tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > The Coils of Time / Into the Alternate Universe

The Coils of Time / Into the Alternate Universe by A. Bertram Chandler
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A. Bertram Chandler's The Coils of Time / Into the Alternate Universe
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 23, 2016

Chandler, Chandler. It's been nice to 'discover' a 'new' SF writer whose works I can enjoy digesting but I have to admit that my review here of this particular Ace Double will smack more than a little bit too much of boredom - not b/c I think the bks aren't interesting but b/c I'm bored w/ reviewing them. After almost 9 yrs of posting over 1,000 unpd reviews on GoodReads, it's tempting to stop reviewing.. Still, have you ever stopped doing something? I stopped dancing decades ago b/c I felt like I didn't have any new ideas. That was a bad idea. Now I'm dancing again but I'm not anywhere near as good as I used to be.

Wha? Where was I? The Coils of Time: I finished reading it on July 8, a mere 15 days ago, & I've already completely forgotten it. It's full of the same old, same old that characterizes so many (all?) of Chandler's stories - but this is an early incarnation. It's the earliest one I've read so far & maybe the only one where "precession" is explicitly discussed:

""You know the principles of the gyroscope?" demanded Henshaw.

""I should," Wilkinson told him. "After all, I do hold a Master Astronaut's Certificate."

""Then what are they?"

""Rigidity in space. Precession."

""Very good. Now define precession."

""A freely mounted gyroscope," said Wilksinson, "will precess at right angles to an applied force, in the direction of rotation."" - p 12

Having already written about these very same same old, same olds quite a few times by now it's a bit hard to motivate myself at the moment. A time travel machine has been built that involves precession as a basic operating principle. A volunteer us to be sent back in it b/c of a strong personal motive he has:

""So you think that this thing of Henshaw's works?"

""I—I'm not sure. There's something odd about it. Oh, it makes things vanish, and it makes them reappear, but it may be teleportation rather than Time Travel. There was that mud, and Venus was never muddy."" - p 20

Chandler's not a hard science SF guy but he does come up w/ a few interesting tech details from time-to-time:

"["]The Director insisted that you wear one of our V.I.P. suits. You know about them, of course?"

""Yes, spaceships on legs."

""Tanks on legs, we call them. They're so heavily armored that you could never move in one of them without a power unit."" - p 23

The time-traveller/astronaut ends up in a parallel universe & Chandler uses it as an excuse to insert cigarettes - something that I always find funny since any novel in wch the astronauts smoke is, uh, a bit 'dated':

""Cigarettes?" echoed the blonde. "I've read about them. They were a dangerous vice that was stamped out toward the close of the Twentieth Century. It was proved that tobacco smoking was the cause of lung cancer."

""Yes," agreed Wilkinson. "But in my world, ways were found to remove the carcinogenic agents from tobacco. There are even tobacco plantations on Mars."" - p 56

I wonder if it's ever been demonstrated that smoking anything can cause cancer? Is it really just tobacco? Or is pot another possible culprit?

Writing this review reminds me: Oh, yeah, I DID enjoy this one - but just about the only thing that reached me personally was this:

""As far as theory is concerned, yes. Time is a spiral, and worlds and people recur and recur, from the Beginning (if there was one) to the End (if there will be one). But it's not necessarily an exact recurrence. History need not follow the same course on every arm of the spiral. Physical laws may be different. The formation of planets may not occur in exactly the same way . . ."

""The Venus from which I was sent here," said Wilkiinson, becoming interested in spite of himself, "was nothing like this world."

""So you admit having made the jump from one arm of the spiral to another?"" - p 118

I don't remember where I read about this spiral time theory 1st. I may've run across it in William S. Burroughs or maybe in José A. Argüelles's The Transformative Vision (1975) wch I read in July of 1976. The Coils of Time is from 1964 so I have to give Chandler credit here for precociousness.

I incorporated the idea of spiral time into my own personal dating system wch I discuss at length in the "Do's & Don'ts of Dating" section in my footnotes bk (2006). Since copies of sd bk are almost impossible to come by, I'll quote a little from that section here:

"ANYWAY, reading Argüelles' book, I was no doubt inspired to try to create a dating system that both reflected the possibility of cyclical time as well as an attempt to have a simultaneous linear time. So, believe it or not, that's another layer that's added onto the afore-discussed dating header that I developed. HOW? In December of 1990EV, I decided to try to organize all of the letter substitution texts into one spiraling text labeled a "calendar" - as I'd originally intended them to be read.

"The idea of these texts was that they were to form 2 'narratives': 1. the 'narrative' of their linear context, & 2. the 'meta-narrative' of their substitutions. These 2 'narratives' were meant to be in conflict with each other in the sense that the substitutions of successive letters for "e" (& various other manifestations not gone into here but gone into in the "l;a;n;g;u;a;g;e" section) wd make the 'linear text' harder to read & the 'linear text' AND the seperateness of the texts as they wd ordinarily be perceived wd make the 'meta-narrative' harder to perceive.

