Ray Gun Reviews
SF/F reviews — and ray guns!

Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt

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Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt
Ace, 2009, 385pp.

As I see it, there are two basic types of time-travel books: the ‘big picture’ time-travel novel wherein the fate of the universe is at stake; and the smaller-scale time-travel novel that is out there just for fun. One of the best of the latter is also one of my favorite novels, The Door into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein. The Door into Summer is a good romp and a fun ride. This is not ‘big issues’ SF, but enjoyable. I’ve read the book at least 20 times and plan to do so just as many again through the rest of my life. Jack McDevitt’s latest, Time Travelers Never Die, is also one of these fun time-travel adventures (regardless of what the back-cover copy tries to make it out to be).

Physicist Adrian Shelborne’s father has disappeared, strangely vanishing from his home which is locked from the inside and shows no sign of forced entry. As Adrian and his brother Jerry begin to believe their father has actually died, Adrian (known more affectionately as ‘Shel’) receives a letter that his father left with his lawyer, informing him that he should not expect to see him again and asking him to destroy three hand-held computers (‘Q-pods’) that are in a safe. Before destroying them, however, Shel plays around with one and discovers that they are actually time machines that his genius father has invented.

Shel quickly realizes that his father has disappeared into the time stream and is most likely stuck somewhere in the past. Shel enrolls the help of his long-time best friend, Dave Dryden, and the two of them head off on a series of adventures throughout the time stream while looking for the senior Shelborne. One thing Dave and Shel have promised each other, though, is that they will not use the time machines to travel into the future, but of course, neither holds to that promise. Eventually, though, Shel learns about his premature death and goes on the run through time to avoid ending up at the time and place in which he dies. It’s then up to Dave to figure out how he can keep Shel from dying without creating a paradox with known history.

Even though there’s a cover blurb by Joe Haldeman claiming that this book ‘ring[s] in new changes in the genre,’ there’s nothing really new in Time Travelers Never Die, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good book: it is so excellently written that I found myself reading the entire book in two days, carving out every spare minute from my busy schedule to read at least one more page, and usually a lot more than that!

McDevitt’s plot, while not too complex, is still finely woven and paced. He drops Shel and Dave into one temporal adventure (and mis-adventure!) again and again without feeling repetitive. There’s just enough of an over-arching storyline to keep the adventures focused, but not so much that you feel the adventures are there for the sake of the story, even though in the end, when all is revealed, you can see McDevitt’s master plotting. I’ve not read any other of Jack McDevitt’s novels, but based on the craftsmanship in this one, I’m definitely going to hunt them down and begin reading them.

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