in his present day. I even loved the cover so the only reason, I can find for this brilliant idea falling somewhat flat is the execution. Spoilers ahead.

The first thing to bug me was the First Law of Time, “Don’t bring someone back from the past”. It only seems to exist to serve the beginning of the story and start the conflict as it’s quickly and easily proven that bringing someone forward in time has no bloody affect at all.

James, our protagonist, has followed the rules on every jump, but on this last one, the one that could buy him out of his contract, he says ‘Stuff it’ and saves a girl he has insta-love with and brings her forward in time. Now there could be a nice moral conundrum raised here as bringing someone forward in time should, according to future science, kill her slowly and painfully so James’s decision is not straightforward and selfless. However instead of this being explored we learn the science behind this life threatening condition is actually complete crap based on corporate propaganda so he is off the hook. Then I’m thinking, ‘well why are these corporate guys so desperate to get hold off this women when they have known all along they can go back and get whoever they want’ but this too is left unanswered.

The two major female characters are both brilliant and stupid at the same time. Scientists and theorists who could save the world yet are written as catty and shrewish to each other and condescending to everyone else, and so enamoured with their own brilliance that they are literally unable, or unwilling, to follow directions based on common sense from the only person they know who is currently a time travelling navy seal in an exo-suit and I’m not talking genius level stuff here. Several times either of the ladies is asked to hang for a second for the sake of security before she gets the sudden urge to go walkabout and find a nice vulnerable spot to relax. It’s even highlighted during the main climax of the book where a battle is raging, buildings are being destroyed and James saves Elise from getting her head blown off.

“Stay back” Then he jumped down into the hole. Yellow and orange bursts of light filled the air, followed by several more loud crashes.
As always with James’s instructions, Elise ignored them and crawled to the hole.

Or this lovely exchange.

“Hush, please, High Scion, or you’ll give me away”
“Don’t hush me, boy”

Mother of Time, who made stupid rules, whose life I saved says what?? Yes it is incredibly important you run tests but while I am out here saving the world and literally killing myself jumping back and forth to get you equipment and food to assist you in doing that, do me a favour and shut the hell up so I don’t get killed. It was incredible how quickly I went from liking the character of Grace Priestly to having little to no time for her bullshit and despite others having a grudging respect for her genius, her main objective in life after traveling forward in time and being given the chance to save the world seems to be to treat everyone around her like intellectual peasants. The sort of person whose mind would be downloaded onto a computer to preserve her intelligence but who everyone would take great joy in just being able to turn off. Eat me.

What was perhaps most infuriating was that almost every time one of these characters disregarded a perfectly good suggestion in favour of something stupid and dangerous they wound up stumbling upon a solution or saving the day, leaving our Protagonist looking inept and tactically moronic.

Levin, the unknowing corporate stooge, was actually my favourite character and possibly completely inspired by Javert from Les Miserables, as his every action and deed follows that of Javert’s right down to his sacrifice at the end. He is a proud man, proud of his commitment to the Laws of Time and proud of his position as an Auditor who upholds them. His fall is the hardest and most interesting when he realises that ChronoCom’s neutrality and autonomy are an illusion, as law after law is stretched or broken to bolster corporate profits at the orders of those that truly pull the strings. I loved his internal struggle and of all the characters I felt he had the most depth and complexity, and potential to be further explored but sadly he was not.

Time Salvager is a mixture of clichés that needed more re-imagining to be successful instead of the Avatar/Star Wars mash up it seems to be. The evil corporation, the future man saving the primitive tribes, hallucinations masquerading as wisdom, all of it is familiar and has been done and sadly the special ingredient that brings it all together was missing. There is not actually a great deal of time travel with most of it being the ‘I’m off to the shops’ variety and it barely has an ending with the set up for the next book deemed enough to bring us back from more. After reading the blurb I could immediately understand why the film options have already been taken up but after reading the book I’m wondering how wise that decision will turn out.

This review and more like it can be found at www.areadingmachine.com

Profile Image for Lisa.
346 reviews532 followers
July 21, 2015
Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2015/0...

4.5/5 stars

Time Salvager has all the strengths of the Tao series (action, humor, etc. etc.), but with a completely fresh world and setting. I found the entire world and plot to be very original and captivating. In a future (and not so accommodating) earth, not only have humans mastered the art and science of time travel, but they are also running short on some critical resources. The solution is to send key teams of highly trained operatives (chronmen) back in time to retrieve what they need. In order to not disrupt the natural order of time, they salvage these resources from just before some disaster strikes that would destroy them.

This aspect of it reminded me of Jo Walton’s Thessaly series, but instead of procuring art, they are preserving and cultivating resources that would normally have been destroyed. But where Walton’s books are slow and full of art and philosophy, this book is full of fast paced action, adrenaline, and a filthy earth that has has been through some devastating events between now and then.

