Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
Release Date: July, 2015
Convicted criminal James Griffin-Mars is no one’s hero. In his time, Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humans have fled into the outer solar system to survive, eking out a fragile, doomed existence among the other planets and their moons. Those responsible for delaying humanity’s demise believe time travel holds the key, and they have identified James, troubled though he is, as one of a select and expendable few ideally suited for the most dangerous job in history.
James is a chronman, undertaking missions into Earth’s past to recover resources and treasure without altering the timeline. The laws governing use of time travel are absolute; break any one of them and, one way or another, your life is over. Most chronmen never reach old age; the stress of each jump through time, compounded by the risk to themselves and to the future, means that many chronmen rapidly reach their breaking point, and James Griffin-Mars is nearing his.
On a final mission that is to secure his retirement, James meets Elise Kim, an intriguing scientist from a previous century, who is fated to die during the destruction of an oceanic rig. Against his training and his common sense, and in violation of the chronmen’s highest law, James brings Elise 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, somehow finding allies, and perhaps discovering what hope may yet remain for humanity’s home world.
The first 17 chapters were released on NetGalley as a ‘read now’ preview, and as I’ve enjoyed Chu’s previous books, this was probably a record in how quickly I got the file.
This futuristic world is gritty and real – death comes easily, and James (and others) look back upon the past as being the ideal. This version of the future is falling apart and the description handles this well, showing us this rather than telling. So many futuristic novels make a point of showing what they’ve changed for the better, and sometimes we see the utopias collapsing or everything turning out to show that the ‘perfect’ world doesn’t exist. This shows us an already failed future as humans still haven’t stopped destroying whatever it is they have.
The science feels that it’s handled well. Time is a tricky one in a book like this, yet Chu handles this in a way that’s not confusing and adds another dimension to the novel to give it the added difficulty of – well, reality, really. Paradoxes that come with time travel are something that’s endlessly interesting to play around with and Chu stretches this well, shaping it into something that gives you a bit of a grin to read what he does with them.
I’m generally a person who reads purely for the characters. In this, though the main character James is interesting and introduced in the very best of ways, Smitt is the one who steals all the best lines – he’s a delightful friend to this jaded protagonist.
Overall, I can’t wait to read this one. Tor bring out books you can rely on every time – they’ve certainly published my favourite novels from the last few years and the books they have coming out soon are only getting better.