Book Review: TimeSplash – by Graham Storrs

A new book about time travel showed up in my Amazon recommendations. I checked the reviews. They were mostly positive, and several reviewers compared it to Stephen King’s 11/22/63. One reviewer stated it was much better. I downloaded the sample and read the first couple of chapters. It wasn’t the writing that piqued my interest, but the subject matter – time travel. After I finished reading the sample I bought the rest of the book for $4.50, only to regret it within another hour of reading.

The story starts in 2047. A way to travel in time has been invented, where the travelers, via some complex and expensive technology, are thrown back in the time stream by a few years or decades. While in the past, they can interact with the world, and eventually they get pulled back into the present automatically. The time stream does not allow time travelers to change the world to prevent paradoxes. This manifests itself oddly. For instance, if a time traveler walks on a pristine beach and creates footsteps in the sand, those footsteps fill themselves in a few seconds later, leaving no trace. Cool so far.

Rather than using this amazing capability for scientific purposes, however, a class of entertainers and thugs has developed who go back in time and wreak destruction on purpose, causing splashes in the fabric of time. Making footsteps disappear is not taxing for the time stream. But what about undoing the killing of a person? This causes major shock waves which can end up affecting the future (or the present from whence the time travelers started), and it’s called a backwash.

The author builds a cohesive story around this concept, but the premise that juvenile rioters are the only ones using time travel for their destructive entertainment was just too farfetched to keep my interest. The characters are poorly developed, mostly one-dimensional, and generally inconsistent.

For instance, the mega star of time splashing goes by the nickname of Sniper. At the beginning of the story, he brings his 15-year-old girlfriend, Patty, with him, along with two other travelers. Then, when Patty freaks out when he starts pulling a gun in the past, shooting people for fun, he turns on her, threatens her, keeps calling her a stupid bitch, and physically assaults her. Alright, it’s fiction. But even in fiction I need characters that make sense. A young man does not bring his 15-year-old girlfriend on a major trip, does not prepare her about the fact that he’s going to be killing people, and then calls her a bitch and abuses her when she does not like it. Nobody does that. But many characters in TimeSplash behave like that. They act incongruously and that makes them all worse than cartoonish. Cartoon characters, at least, are caricatures and therefore very consistent.

TimeSpash could have been a fun book, but it didn’t remain glued together. It kept yanking me back to the role of book critic, to that state of alertness while reading that interrupts the turning of pages. After a while I started finding myself skimming over pages, when a character named Jay was doing stuff I didn’t really care about, and by 32% into the book I gave up, having lost interest completely.

Another book not finished reading.

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