Needless to say, sending men back in time just as disaster strikes is a dangerous thing, and chronmen don’t have a very impressive life span. James is starting to break, he’s been doing this for long time by chronmen standards. He is haunted by deaths of people long dead, people he has seen die during his salvages. It’s a hard thing to step into a disaster zone and know even if you could stop it, you can’t because time is a fickle thing and who knows what changes he could trigger by altering anything. History is written, it is their job to preserve that. He has just one final mission. Surely he can do that, right? Well…. we like stories, so of course something can and will go wrong.

There is only one law that is a bigger offense to break than altering history itself. And that is bringing back people from the past. But in a moment of panic (or clarity, depending on how you look at it), James ends his final mission with a passenger. A woman who should have died in the explosion that occurred at his last salvage site. This quickly put him (and her) on the run, and exposes a whole set of fun politics and agendas within the corporate world that enforces time travel laws.

Listening to this as an audiobook was actually a great decision. I have no doubt I would have loved the print version as I did with Chu’s other books. But I have always felt those books would make great audiobooks as well. Kevin T. Collins gave a wonderful performance, bringing life to Chu’s words. This is one of the books that after listening to it, I almost feel more like I watched it. This is a wonderful credit to both Chu’s ability to allow the reader to so clearly visualize what is going on (without any excess of words), and Collins ability to do those words justice with just the right amount of personality and emphasis.

Chu once again gives a world full of excitement and action, and of course, there is also a brilliant sense of humor that shines through at all the right parts.
Profile Image for Kara-karina.
1,651 reviews252 followers
July 10, 2015
Don't you just love when some of your most anticipated books of the year turn out to be worth the wait? I was very happy with Time Salvager, ladies and gents.

You might have noticed that I've been on sci-fi binge for the last couple of weeks. I took a break from this genre a few months ago, and had a craving. Time Salvager fit the bill.

I would describe this book as time travel dystopia. Very little happens in space, mostly the action concentrates on Earth in a very bleak distant future. To my delight Wesley Chu's writing reminded me of Max Barry's Jennifer Government and Lexicon. There is a unique concept. It's super gritty, harsh and heavy on evil corporations conspiracies. Needless to say, I loved it!

James Griffin-Mars is a cynical, highly depressed chronman, one of the oldest in his profession, and he loathes his job so very much he wonders if each new job will be his last as he turns his ship to the sun and just let it burn. What he does is salvages pieces of precious equipment and resources from the past timestreams for interplanetary corporations, because in the last few centuries the civilisation went to hell and lost the majority of its technological advances.

Then he lands a very lucrative job which will allow him to retire within a year and live like a king on a luxurious planet. All he needs is to salvage precious equipment from a sinking research facility in the past within a very short time frame.

However, it all goes wrong from the very beginning. He meets a brilliant scientist committed to saving the environment from the plague, which decimated the Earth of his time; his information about the project is incorrect, and what's even worse, he detects a presence of another chronman at the same facility.

Too many questions and not enough time. Suspecting the worst sort of conspiracy, James goes rogue and saves the scientist, breaking the most important rule of his organisation: don't bring people back from the past.

Now both hide on polluted, abandoned Earth and try to find a way to cure it from the plague, while an army of chronmen and corporate security ruthlessly search for them all over the place.

Time Salvager is action-packed and intense, full of fresh, innovative ideas and has great, dramatic world-building. However, you might have noticed that I didn't give it higher rating. There were issues.

First of all, the romantic involvement between James and Elise was neither here nor there. I had an impression that the author felt it necessary to include one, but it did nothing for the plot development, and was very unconvincing.

Secondly, the ending let me down. I expected some sort of a wrap up, but everything ended very suddenly, leaving me dissatisfied. I invested myself in this book, and I felt slightly cheated.

Otherwise, I can't recommend it highly enough. Fascinating characters, great background and non-stop action with juicy time travel tidbits. Read it!
Profile Image for E.J..
Author 5 books58 followers
April 20, 2015
Really enjoyed this time travel novel from Wesley Chu. I've never read him before, but it was a delight to find he's the real deal as an author, constructing a realistic future world that feels both advanced and yet grounded. His prose is also rich with detail, but not overwrought. This is especially unique of any time travel story as most authors get mired in the vortex of time travel paradoxes and the reader is often inundated (read: confused) by questions of physics. Here, Chu gives us a few rules and keeps the story moving. The confusion is also mitigated by the fact that we're not returning to the same time over and over and over again so tireless attempts to track story threads is unnecessary.

I also enjoyed the characters, particularly the protagonist and his habitual adversary Levin, who reminds me of Javert from Les Miserables, who puts law above doing what's right. The story ends with some questions, which I presume will be answered in a book two. For my part, I'll be eager to check them out.

