Monday, January 10, 2011

Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt

Spoiler Level: Medium.  Probably less than the back cover. 

I love Jack McDevitt's novels.  I love time travel stories.  And now Jack McDevitt has written a time travel story?!?  HOT DIGGITY!

As usual for Jack McDevitt, it's a page turner that kept me up way past my bed time every night since I started reading it.  And just like in Infinity Beach, the text on the back reveals a story element that doesn't happen until page 294 out of a 385 page book.  This is why I deliberately no longer read the back covers of books that I know I'm going to read anyway.

Part of what makes McDevitt's books so wonderful to read is that they have the thrill of exploration all through them.  In Eternity Road it's a future generation rediscovering our world, in The Engines of God it's mankind discovering the secrets behind alien monuments, in Infinity Beach it's humanity daring to not give up on discovering if we're alone in the universe.  All of them do a great job not just of crafting an amazing world, but in conveying the thrill of discovery of that world and the exploratory spirit of the characters in the books.   And McDevitt takes that same approach here, using his version of a time machine called a "converter" -- something of a cross between an Omni from Voyagers! and a Nintendo DS -- not just for traveling in time, but for using time travel to explore time.  To actually explore history itself. 

In addition to the risks inherit with getting caught up in dangerous moments in history, McDevitt adds a new reason to be cautious:  it seems that if you try to do something that's going to upset the timeline or create a temporal paradox, the universe attempts to correct the paradox by eliminating the element creating it, ie by eliminating the time traveler in question.  As a result, our heroes end up coming up with a lot of very, very creative uses for the converter time machines to get out of jams, but they have to do them all in a very cautious way so as not to create even the smallest paradox.

The book is engaging from start to finish, his temporal mechanics are fun to follow, and he makes many different points and people in history come alive.  The book is everything I'd hoped for.


Anonymous said...

Is Jack McDevitt's latest novel, Time Travelers Never Die,ok for my 10 year old son to read?

Daddy "DEL"

Fer said...

Sorry to take so long to answer you-- I have a terrible memory and wanted to review the book first.

I'd say yes; there's no sex and very little violence. It does touch very heavily on racism, which can get ugly at times but has a very positive message. Your parental mileage may vary, but I would let my 11 year old read it.

Hope this helps!