Review: Time Salvager by Wesley Chu

TimeSalvagerWesleyChuSeries: Time Salvager #1
Published by: Tor
ISBN: 0765377187
ISBN 13: 9780765377180
Published: July 2015
Pages: 384
Format reviewed: eVersion from Publisher
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Time Siege (Time Salvager #2) (coming soon)

Named for the planets they originated from, we first meet James Griffin-Mars when he’s still a highly-ranked time traveller called a chronman. He’s not coping too well, stuck in a job with many years left on his contract, even though the highly-stressful job often kills the employees well within that time frame.

Cold and good at his job, James usually has no trouble dropping into past times to retrieve whatever it is he’s been ordered to bring back to his current time, whether it’s specific items as requested by high paying clients, or things that can be used to slightly extend the power resources of their current climate. They’re fighting a losing battle though – the worlds are in dire health and everything around them is failing. It’s no surprise that James has a drinking problem.

James has few friends – almost zero, in fact. His handler Smitt is the closest he’s got, and they’ve stuck together for a long time. When a high level job comes through that few chronman are equipped to handle, James and Smitt are sought out for it. It seems risky, poorly explained, slightly confusing… but it holds a golden ticket to an end to their contract, and they may even get to go to one of the nice invite-only planets, which means they can escape the grunge. If only they can complete this one mission.

On this trip, he happens to both catch the eye, and notice, a scientist by the name of Elise. Coming from such a depressing time he is wonderous at her happy and hopeful nature, her sparkling eyes, and her purity. She’s sassy and isn’t impressed by him in general (a change from his normal life, though he is indeed in hiding whilst in her time… this however remains throughout the book, and is something he finds refreshing.)

And from here, things get a whole lot more tricky.

I’ve enjoyed Chu’s writing previously and this is no different. The characters are endearing, and as a friend commented when she saw that I was reading it, this has a story that stays with you if you put the book down for any reason. The plot and action scenes flow well that you don’t get exhausted by all the action but at the same time there aren’t any dead bits either.

Chu’s mastery with world building really shows in this book. You seamlessly understand their technology, the changes between worlds and times, and what restrictions and boons they all have – not an easy task.

What works best though is the ending. Just when you think well, this is it, I’m satisfied with how the plot and characters have all tied things together, I can finally relax and digest this novel… Chu leaves us with an ending that makes it impossible not to pick up the next book in the series immediately to see what happens next. Very, very well played, Chu.

Books Upcoming: Time Salvager by Wesley Chu

TimeSalvagerWesleyChuTime Salvager by Wesley Chu

Release Date: July, 2015

Tor Books

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.