Book Review: Timelines – by Bob Blink

Good thing I do not judge a book by its cover, especially when it’s on the Kindle and it does not have a cover. I looked it up on Amazon. I’d almost be embarrassed being caught reading a hardcopy of Timelines in public with this cover art.

I wonder who Kelsey Giosso is, who got credit for the cover art? It makes the book look cartoonish, childish and hokey.

Notwithstanding the awful cover art, this is hands down the best time travel book, alien book and science fiction book I have read in a very long time. It appears to be Bob Blink’s first novel (at least I can’t find much about him online – yet). That will change.

Blink is a first-rate story-teller, who captured me with the first sentence and didn’t let me go for 598 pages. Unlike in other first books and particularly first science fiction tomes, where the action often floods and ebbs between frantic movement and boredom, in Timelines, things move along at a steady and pace, consistent and almost with a cadence.

Jim Crampton, the main narrator, is a science type who discovers a mysterious cave entrance while hiking outside Seattle. The cave turns out to be the entry portal to a large and advanced complex that allows him to travel through time, as far back as 52,000 years ago, and as far into the future as the year 7100.  For a year or so, it remains his secret. Eventually, he brings in other people and develops a team of experts that includes scientists, historians, computer experts and physicists who help study the technology. It turns out the time complex was established by an alien race with a far advanced technology. They try to understand the motives of the aliens, and as the story progresses, it appears more and more sinister.

Eventually, they decide to bring in the U.S. government for help. As they suspected, however, the government starts messing things up.

Minor spoiler alert: It’s funny to see how the U.S. government (the action plays in 2006), the various branches of the military and the bureaucracy jostle to get control of the technology away from Crampton and his team. I was amused how the U.S. bungles things. When the team approaches the Israelis for help, they don’t fool around, they get the job done Israeli-style, and eventually come through. The U.S. is doing nothing but messing things up.

Timelines spurred my imagination. At times I would put the book down, stare into space and just marvel at the possibilities. There are aliens involved, and there is no question about what they look like and what they can do. The time travel concepts are solid and well explained. This book shows well what just might happen if humans stumbled upon advanced technology that they don’t understand but by some coincident got a hold of.

There are a very few things I would suggest the author should correct: He overuses two trite expressions. First, one character or another keeps bringing somebody “up to speed” when the need to inform arises. People are being “brought up to speed” at least thirty times in the book to the point where the reader is tired of the phrase. Second, characters always seems to “grab” their food. They grab sandwiches on the way out, they grab a burger and fries, they grab a quick dinner. Too much grabbing of food.  There are also the usual Kindle editing errors, with word endings wrong or dropped off, that I would expect an editor to find before the book is sold – my usual Kindle criticism.

This book is a well-woven tale of complex plot twists and new surprises every few pages. It is told at just the right pace, the right mix of dialog and narrative, and it is completely satisfying. Too many science fiction books leave things unanswered and open, angling for sequel opportunities or simply getting out easy by employing science dei-ex-machina. Blink writes a conclusion that makes sense, ties off all the subplots, accounts for all the characters and makes sure that the all lived happily ever after.

Timelines is a formidably satisfying science fiction time travel story.

Rating: ***

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