I’m a fan of time-travel stories. Let me clarify that: I’m a fan of well-written time-travel stories. Time travel is one of those memes that sounds great and exciting but can lead you down either the rabbit hole of cliches such as “let’s kill Adolph Hitler when he’s a little boy,” or “what happens if I kill my grandfather as a little boy?” OR can get bogged down in time paradoxes so complex that even the author seems to be lost. It takes a good writer with a good premise to make a great time travel story.
Enter Jack McDevitt. I became acquainted with him through his hard science fiction space stories. He’s one of those rare writers who can write science fiction that doesn’t talk down to you, doesn’t bore you and yet still tells a great story. This one is no exception.
The premise is a famous physicist who has two sons. The story begins with the disappearance and supposed death of the father. When he is declared dead, the second son inherits an envelope with a message for him to destroy these three devices referred to as Q-pods, that are later described as similar to game machines. The son, Shel, soon discovers that the Q-pods are time machines. With his friend Dave, who is a language professor, they discover what happened to his father and go on a series of adventures themselves.
What made me feel good about this story is that McDevitt never falls into the typical cliches that come with time travel stories. At the same time, he brings up both some interesting new challenges and some considerations or possibilities for those who have all the time in the universe on their hands.
The story is well written, the characters are interesting, there is a sense of humor to the story, and I read through the whole thing in just over a day. Highly recommended.
Five of five stars.