Book Review: The Singers of Time – by Frederik Pohl & Jack Williamson

A teenage girl sits on top of an upright walking bull with huge blue eyes; winged turtles in the background.

What possesses a grown man to pick up that book and actually read it?

We should not judge a book by its cover, especially a science fiction book.

Copyright 1991, I must have bought it when it just came out (I was a grown man even then). I remember reading the beginning, but I must have laid it down and forgot about it. I recently pulled it out of a box and promptly read it all the  way through.

The “Turtles” are a highly advanced intelligent race that originated at a star 73 light years from Earth. They developed the “wave drive,” a technology that allows spaceships to travel at light speed. Due to the time dilation that occurs at that speed, they were able to spread to many places in the galaxy. During World War II they first arrived here. Being a peaceful race of merchants, they “conquered” our world not through weapons but through trade.

The Turtles are three to four meters tall and twice as massive as humans. Their language consists of squeaks, hisses and screeches, much of the sound outside of the range of human hearing. They communicate with humans through translation machines which they carry on their bodies.

They view humans as a subspecies, advanced animals, but they treat them with dignity. They have also uplifted a species of bovines, called the Taurs, who are basically servants to humans  and Turtles, and also serve as meat animals, like our cattle.

The Turtles are a hive species, with only one single female breeding. They revere her as the Mother and treat her as the queen and ultimate ruler of the entire race. When the Mother is abducted with no female successor, the race is threatened with extinction. That’s when the Turtles need human help for the first time.

The Singers of Time is a hard science study, analyzing cosmology and physics to the limit of human understanding. A motley crew of five humans, two Turtles and a Taur make an epic journey through multiple universes, ageless eons and many dimensions. Much of what they are going through does not make sense plotwise. The entire story seems to be built around trying to explain advanced physics to laymen. It’s entertaining, but the characters are mostly ludicrous stereotypes. The story is too contrived to be gripping. The individual actions of the characters seem stilted, and the mystical connection of the Taurs with the underlying intelligence that permeates the universe distracts from the story.

Rating: **

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