"Additionally, the 'meta-narrative' is cyclical because the substitutions are using a limited vocabulary of 26 letters wch are cycled thru. This, after "(z)" is reached, the substitutions go to "(a)" thru "(d)" & then to "(ee)", etc.. Giveen that the letters are then doubled (& hypothetically tripled, etc..), the cyclical repetitions are then doubled (& hypothetically tripled, etc..), the cyclical repetitions are not exact but similar by virtue of the same symbols being used.

"Ultimately, the time system I was getting at is neither cyclical or linear but a non-polarized 'marriage' of the 2 akin in spirit to the puns analyzed above! But alot more 'abrasive', eh?! Generating mental heat thru conceptual friction. Now we're getting somewhere. BUT, before I get to showing you a succession of images of the "CRUD(OO) SPIRAL TIM(OO) CAL(OO)NDAR""

Is it all clearer now? Chandler's version of spiral time is a bit easier to understand.WEELLLLLLL, I've told you almost nothing about The Coils of Time but read it for the spiral time idea if nothing else. In the meantime, I'll leave this particular half of the review w/ Chandler's reference to Ilse, She-Wolf of the SS:

""Swing the table a little more, Ilse," she said to somebody just outside Wilkinson's field of vision." - p 123

NOW, for the flipside: Into the Alternate Universe. This starts off w/ the very familiar Grimes, Port Forlorn, Faraway Quest, & the Rim Worlds that've been in so many other Chandler novels I've read so far. I've read them largely out of order. Maybe one day I'll try to organize them into a chronology but I'm sure someone has already done that better than I wd.

"The inevitable freezing wind whistled thinly across the Port Forlorn landing field, bringing with it eddies of gritty dust and flurries of dirty snow. From his office, on the top floor of the Port Administration Building, Commodore Grimes stared out at what, over the long years, he had come to regard as his private kingdom. On a day such as this there was not much to see. Save for Faraway Quest, the Rim Worlds Government survey ship, the spaceport was deserted, a state of affairs that occurred but rarely." - p 5

In the swirling rough chronology that I'm doing not a whit of online research to verify this might be the sequel to The Ship from Outside (my review's here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) in wch a search is made for a hypothetical spaceship from outside the Rim Worlds, the limit of the known universe.

"The ship's original instrument had been loaned to Captain Calver for use in his Outsider" - p 6

Sonya, the spy, is no longer w/ Calver & is lookin' to settle down:

"You know that there have only been two men, real men, in my life. Bill Maudsley, who found the Outsiders' quarantine station, and who paid for the discovery with his life. And Derek Calver, whose first loyalties were, after all, to Jane . . . Damn it all, John, O'm no chicken. I'm rather tired of playing the part of a lone wolf—or a lone bitch, if you like. I want me a man—but the right man—and I want to settle down." - p 12

Shocking! In this one, Grimes even has kids, something I'd somehow missed in previous readings.. or maybe they weren't invented yet:

"His children were grown up, and had their own homes and, in any case, incurable landlubbers that they were, would have little in common with one who, after all, was a professional adventuress." - p 14

Chandler uses the device of a robot librarian to recapitulate what dedicated (& chronological) readers of Chandler's Rim Worlds series wd already know:

""Very good, sir. The phenomenon of the Rim Ghosts occurs,as the name implies, only on the Rim. Sightings are not confined to single individuals, so therefore cannot be assumed to be subjective in nature. A pattern has been established regarding these sightings. One member of a party will see himself, and be seen by his companions, in surroundings and company differing, sometimes only subtly, from those of actuality. Cases have been known in which an entire group of people has seen its Rim Ghost counterpart." - p 16

I generally try to avoid spoilers in my reviews. Sometimes it's hard in these more plot-driven bks. What I'm doing here is skirting the plot. Now you know that Rim Ghosts are involved, maybe that'll interest you but it doesn't tell you too much. If I really want to stray from giving away the plot I can focus on nitpicking details like the referring to a ship as "Rim Mammoth" on page 19 & 26 & as "Rim Mastodon" on page 25. This, in turn, reminds me of a part of Bimbos of the Death Sun (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ):

""The demented fans who read the series had hours of fun devising plausible explanations for his sloppiest screw-ups. They would churn out endless articles in their unreadable mimeographed excrescences trying to explain why Runewind's sword changed lengths or why his mother was known by two different names. So far, the two likeliest explanations—apathy and Chivas Regal—had not been suggested."" - p 102

In this case, the demented 'fan' is me pointing out the presumed mistaken of having a name be Mammoth one time & Mastodon another. I figure Chandler must've been reading ghost stories & must've wanted to make an outer space one. The idea of a seance on a spaceship appeals to me:

""So—ignoring telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation and the like—what proportion of psychic phenomena is due to the activities of the dear departed, and what proportion is due to a . . . leakage—from one Universe through to another?"

""H'm. I must confess that this was a line of approach that never occurred to me. I didn't pretend to be an expert on so-called psychic matters, but if we did hold a séance, shouldn't we require a medium?"