For science fiction fans that like their stories with a little more meat on the bone, this one's definitely worth your TIME.
Profile Image for Stephanie Swint.
165 reviews41 followers
August 10, 2015
A couple of things up front. I love Wesley Chu’s writing and adore his Tao Series. I was more than a little excited to get this. I preordered the audio version assuming Mikael Naramore was narrating it as he did the Tao Series. I didn’t check in my bouncing anticipation. – So, this is where I say the experience was not what I expected. I did like it – once I got over the fact it was narrated by Kevin T. Collins. He’s not bad, but he was not what I was anticipating. That, combined with the fact I listened to the first two chapters at 1.25 speed by accident, didn’t help the situation. The first two chapters did not impress me. I had new characters. I grew to love Grace, The Mother of Time, but I was disgusted with her decadent and crass introduction. I need to reiterate, I did grow to like ‘Time Salvager’, but I stopped listening after the first three chapters. I had already read one book recently where I had pushed on when I was not in the mood for it. It did not help that situation and only led to me being unhappy and grumpy about it. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake with this book. I waited.

So, it was with much lower expectations, I started to listen to it a couple of weeks later – at the correct speed and no unfair expectations for Collins or Chu. It was much better. Time Salvager is basically a Space Opera about a time-traveling, drunk, bounty hunter named James Griffin Mars. He’s not very old but he’s precocious in becoming a weathered old grouch. He’s also not really a bounty hunter. He’s a respectable chronman who travels to the past, with very specific and important rules, to steal power generators and technology moments before it’s to be destroyed. – All in the pursuit to save humanity. It’s a losing battle. The future is not bright and the worst thing about his job is coming back to his present time. Most Chronmen don’t last very long. They either die during a job or fly off in a blazing suicide. Very few can buy out of their contracts and many try to hide in the past. That creates time ripples, however, so the Auditors must come back for you, kill you, and anything and everything you screwed up to fix the timeline. It’s not a happy situation.

When James and his best friend (only friend) and handler get news of a job that can shave years off their contracts they jump – as much as a man like James jumps at anything. It’s shady, for the Valta Corporation, and his Handler has to keep him sober enough to get through the psychological review for this certain death job. This job destroys everything in James life. He will break the time laws he holds sacred, become a traitor to Chronocom, lose his mind, and maybe find a chance for redemption.

Space Opera is not my first love, but I adore time-travel and science fiction. I say this to give you some context to my opinion. Chu created a dystopia. It is dark, but Chu is Chu, so he still laced in humor and characters I grew to love despite their flaws. What isn’t obvious is the book is about relationships, trust, loyalty, and people allowing themselves to feel emotion – any emotion. When the future is so dark you stay drunk on really bad whiskey so you can get to the past to drink amazing vintage bottom shelf whiskey this is a challenge.

Chu wrote a good story. I enjoyed it but he indulged in creating his own futuristic lingo and curses. I understand why people do it. I agree that people in the future will say different things than we do and to use current slang will date it, but I hate it. I hate when anybody does it. It’s not just Chu. The rest of his writing is fine. He uses more profanity, both modern and made up, compared his other books but it was only noticeable in the first couple of chapters. It is something to be aware of, however, if it bothers you.

I will definitely be reading the second book that is planned. The story has good bones. I will also listen to it. I was not initially impressed with Collins narration but it grew on me. He established a rhythm and distinguished Chu’s characters. In the end he won me over.
Profile Image for Yzabel Ginsberg.
Author 3 books102 followers
July 30, 2015
[I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

There were quite a few good concepts in there. The psychological and physical side-effects of time travel, that basically placed a lot of people in ChronoCom not exactly on the right side of sanity. The use ChronoCom was put to, with the "salvages" quickly starting to look more like pillaging than anything else. The different phases humanity went through, from the exuberant utopian mindset of Nutris to the Technological Isolationists to the Big Brother-ish Publicae Age.
The novel also had room for character development: James and his growing sense of guilt, Elise's adaptation to her new world, Smitt's and Levin's choices... And bonus points for Grace Priestly, the snarky old lady, badass in her own ways, who made me smile from the start.

Unfortunately, although interesting at first -- it definitely grabbed me during the first 10-15% or so -- the story quickly lost its momentum, and ended up feeling more like a series of events, sometimes even fillers, than like an actual plot. A lot of what looked like good ideas veered a little too much towards clichés (the villainish Corporations, the "nice savages"...), and I was baffled, too, that ChronoCom in general didn't manage to track James more quickly: granted, he had tools and a stealthy ship, but I would've expected their means were more efficient than his, considering the help they had.

The characters in general didn't exactly develop much past a certain point, or made strange choices. (Levin, I'm looking at you -- OK, maybe not so strange, but terribly counter-productive, unless there's a plan in the making for book 2 here?) The dialogues were sometimes repetitive and annoying, and the writing style tended to tell a lot more than it showed. This made a lot of scenes and character interactions rather dry, action scenes included.

One thing that I didn't like and that deserves being mentioned: including small cliffhangers at the end of a chapter—and then starting the next chapter *after* the cliffhanger was resolved. Those events managed to look like small fillers *and* cop-outs at the same time, because the reader doesn't get to see how exactly the characters managed to solve the crisis. That was... definitely annoying.

