Review: Time Salvager
I’m sure you couldn’t tell from the title of the book, but TIME SALVAGER by Wesley Chu, is a time travel book. Crazy right? I’ve read some time travel books in my time. Connie Willis has gotten about a million Hugos for her takes on time travel — TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG, DOOMSDAY BOOK, BLACKOUT (EBR review), ALLCLEAR (EBR review]). Michael Critchton took us back into the dark ages in TIMELINE. There are books that go back to dinosaurs (BONES OF THE EARTH by Michael Swanwick) and just about anywhere you can think of. In most of those books the story revolves around going back to some time period and either a) getting stuck back in time and needing to get back, or b) accomplishing some goal in the past to fix the present.
Chu does none of those things.
In his universe, Chronmen (time travelers), go back to the past to steal resources. The past is full of useful stuff that the present needs. You see, the future in TIME SALVAGER is not a nice place. It’s not a happy place. It’s bleak. Humans are slowly moving towards extinction, so time travelers go back to the past to steal what they need. There are complications and issues. One of the first scenes shows our time traveler going back and stealing a powerful energy source right before a spaceship is about to explode. That’s how the time travelers get away with it. If they jump in right before an accident, or a catastrophe, and take what they need, no one knows that something has been stolen. The time stream remains whole.
I expected in this book to have the time traveler out on some daring mission to capture some valuable something-or-other and run into complications of every sort. Boy was I wrong, and I’m so glad I was. TIME SALVAGER jumps around in time more than most other time travel stories I’ve ever read. Plots that I thought would take up big chunks of the book were simply chapters to keep thing moving. Most of the book actually takes place in this bleak future as our traveler James Griffen-Mars goes back and forth on jobs; and then things get interesting as one of the most sacrosanct time travel rules gets broken. I won’t tell much more, but it’s one heck of a ride, and it kept me guessing where it was going right up to the end.
James traveling to the past and back was really my favorite part of the book. Chu is able to skip us into any scene he chooses and have his fun then whisk us away again. Sometimes the viewpoint in these chapters is from someone of that time who is about to be affected by (fill in the catastrophe/accident here). We get to be in their shoes as they see our time traveler come and go without so much as a thank you. It’s really a hoot. It’s also nice to be in other people’s shoes here and there because James is…well, he’s not a nice guy. He’s rough around the edges and mostly unashamed about it. The story certainly moves towards redeeming him, but it’s nice to be in some nicer heads here and there as well. (As a side note, one of the characters who interacts with James frequently, Elise, is from closer to our time and uses a lot of our idioms and phrases, which all go right over James head and it’s pretty darn funny.)
The problem I had with book is just in the nature of the industry these days. I finished the book, I had a good time. I liked the characters. I liked the story. The ending was even rather touching; and, yet, as I thought about it after I was done I was somewhat disappointed. Why? Because nothing was really solved. here’s a fight at the end, the good guys win (barely) the bad guys lose and go skulking back to where they came from, but that’s it. None of the central issues or problems are solved. This is, of course, because the story isn’t done. There’s more TIME books to come. Now I’m all for a good series, I love going back to a world that I’ve visited before, but I’d like a bit of resolution. Instead it seems that more and more we’re getting chapters of a bigger longer story doled out to us in 300 page increments. Is it so bad to have a standalone story? Is it so bad to resolve some things for me without having to worry about the next three books in the series? Sorry to vent to you all, but if you’re reading this blog then you probably know what I’m talking about.
Is TIME SALVAGER good? Yes it is. Am I glad I read it? Yes, I am. Am I going to read the sequel TIME SIEGE? Of course, I am, it’ll be a fun series to read and I’m along for the ride. Luckily for us all TIME SIEGE comes out July 12th so if you read this book RIGHT NOW, you won’t have to wait long for the next one.
- Recommended Age: 16+
- Language: There's a lot of action scenes (the book feels like a really good summer read to me), but nothing too gory
- Violence: Yeah it's there. James is a rough character from a rough world. It's not ton, but it is a lot.
- Sex: One kind of scene at the beginning (not too graphic) and then mentioned a few other times. Lots of mentions of prostitutes, but not shown.