In a future when Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humanity has spread into the outer solar system to survive, the tightly controlled use of time travel holds the key maintaining a fragile existence among the other planets and their moons. James Griffin-Mars is a chronman–a convicted criminal recruited for his unique psychological makeup to undertake the most dangerous job there is: missions into Earth’s past to recover resources and treasure without altering the timeline. Most chronmen never reach old age, and James is reaching his breaking point.
On a final mission that is to secure his retirement, James meets an intriguing woman from a previous century, scientist Elise Kim, who is fated to die during the destruction of an oceanic rig. Against his training and his common sense, James brings her 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, and discovering what hope may yet remain for humanity’s home world.
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
Publication date: July 9 2015 by Angry Robot Books
Genre: Speculative/Science Fiction
Source: ARC via Netgalley
Available: Book Depository
I liked how James slowly became aware of his own choices and desire to act despite his vulnerable state. The story explores the debilitating after-effects of time travel upon his mind and body in a realistic way. I was also drawn to the extensive world-building. It builds a convincing post-apocalyptic picture of humanity with a history of speculative wars.
The narration mainly swings between James and Levin with occasional dips into perspectives from transported scientists, Elise Kim and Grace Priestly; and James’ time-traveling monitor, Smitty.
I became a fan of Grace Priestly when she was introduced in the prologue. Grace’s resourcefulness as the inventor of time-travel technology is compelling. Although, she only appears briefly in the novel. I also really liked Elise Kim who is a passionate scientist from another time period. I appreciated how Elise’s and James’ dynamic moves away from simple attraction but it’s early days for their budding relationship.
I wanted more of the peer dynamic and scientific rivalry between Elise and Grace – from either of their perspectives. It felt like those scenes were happening offscreen due to James’ summarised observations of the two. I also wanted to follow Elise’s growing role in the tribe from her perspective. Elise’s storyline was connected to the earth and its surviving people in the latter half of the novel.
The aftermath of the final battle gives a strong hint of this story thread so perhaps, it’s being saved for the sequel. On the other hand, I understand why the second half of the story is focused on the investigation and the politics of the time-travel because the fallout is key to the plot.
The final fight scenes and the build-up to a cliffhanger were traditional nods to action films. However, I’m curious to see how the characters develop and ultimately, where their research and time-travel brings them next in the sequel.
*I’ve always meant to read more time-travel based fiction (catching up on Doctor Who for now) so feel free to recommend your favourite stories below.