Conclusion: a fairly interesting initial idea, but in the end, I found the execution unfortunately lacking. 1.5 to 2 stars.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews256 followers
August 18, 2016
4 Stars

Time Salvager by Wesley Chu is a non stop action thrill ride. It is a time hopping science fiction filled with futuristic goodies as well as the scarier than Hell post apocalyptic landscape. This is not a perfect novel but it is a perfect summer read that fans of science fiction, time travel, and action filled adventure would also enjoy this one. I confess that this is a book tailored to my likes...

James Griffin Mars is a Chronoman, a trained time traveler who is pretty much a multi-perpi man good at just about everything. Besides having the coolest job around he is also equipped with some majorly kick ass futuristic equipment. Chu decks out our hero and his kind in a highly imaginative suit that consists mostly of a set of rings. These rings are worth your read alone.

They can:

Protect from the elements.
Communicate with others.
Paint on a virtual skin disguise.
Act as a gun.
Act as a chain.
Act as a ring or two or three or ten.
Act as a medic.
Translate language.
Absorb crashes or falls from incredible heights.
Almost allow one to fly Ironman style.
And of course they can do much more....

In a nutshell they are sweet.

Chu handles time travel better than the average story teller. His world building gives the reader the background, the foundation, and the reason on the how's and why's of time travel. Time Salvager works because Chu has created a working Time Travel concept.

James is a likable protagonist who has to go through a great deal to show that he is more than a cold machine like man. As a Chronoman he has had great success through machine like routines that has helped him depersonalize his actions. Unfortunately he is a haunted man, and it is this that also makes him a better man. I liked him.

The side characters fill out the story and the Mother of Time steals nearly every scene that she is in.

I loved the science fiction of Time Salvager. I enjoyed the writing, the pacing, and the conclusion. Chu has created a first book in a series that has left me wanting more. A great summer read.
Profile Image for RG.
3,092 reviews
January 7, 2018
This had great potential. Concept was perfect but execution was poor. Time travel had been invented, main character travels back in time as part of a future organisation for a mission, however breaks the 1st rule, bringing a person back from the past. The actual gadgets, concepts belonging to the world are all really cool however thats all that works. The characters are one dimensional, the dialogue cheesy/cliched and the world budling/science non existent. Its as if the novel had this idea in mind but then decided to write a Scifi film script. It figures that rumours are circling about Michael Bay adapting the script. Probably will give book 2 a miss.
Profile Image for Timothy Ward.
Author 14 books121 followers
October 11, 2015
Time Salvager is the first book in the newest series by John W. Campbell Award winner, Wesley Chu, published by Tor. Whereas Chu made a name for himself with his Tao trilogy, an action-packed alien symbiosis war on Earth soil, Time Salvager matches the action on a future earth where chronmen go back in time to mine materials essential to prolonging the resource supplies of their dying world.

The first chapter does a great job of establishing this fascinating setting, where people can travel back in time, but are restricted from doing anything that will alter their timeline. We all know how futile that attempt will be, but that is their goal, and it is fun watching all sides of this battle do their best to preserve the future they want. The first chapter’s shock ending exemplifies Chu’s willingness to kill anyone of his characters, then kind of start over. (I have to be careful here not to spoil even one chapter in.)

The best part of Time Salvager is how much thought Chu put into how time travel has affected this society on a big picture scale as well as the chronman that we follow most closely, James. Chu’s ideas kindle the love I’ve had for time travel stories ever since Quantum Leap. James is an interesting character who is a kind of indentured servant battling PTSD and alcoholism. His darkness makes this story grim in the face of hope. Early on in our story, he is offered a job that could pay enough to nearly wipe all of his debt and allow him to retire. His trips back in time show his struggle with the people he has to kill, how unsuccessful his drinking is to healing those scars, and ultimately his sadness over losing his sister early in life. (I think it was his sister, could be brother, but the point is he lost a sibling and feels guilt over it.)

I enjoyed this story through to what James does with Elise during the above mentioned mission that would pay most of his debt. The writing was exciting and the outcome exactly the high-stakes result I look for in compelling stories. Elise also started off as an interesting character, and I was glad to see a romantic angle inserted into James’ life.

Unfortunately, not long after this moment, the plot went into a wasteland area of the city and I really lost interest in the story. I’m being vague here to not spoil anything. I know a handful of respected reviewers who really enjoyed the story, but for me, from about the midpoint on to the end, I was very disappointed. I think it is more of a plot choice than that this series is not worth reading after book one, but if this wasn’t written by one of my favorite authors, I would have stopped around the 60% mark. The very end had a good conclusion, and some subplots (such as Levin and James’ sidekick) helped offset the boredom that I felt in the cure-the-environment plot.

I listened to the audiobook version, which in this case did not help. I get that this is a thriller, but the narrator, Kevin T. Collins sounds like every word is super exciting, and it becomes tiring after awhile. A comparison to William Shatner is not far off and could also mean that some like his work here. Personally, I wish the narrator of Chu’s Tao series, Mikael Naramore would have done this series as well.

