Global Research Consortium is a super-secret, secure facility experimenting with time travel. Its carefully selected staff, sequestered on site, is committed to a five-year mission. No unauthorized visitors are allowed, and no permanent staff members are permitted to leave the campus—at least not in the conventional sense. After all, time travel information in the wrong hands, that is, hands that did not pay for access, would be a terrible thing. The place is also full of spies, insinuated into the program by its various government and corporate sponsors, there presumably to make sure that they have as much access to discoveries as their competitors and allies.
Despite its investors’ hopes, and their considerable financial contributions, time travel may not be the road to riches they had hoped. There are complications. First, the procedure can only translate living matter, which means the Travelers must go naked. All attempts to include clothing, implants, or carried items have fatal side effects. Second, people are not physically sent into the past. Their present (future) selves wind up cohabitating the same body as their past selves, meaning that Travelers can’t be sent back to a time before they were born, and when they return, their memories of the experience quickly diminish. And thirdly, it is not THE past to which they travel. It is the past of one of an infinite number of parallel dimensions, many of which are largely indistinguishable from ours. This of course means that any changes made in those pasts may not affect OUR past.
That’s essentially the near future (2040s) setting for this unique take on time travel. It is a lighthearted tale with moments of humor. It also contains a bit of real science—not just whizz-bang technology but an attempt to provide a theoretical basis for it. The digressions into physics are fairly accurate when delving into commonly known details of current scientific theories. Someone who is not superficially aware of special relativity might learn something here.
The main characters are well conceived, believable, and likeable. The minor characters also make sense and add to the story. The prose and editing are professional. With the exception of diversions, exposition, and author intrusion, the pacing of the main story is also good. The reader wants to read on to find out what happens next.
Which brings me to the first detractor. The book is structured as a frame story, told by an outside narrator, who occasionally digresses into explanations of the applicable science, history, and setting. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and it does help to explain some of the background the reader needs to understand what is going on, but it also interrupts the flow of the main story.
Some of the humor seemed forced and juvenile. Two things stood out. The first was a running gag about one of the main character’s…natural endowments. Let’s just say that he has equipment of unusual size. As they all must enter the time travel portal in a state of nature, his nature responds naturally to the natural state of his two female companions. This was funny once or twice, but the same gag, repeated several times throughout the first half of the book, went on way too long (no pun intended) and became an annoyance. By the same token, scenes of wanton bone-jumping, sometimes more graphic than required for the story, seemed to be included simply to appeal to adolescent readers who expect that kind of thing in a book that isn’t classified as ‘Young Adult’. Another gag that was clever but also belabored was associated with a minor character called Dr. Hu (pronounced ‘who’). That this is a time travel story, the name is brilliant, but versions of the Abbott and Costello ‘Who’s on First’ shtick got old after the third time.
By the middle of the book, most of these have run their course. There are fewer author intrusions and not as many scenes belaboring the finer points of external human anatomy. But the ending comes on abruptly, with the narrator making a final summation of what happened with the project. Perhaps this is to make room for a sequel, but it felt anticlimactic.
That said, overall this is a far more intelligent story than many I have seen. I especially appreciated the inclusion of real science in this otherwise soft science fiction story. The prose, editing, and character development are all above average. Despite an inexplicable inability to overcome their teenage hormones, the main characters are admirable adults with laudable goals.
I can recommend this one to positive science fiction fans. 4 Stars.
Full Disclosure: I obtained a promotional digital edition of this book from Awesome Indies. I received no other compensation in exchange for reading or reviewing it.