""We have one—Mr. Mayhew."" - pp 35-36

Mr. Mayhew being the Psionic Radio Officer that's yet-another recurring type of character in Chandler's bks. Another recurrence is the idea that on a (space)ship the hierarchy is 100% necessary:

"But this, thought Grimes, was no time to allow democracy to raise its head. he had nothing against democracy—as long as it stayed on a planetary surface. But in Deep Space there must be a dictatorship—a dictatorship hedged around with qualifications and safeguards, but a dictatorship, nonetheless." - p 55

This ghost story gets into missing ships in general &..

""I can answer the first question," Grimes replied gravely. His gloved forefinger indicated the heading of the log book path. " 'Waratah, from Durban towards Liverpool.' But she never got there."" - p 75

..Waratah in particular. So let's look it up, shall we? In the 1st quoted entry the claim has been made that it was found in 1999:

"Wednesday, 14 July 1999

"On 26 July 1909, the SS Waratah, with 211 passengers and crew departed from Durban bound for Cape Town, and disappeared without a trace. For 90 years the fate of the ill-fated ship remained a mystery. The SS Waratah was the flagship of the Blue Anchor Line shipping company. On the 14 July, marine explorer, Emlyn Brown, announced he had discovered the location of the wreck off the Eastern Cape coast. This was the culmination of an 18 year long search for him.

"The wreck was found in an upright position, resting on the ocean bed, indicating that it had sunk quite rapidly. Brown declined to share the exact location of the wreck, as this would tempt unscrupulous and amateur explorers to plunder the wreck. Further, the wreck was located at a position surrounded by strong currents and at a depth that made conventional diving techniques and equipment unsuitable. It is speculated that the ship was sunk by a freak wave." - http://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-eve...

HOWEVER, Wikipedia has this to say:

"The SS Waratah was a 500-foot (150 m) long cargo liner steamship that operated between Europe and Australia in the early 1900s. In July 1909, the ship, en route from Durban to Cape Town, disappeared with 211 passengers and crew aboard. To this day, no trace of the ship has been found."

[..]

"In 1999 reports reached the newspapers that the Waratah had been found 10 km off the eastern coast of South Africa. A sonar scan conducted by Emlyn Brown's team had indeed located a wreck whose outline seemed to match that of the Waratah. In 2001, however, a closer inspection revealed differences between the Waratah and the wreck. It appears that the team had in fact found the Nailsea Meadow, a ship that had been sunk in the Second World War." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Waratah

Don't ya just love it?! Why just the other day I was talking w/ Mary Celeste about her running into Waratah, real casual-like. AND if that's not cool enuf for you what about honey bees dowsing?:

""Yes. According to some authorities, the ability of the honey bee on Earth, and on the other worlds to which it has been introduced, to find nectar-laden blossoms is akin to dowsing, for water or minerals, as practiced by human beings."" - p 106

That's as good an excuse for going off on another tangent:

"Dowsing is a type of divination employed in attempts to locate ground water, buried metals or ores, gemstones, oil, gravesites, and many other objects and materials without the use of scientific apparatus. Dowsing is considered a pseudoscience, and there is no scientific evidence that it is any more effective than random chance.

"Dowsing is also known as divining (especially in reference to interpretation of results), doodlebugging (particularly in the United States, in searching for petroleum) or (when searching specifically for water) water finding, water witching (in the United States) or water dowsing.

"A Y- or L-shaped twig or rod, called a dowsing rod, divining rod (Latin: virgula divina or baculus divinatorius), a "vining rod" or witching rod is sometimes used during dowsing, although some dowsers use other equipment or no equipment at all.

"Dowsing appears to have arisen in the context of Renaissance magic in Germany, and it remains popular among believers in Forteana or radiesthesia.

"The motion of dowsing rods is nowadays generally attributed to the ideomotor effect." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dowsing...

"The ideomotor response (or "ideomotor reflex"), often abbreviated to IMR, is a concept in hypnosis and psychological research.[1] It is derived from the terms "ideo" (idea, or mental representation) and "motor" (muscular action). The phrase is most commonly used in reference to the process whereby a thought or mental image brings about a seemingly "reflexive" or automatic muscular reaction, often of minuscule degree, and potentially outside of the awareness of the subject. As in reflexive responses to pain, the body sometimes reacts reflexively with an ideomotor effect to ideas alone without the person consciously deciding to take action. The effects of automatic writing, dowsing, facilitated communication, and Ouija boards have been attributed to the phenomenon." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideomot...

I've always liked what strikes me as a simple explanation: a tree branch seeks water in the same way that its roots wd. Wood. But I don't see that possibility mentioned. I must be a fool.

&, yeah, when I read a certain scene in Nebula Alert (pp 67->) (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ) I just knew that I'd be running into it again in a different bk:

"Grimes accepted the microphone on its wandering lead, said, "Faraway Quest. Auxiliary Cruiser, Rim Worlds Confederation Navy. What ship?"

"The voice from the bulkhead speaker contrived to convey incredulity with an odd snorting sound. "Faraway Quest? Rim Worlds Confederation? Never heeard of you. Are you mad—or drunk?"" - p 122

Well, whether YOU, dear reader, are mad or drunk or both you just might enjoy reading this.. unless you have better things to do.
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Started Reading
July 14, 2016 – Finished Reading
July 23, 2016 – Shelved
July 23, 2016 – Shelved as: sf

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