In short, Time Salvager has a great setting with strong action and some solid characters, but which took a direction that failed to maintain my interest beyond halfway. Book Two, Time Siege, which releases May 2016, is still on my radar, but not without concern that it disappoints like this did. I really hope, based on what Chu has done to impress me with all of his other stories, that Time Siege will right the ship for this reader.

Review copy provided by Audible in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Aura.
149 reviews91 followers
December 19, 2015
This is the first book by Wesley Chu I've ever read. He's a relatively new author, with just one other published book series (The Lives of Tao).

I'm going to start by stating I don't get why Time Salvager doesn't have more ratings on goodreads. This is such a great science fiction novel. I absolutely loved everything about it, especially the ample word-building and the idea of the chronostream, with everything that happened in between the 21st century and the 26th century, the latter being the present time of narration. This future presents humanity as a dying race (although still in the billions) because they have poisoned their homeland, where the very poor still lived, while the rich&powerful thrived on a space colony established on the moon Europa. Yes, in the 26th century, humanity lives all over the solar system.

What I like about this world, is that it's almost like an adult version of the YA dystopian genre, but much much better and complex. It doesn't limit to the boring white and black patterns of YA plot devices. This novel is about a billion shades of grey. And no, there's no graphic sex scene, or excessive cursing (Well, actually there's a lot of cursing, but in the future they use "abyss" instead of "hell" and the F word count is very low.)

James Griffin-Mars, the time-traveling main character of this book, is a man in his mid-thirties, born on Mars, orphaned young, and robbed of his younger sister while the two of them were children. He couldn't come to the bottom of what happened to her, and as a result he nearly killed a bunch of people--which in the end brought him to the attention of the time-travelling agency, ChronoCom. At the time of narration, he is already one of the best chronmen in the solar system, but he's a purposeless man with nothing to lose. Then he's sent on a time mission to the late 21st century where he meets an optimistic, free-spirited scientist and he falls in love with her instantly. The problem is, according to the chronotream, she's supposed to die.

The narration is on point, easy to read, to follow, there's plenty of action, and the technology is pretty original too. I like the fact that the greatest scientific mind that has ever lived is a woman in her 90s, and I like it even better that her age doesn't make her some old crone, but kind of in the prime of her life. I don't remember this being stated in the novel, but it is implied plenty of times that older people could keep themselves looking young and fit (with the help of modern medicine and technology, I assume).

If you're into science fiction, you must read this book. If you're not into science fiction, but love fiction, read this book.
Profile Image for Charles.
494 reviews83 followers
September 27, 2019
A degenerate future mines the past for resources and treasures. An off-the-rails salvager breaks the Time Law possibly changing history to save a woman’s life, but unveils a high-level conspiracy that history had already been horrendously manipulated.

Did-Not-Finish (DNF).

My dead tree copy was a hefty 380 pages with a 2015 US copyright.

Wesley Chu is an author of American science fiction series novels and screenplays.

I got to Chapter 14 and stopped reading. This isn’t a bad book. It’s just that it was too obvious to be interesting to me. With less than 300 pages to go, I cut my losses. I also didn't feel like getting involved in yet-another-mediocre-science-fiction-series.

Writing generally reminded me of a screen play. Dialog and action sequences were OK, but descriptive narrative as sparse.

Three (3) POV’s was too much for this story. I thought the Elise Kim character was good. The main James Griffin character was OK, but overplayed with regard to his demons. The Levin Javier-Oberon character was OK too, but we’ve seen this character's relationship to Griffin before.

Plot-wise, the story was very much by the numbers. By Chapter 10 I had an inkling of the conspiracy, by Chapter 15 it was confirmed and I already knew how this or the next novel ended.

World building was just OK. The author did a much better job with the historical past than the future. I thought the time heist of the Amber Room was well done. The Nazis were not. The important future scenes only received a cursory job. For example, Griffin’s escape to the ruined Earth's future Chicago with Kim showed how unimaginative he was about all the futures. A part of that narrative reminded me of a recent Orange Line ride, I'd taken. In addition, I felt that despite lip-service to maintaining the time line, very little actual planning went into the Time Jumps. The jumps seemed more like smash ‘n grabs to me. The author did have one or two good ideas about future tech though.

That the mystery was so obvious, the main character likewise too familiar, and the future so sketchily described in this series's first novel caused me to lose interest early. I guess I’m really picky about my time travel stories? However, the story should be easy to convert into a screenplay.

Readers interested in a much better time travel story should read, The Time Traveler's Wife .
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 90 books2,260 followers
June 2, 2015
James Griffin-Mars is a chronman, traveling back in time from the 26th century to salvage resources and treasure. He's also bitter, burnt out, and in some respects broken. The laws of time travel limit him to locations where his thefts won’t be noticed: ships and facilities doomed to destruction. Those same laws mean he’s constantly abandoning the people he meets, leaving them to die. Between that and the crumbling world of his home time, it’s no wonder Griffin-Mars is rather messed up.

