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Timescape ePub

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The Coolness—

• This book won the Nebula in 1980! Pretty cool for it and the author, Gregory Benford. It would have been nice for Hilary Foister to share in the credit, though, considering she supposedly co-wrote this with Benford.

• It deals with tachyons! (once in a while)

• It works well as a mild sedative.

The Meh!-ness—

• There are some cool bits of forward thinking in this book, although none of them are truly prophetic, and they needed to be if they were going to be better than average. Benford and Foister project some terrorism in New York (which is a bit like a Sci-Fi writer suggesting that someday the Boston Red Sox would once again win the World Series), some ecological disaster, some biological disaster, some poverty and some hunger. Wow! That's bravely walking the plank, isn't it?

• This book receives much praise for its “strong” characterization, but I’ve always felt that strong characterization requires more than just time spent with the characters; it also requires a thorough understanding of at least one character’s depths and shallows. We need to get inside a character and really experience the meat of him/her. Not so here. We meet quite a few characters, mostly men, spending a lot of time with Ian Peterson (a womanizing English “gentleman”), John Renfrew (a whiny physicist from England of the nineties), and Gordon Bernstein (a whiny physicist from the US of the sixties), but I never felt like I knew any of them well, nor did I want to get to know them any better. If this really is the strongest aspect of Timescape, it is a fine example of why this book deserves no accolades.

The Crapness—

• There is no way in hell this book deserved the Nebula award in 1980 or any other time.How it beat books like Joan D Vinge’s The Snow Queen or Walter Tevis’ Mockingbird I will never understand. This book was barely Sci-Fi, and I think I would have appreciated it far more if the clever little time messaging business had been taken out completely. A novel about Scientific competition in the sixties would have been good enough for me, and it was the story Benford and Foister were telling anyway, and I wouldn't have spent the bulk of the novel hoping for the Sci-Fi elements that never came.

• Sadly, the cool bits of forward thinking were matched by some clangers. The authors imagined a late-20th century world where all the movie theatres were closing down out of disinterest, a world where photographic film was strictly rationed and no digital cameras were invented to pick up the slack (which wouldn’t have been a problem if it weren’t for the fact that the tachyon messenger was sending what amounted to digital images), a world where a woman being a housewife was expected by everyone everywhere, which leads me too ....

• The portrayal of women in this book annoyed me constantly. It wasn’t that Benford (not to mention his ghostly partner because he didn’t, after all) was misogynistic. I didn’t sense any hatred of women in his writing. What was clearly present, however, was the cloistered attitude of an academic in a field that – in the Eighties – kept women firmly out of its ranks. It is the writing of a man out of touch with the changing social conventions of his day, which translated into an inability to foresee the way social conventions would be formed seventeen years later. Benford’s downfall is a lazy acceptance of patriarchy and a lack of imagination for past, present, and future gender roles.

• The authors’ sickening defence of those three unassailable pillars of benevolence: England, the USA and the educated middle class. Puke, puke, puke.

•Racism towards the whole of South America, with special attention given to Brazil and Argentina. The bulk of the ecological blame falls to Brazil for their destruction of the rainforests, but there is no mention, anywhere in the book, of the worldwide market forces that must motivate such destruction.

•Page 413-414 of my copy – which I received as a bookmooch – are missing. It looks like someone took an Xacto knife to the page, and I am dying to know why and what the hell I am missing. If any of you have a copy of this book, I would appreciate a photocopy of the pages so I can read them and add them to my copy. I suppose it’s not a big deal, though, since the book was far from impressive.

•Finally ... JFK survives! And there was definitely only one shooter. Whew.
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