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Time Salvager
by Wesley Chu
Tor, $25.99, 380pp
Published: July 2015

On this faraway Earth, the environment has succumbed to a catastrophic plague, the oceans are brown.  Terrible wars decimated whole countries reducing great cities to rubble and destroying what was left of the ecosystem.  But humanity clings.  There are still the very rich and very poor.  The corporations control what’s left of human society but the ChronoCom controls time travel.  And it’s time travel that keeps humanity still hanging on.  Especially trained operators are sent into the past on salvage operations to bring forward resources such as fuel, food and technology. But, as always, only the rich and their supporters benefit.  The rest of humanity is still disposable.

James is a Chronman, one of those elite time travelers.  He has always been proud of his association with the single agency that still looks after humans and protects the timeline.  James has always believed in the laws that govern each trip to the past, believing them to be the best guide to protect the timeline.  But Chronmen are vulnerable to the stresses of the job and James doesn’t always believe the safety rules apply to him when they need to be bent or broken to accomplish a job.  And one day, James does something unforgivable, the most heinous of crimes.  Even he can’t believe he actually did it.  He brought back a human being.

This single event sends James and Smitt, his best friend and coworker, down a dark path where everyone’s hand is raised against them.  But it may be the most moral path in a world where morals mean very little.

This was an entertaining, albeit bleak, story.  The author takes us from the glorious, but ill-fated, past to a dying future; from the heights of privilege to the barest existence.  He shows us typical corporate greed – but with no controls – and he shows us the epitome of human spirit and heart.  Nothing really new here.  Our heroes are on a mission to save the earth in spite of the greedy short-sighted badguys. Nothing really new here, either.

It was an okay story; not bad but not great.  Some small suspense near the end but no cathartic climax; everything is on hold for the next book.  There is a hint that the corporations are doing more dirty deeds than have yet been exposed but that’s not a new plot device, either.  I’d be more interested if there had been more clues as to what might come. ~~  Catherine Book

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