As a result, for much of the book, he’s rather unlikeable, too. He can’t afford to be likeable, not if he’s going to do his job and survive. He’s also got a kind of paternalistic attitude toward his love interest, Elise Kim. In some ways it makes sense — she’s a stranger to his time, and he doesn’t exactly fill her in on how much danger she’s in. Not right away, at least. The book is very aware of how Griffin-Mars is broken, and part of the story arc is his struggle to rediscover his own humanity.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the book was seeing different slices of future Earth history, and Chu’s take on how technology and society evolve over the coming centuries. I was particularly fond of the character of Grace Priestly, creator of the Time Laws. Like most everyone else in the book, she can be cold and ruthless, but I appreciated her overall “Screw you I do what I want” attitude.

There’s not a lot of humor or warm fuzzy moments. There is plenty of action, some nifty ideas, and strong bleak-but-not-quite-dystopic worldbuilding. It’s a book with a lot of desperation, and it sets up an underdog-style against-all-odds fight for survival, both for our protagonist and for our species.
577 reviews24 followers
July 10, 2015
Just finished reading Time Salvager by Wesley Chu which kicks off what promises to be a very good series.

Set in a future where time travel has become possible you would imagine the world would be a bright and shiny place, high tech and advanced. You’d be mainly wrong of course. The planet earth has become little short of a wasteland, so toxic and covered with sludge that most people have abandoned it and sought out life elsewhere in the solar system.

Time travel is a dangerous job, jumping back in time is not exactly conducive to good health and added to that is the psychological impact. There are a whole bunch of rules for jumping back in time which I’m not going to go into! You’ll just have to take my word for it when I say that Chu has managed to write this in a very accessible and clever way. I’m not going to say that you couldn’t pick holes in it if you really wanted to because I have no idea if you can or not – I simply didn’t try. I just read it and accepted the whole ethos behind Chu’s set up. Maybe I’m just easily pleased but I decided to pay more attention to the story than the whole mechanics of it. After all the area of time travel can easily become fraught with ‘what ifs’ so I figured if I’m going to suspend my disbelief enough in the first place to read a story about jumping back and forth through time then I might just as well go the whole hog and believe the how’s and why’s that the author gives me. Simples.

Our main protagonist James is a Chronman (a time jumper). He’s a bit jaded to say the least which isn’t really a surprise when you spend most of your time travelling back to times when massive disasters are taking place and people are dying around you while you just pop in and out and take whatever it is you’ve been sent to retrieve. It weighs on a person’s mind. The most important rule is nobody from the past gets brought back. Nobody has ever broken that rule until James, bogged down by his own ghosts, takes sympathy on a scientist called Elise who has caught his attention whilst on his latest mission and in a moment of weakness he takes her with him. Of course, this isn’t something that can be hidden and the authorities who govern time travel are immediately onto him. Now fugitives, James and Elise have to evade capture and try to stay under the radar and this is where they discover not only new allies but also the potential for a cure and possible hope for a brighter future?

I thought this was a really good read to be honest. It has a very dark feel to it which isn’t really surprising. James is a jaded character haunted by the ghosts of all those people he’s had to watch die before his eyes. The world really holds no appeal for him and he longs for a time when he can just get out from this job. On top of that the world in which he lives is also miserable and seedy and the other inhabitants suitably repressed. Yes, there is a whole feel of doom and gloom but it’s fitting for this part of the story. Chu manages to make you feel the lethargy and you almost become annoyed reading at the way people have simply lost hope and no longer seem to have an inner spark. Then, we have Elise, who unexpectedly becomes part of James world. Being from a different era she manages to bring with her a little ray of sunshine and hope into this world. She simply hasn’t given up yet and she still cares enough about the world and the people on it to try and make a difference.

The Characters. Well, in spite of James hardboiled and prickly exterior I quite liked him as a character and found the interaction between himself and Elise interesting. I think watching his development is going to be very intriguing. Chu has a way of writing characters and relationships that give them time to become meaningful. He doesn’t rush them but allows them to grow and adapt so that you actually feel yourself starting to care about them. Now enter the scene Levin. Levin is an auditor and he’s been given the task to find James. I kind of felt sorry for Levin to be honest. He’s one of those characters that really needs to get a life! He’s just so bogged down by rules and playing everything by the book that he’s become almost inhuman. His adherence to the rule book and failure to see things other than black and white means he basically spends a very lonely existence as people simply don’t like him. Again, i think it will be interesting to see how he adapts. My favourite character so far though has to be Grace. I just couldn’t help liking her. She’s like this 93 year old ‘mother of time’ sassy, argumentative character. She definitely brought a little something more to the story and much like Elise hasn’t been bogged down by the present world’s dire predicament.

The setting is very well done. We have the grime and filth of the city where people shuffle around aimlessly trying to eek out a living. From there we move out to the ‘wilds’ as James and Elise try to evade capture. The landscape then becomes quite a contrast and is vividly imagined. We actually come across areas that don’t seem to have completely fallen into despair yet and groups of people who are still willing to commit to each other.

