Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Jacket Blurb: 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.
Read for May book group.
It took me about 100 pages to get into the plot, I was engaged for about 100 more, then I completely lost interest.
Premise of the book was kinda interesting. A far future Earth has fallen into decay and environmental disaster. The only way the remnants of society can function is to send Chronmen back to select moments in the past to retrieve items to help them survive. James is a Tier 1 Chronman, reviled by many, disliked by his peers, his only friend is his Handler. He's got five years or so left on his contract and he can retire and get off the lousy planet.
Then James violates one of the main rules of Time Travel: he saves Elise from the wreckage of what he was told was a military installation, but in reality, was a scientific platform to fight an algae that was plaguing Earth's waters. Now on the run from his fellow Chronmen, the industrial company Valta, his only ally his handler, and responsible for Elise - James only has survival on his mind. But when Elise says she can cure Earth, every thing changes.
As I noted, I found this slow to start. James was not very interesting as a character. Curmudgeonly, cranky, irritable, he was hard to get a read on. When he rescued Elise, I thought I would see more of a personality change (improvement?) than I did.
While Elise's character brought some curiosity and lightness to an otherwise very dour outlook, I never felt like I got to know her. She expressed sadness at what was taken, interest in wanting to save this future world, she got along with the refugees, and once Grace came along, rather faded into the background.
Grace, the Mother of Time was the most interesting one of the bunch - pushy, bossy, snarky, admitting that when she created the Time Rules she and her co-horts were making things up, that they didn't know what they were doing. My complaint with Elise stands - once the two women meet, they both fade into the background as James and Schmidt continue to time jump to bring equipment back.
When we discussed this at book group, the question was raised: if they could go back in time to retrieve equipment, why didn't they go back and get the plans? Good point...because then we wouldn't have a plot.
Valta killing Schmidt seemed...unnecessary. Valta as Big Evil Corporation, mostly left me confused. A nebulous company that sabotaged it's own mission and is now hunting the scientist and James but not doing a very good job of it.
Yes, I realize this is book one and answers are forthcoming (maybe). But after skimming the last 80 pages, going "Huh, that was kinda cool" at the last paragraph (and it was cool!), I have no desire to read more.
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