Jack McDevitt, Time Travelers Never Die

I don't read a ton of science fiction*, but I tend to enjoy it when I do. It's more often a smaller pleasure for me than I find in most other genres, or other modes of fiction, but it's good stuff. Engaging, appealing, that sort of thing, but not often more than that.

And that's how I felt about the current book club selection, Jack McDevitt's Time Travelers Never Die. I appreciated the main characters, Shel and Dave, one of whom's fairly geeky and the other of whom's an overworked university instructor - ways of being which felt unaccountably familiar, not that I identify in any way with either one - and their mostly healthy relationships with women (especially Helen Suchenko) were refreshing. But, well, it didn't make much of an impression on me, and I don't see how it's going to make much of an impression on casual readers, on McDevitt's fans, or on science fiction more generally.

Of course, it doesn't need to make such an impression. Mild pleasure is a good thing, and the reading experience doesn't always have to be "shooting heroin with the Princess of Wales, naked in a crashing jet," in Douglas Coupland's memorable phrase for how intensely we remember events from our childhood and teens (Life After God, p.48, if you need to track it down).

I will say, though, that I liked that the main characters don't understand the technology that permits their travels through time, that they decide to trust people they meet in the past with their limited conceptual understanding, and that these trusted past people don't seem to do anything that mucks up the timeline. It's nice to find someone else who thinks that we can indeed get a long way forward just by mucking along with good intentions.

Summary: best as light reading for the already confirmed McDevitt fan, or for those who prefer their sci-fi without much sci- (or indeed without either politics or philosophy).

*While I don't read a ton of science fiction, sometimes it slips in anyway: Ursula Le Guin, Alastair Reynolds, Kim Stanley Robinson (twice!), and Frank Herbert.


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