On the whole I thought this was a really good read and I’m looking forward to seeing where Chu goes next. And after reading the Tao stories I think that what we can expect from this author is the unexpected.

I received a copy of this from the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
Profile Image for John Brown.
183 reviews8 followers
November 6, 2022
4.4 stars.
Such an underrated book. I loved it so much. Maybe I’m biased because I love anything time travel.
The earth is inhabitable and James is basically an agent who goes back in time to retrieve resources and information that might help delay humanity’s demise but there is several rules.
1.) You don’t do anything to effect the timeline
2.) Do NOT bring someone out of the past
James ends up failing and has to escape his own timeline to escape death
Profile Image for Joe.
997 reviews29 followers
November 27, 2017
An interesting take on the time travel genre. The set up? It's the distant future. Mankind has invented time travel but has very strict rules each traveler must follow. Everything is awful in the future and time traveler's are essentially, wait for it, Time Salvagers, looting the past. They are only allowed to take things from "closed" time lines. E.G. A Nazi castle about to blow up, an ancient boat about to sink, a government laboratory about to fall into the ocean.

The story starts out with a bang but quickly loses momentum with the two main characters stuck in a fairly boring post-apocaplyptic village for the bulk of the book. The ending is strong but there was a lot of wasted potential here.
Profile Image for Fangs for the Fantasy.
1,449 reviews184 followers
June 21, 2015
James is a Chronoman, one of the elite few who travel back through time to try and salvage what he can for a broken present without disrupting the timeline. It’s a thankless, desperate soul destroying job that only seems to postpone the inevitable – and James is sure he cannot endure much longer

Until, in the past, he meets Elise and does the unthinkable – he brings her to the present. He breaks the most fundamental time law and now he is a fugitive pursued by his own agency and worse, one of the most powerful mega-corporations in the solar system who have their own nefarious agenda.

But Elise brings with her something even more precious - hope

I love the world building of this book – it’s a truly fascinating dystopian world where the people of our far distant and ruined future are using time travel to literally mine their past for the resources they need to keep the future functioning.

I love the whole concept of the time laws – ways to remove things from the past, to claim resources and items, without actually disrupting the time stream. Inevitably that means hastily grabbing items before massive disasters and catastrophes, taking things that would be destroyed anyway so the time line isn’t disrupted.

There’s a wonderful theme of how decayed everything is becoming in this book which is done excellently in two ways. Firstly, we have the very overt descriptions of just how terrible things are. A lot of these are from James’s memories of his life in brutal refugee camps and his experiences of other times. We then have Elise with her very overt horror over what the world has become, how destroyed the Earth is, how things she took for granted as basic items of life have now been all but lost to the ravaged

But this first track is underpinned more subtly by the lots of little hints that things are getting worse, resources are getting more stretched – from the lack of chronomen each year, to the sheer desperation of having to send people back in time to harvest things like wood, to the fact each time and place can only ever be used once. We clearly see that the desperate temporary measures they’ve taken to try and keep humanity going are not going to last forever. It adds together and really informs the plot by adding not just the “everything is terrible” which is common in dystopians but also, with excellent subtlety, pushing the addition sense that “and it’s all going to get so much worse.”

This really does affect the whole story – the despair of the Chronomen becomes so much more apparently when you realise they’re swimming up stream and losing ground. Levin’s epic nobility and rigid following of the rules seems all the more pure – and all the more pointless – when we see the state of the world. Valta corporation’s ongoing greed and appalling self-interest seems all the more small minded and destructive in the light of this despair.

Which brings up another awesome element of this world building – time travel. Time travel allows us to see the solar system through the various points in history where they salvage from – and we see the many many many times and places where humanity have done their utmost to destroy themselves. Through this history of destruction and war we see the same mistakes being made again and again –and continuing to the present with the corporations replace the many factions constantly contending for dominance, chewing through resources and leaving destruction in their wake.

This all lead to the wonderful conflicts of the chronomen, according vast privilege and power but by continuing to go back in time they are the ones who are most aware of how broken things are and continually have to do terrible things for the sake of the future. We see this through James’s terrible mental conflict and degradation as he is constantly faced. As an interesting parallel (which this book is full of – it really is excellent at its themes) we see the time agency itself with all is power and privilege, ultimately riven with corruption and completely helpless and ineffectual considering the corporations’ control. Again, perception of power is grossly undermined by the reality behind it.

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Profile Image for Michael.
121 reviews44 followers
June 15, 2017
As a listener of Writing Excuses I have respect for Wesley Chu's take on the writing process and I think the premise of this book was so promising. However, I didn't feel like this book met its potential.

Profile Image for Mark Lindberg.
43 reviews25 followers
July 28, 2015
Time travel stories are hard to get right. Wesley Chu got it right.

Time Salvager is Wesley’s fourth novel, but the first one I’ve read. It makes me want to go back and read his other books—it really was amazing, right from the first page. It has one of those first chapters that really hooks you and draws you in. I dare you to read it and not want to immediately read the rest of the book.

Time Salvager uses the concept of time travel in a way I’ve not seen it used before. The people of the far future, when humanity has run itself out of resources, are desperate for more. They send people back into the past with the sole goal of stealing energy sources and other resources from history, while causing minimal impact on the time stream. This is the “salvage” part of the concept, and it adds a really interesting twist combining a post-apocalyptic future and a time travel adventure.

For adventure it is. While I love a book that can immediately make me want to pick it up for the cover (Richard Anderson!), or just the concept—the above paragraph would probably be enough to sell me a copy of this one—I also like a good plot. The plot here is not too convoluted, and that, for me, made the book even more enjoyable. It’s a straight-forward, fall in love, break the rules, and maybe accidentally save the world while you’re at it adventure story. The pacing is brilliant, and it has just the right amount of hinting at an even bigger conspiracy going on behind the scenes that make me want to buy and devour the other two books of this trilogy as soon as they come out.

In addition to the really cool use of time-travel, Chu has done some in-depth world-building that makes the book really enjoyable. The last names, for example, are a subtle, brilliant touch that just makes the book feel even more real and awesome. There’s also a number of cameos of people I recognize from the Twitter community. I spotted 5 of these, and it’s fairly likely I missed some others, but since they’re all subtle and handled well, they never distract from the real storyline.

The characters are marvelous. James, our viewpoint character, is a downtrodden man who has been through too much, saved too many items from ships being wrecked or buildings about to be destroyed in wars. He has a massive drinking problem, and the nightmares to go with it. He’s the perfect beaten-down nobody. His counterpart, Elise is just the opposite. Optimistic, cheerful, and overloaded with brains, she balances out his bleak attitude, and brings a ray of hope to the dismal future. I loved their interactions, and the way that Chu worked them together.

Perhaps my only complaint with the book, minor though it is, was the ending. It wasn’t terribly satisfying, and felt more like the cliffhanger ending you would usually see on the second book of a trilogy rather than the first. It still was quite exciting, though, so it didn’t ruin the experience for me.

In exciting news, the book has already been optioned as a movie, and I am mostly excited to see how it will turn out. I think it will make a great movie that fits well, thematically and action-wise, with many of the various other dystopian movies that have been released recently, and I expect that it’ll be a hit with the crowds. As long as they keep the story intact, it’ll be awesome, and I am certainly getting tickets to see it as soon as it comes out.

In summary, Time Salvager is a time-traveling adventure dystopian mashup that is brilliantly done and well paced. I loved my first taste of Wesley Chu’s writing, wish him the best of luck with this year’s Campbell Award, and am looking forward to seeing the movie—and since I’m giving this book five of five stars, you totally need to read it before said movie comes out!

Review originally from my blog here.
Profile Image for FanFiAddict.
548 reviews130 followers
August 10, 2015
**Originally reviewed for Audiobookreviewer.com**

Time Salvager is the first novel by Wesley Chu that I have listened to, let alone read. Having said that, I was blown away by the originality of the characters and environment, but definitely by the story line. The book takes place on a future Earth; a future Earth that is dying and devoid of critical resources needed for survival. Though there doesn't seem to be much hope, these humans have become masters of time travel. Groups of highly skilled agents, known as chronmen, are sent back in time to salvage items needed in order to create a future. Of course, that's easier said than done. These chronmen are sent back to a point in time just before a major disaster threatens, making it easier not to screw with the past and in order to avoid disrupting the natural progression of time. Of course, this is a very dangerous lifestyle and it doesn't come as a surprise that chronmen have very short lifespans.

Our main character, James Griffin-Mars, is a chronman and has been at it for a long while. Though he fulfills the job requirements and is one of the best, he is haunted by the deaths of those he has come across during his many salvages. I mean, don't you think it would be difficult to ignore the fact that you could stop a disaster from happening or save someone from dying? Too bad doing this could dramatically re-write the future as you know it. There are strict Time Laws put into effect to keep this from happening. In fact, the first law put into place is to never bring someone back from the past, and as you can imagine, doing so results in some very harsh consequences. Well, it was the only unbroken law until James went on his mission to the Nutris Platform. In a moment of panic, and maybe just a little out of love for her, James grabs a scientist named Elise and brings her back to the future. If the pace wasn't quick enough, it begins to pick up as the two are now on the run from the corporations that enforce the laws that James has broken.

I am so glad I chose to listen to the audiobook as Kevin T. Collins gave a great performance. His pacing sort of reminds me of William Shatner's Kirk as his sentences have distinct pauses and his speech is very articulate. The novel will really get your heart racing and by the end of it, you will feel as though you watched it instead of read/listened to it. Chu did a wonderful job with describing the characters and environments and Collins did a great job bringing the characters to life. I'm very much looking forward to the next book in this series.
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