Tag Archives: Time travel

Alexander Galant, Depth of Deception

(2013-11-13 001)TitleDepth of Deception

Author: Alexander Galant

Publication Information: Published by Alexander Galant Entertainment, c2012

ISBN: 978-0-9879835-0-3

Library of Congress Classification: PS3607.A66278

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Titanic (Steamship)–Fiction
Mothers and sons–Fiction
Fathers and sons–Fiction
Insurance investigators–Fiction
Murder–Investigation–Fiction
Time travel–Fiction

I liked this book, although the very ending surprised me.

Once again, the Titanic serves as a backdrop, only this time most of the action takes place in 1982, before the ship was found. Archibald Hoffman, a wealthy, sleazy millionaire who survived the Titanic disaster with his wife and son, is planning to launch Titanic II and recreate the fateful voyage–sans iceberg, of course. This is scandalous to the survivors who are still alive, so the ship is renamed Titan though it looks remarkably like the Titanic.

The book begins with a British naval ship picking up a distress call and coming to the coordinates that were given by the ship, only there is no sinking ship, no wreck, no anything except a young woman floating on a piece of wood. She clutches a bear and Morgan Robertson’s book, Futility. The rescue team immediately goes into action, although it is assumed that she is already dead from lying in the freezing North Atlantic water and air. Surprisingly, she’s still alive. They get her to a hospital, where she cannot remember anything. The locket she wears has pictures of her son and husband.

Meantime Callum Toughill, a Lloyd’s of London investigator, is asked to solve the murder of Agatha Gilcrest, a woman killed seven decades before. The only thing stolen from Gilcrest was a diamond broach. Toughill’s grandfather had tried to prove the accused killer was innocent, but he was disgraced and drummed out of the Belfast police; the innocent man hung for the crime. This was why Toughill did not become a police detective. Now information exists that the broach might have been on the Titanic; if so, then Lloyd’s wants to know how it got on the ship since someone has just filed a claim.

From here, things move pretty fast. People to whom Toughill talks suddenly end up dead. Meanwhile, the woman found in the North Atlantic Ocean claims to be Myra Sloane Hoffman, the wife of Archibald Hoffman. She is in her late 20s-early 30s, so her claims are dismissed as delusional and she is under the care of a psychiatrist. Someone is also trying to kill her. When Edward Hoffman, son of Myra and Alexander, meets the woman, he is very disturbed, since he comes to believe that she may be his mother, who is still alive.

Edward likes the idea of time travel and he and Myra talk at length about it. The idea of moving forward in time intrigues Edward, and he mentions movies and books where the protagonist moves into the time stream. Myra doesn’t like the idea of time travel being forward and not back, since she hopes to return to her own time, but Edward tells her that Einstein’s theory only shows that forward movement in time is possible. Edward and Myra also talked about changing time, which was impossible to Edward. Parallel, alternate timelines would be created if someone was able to change something; the original timeline would continue on as well as the new alternate timeline.

I had a problem putting the book down. I needed to find out how it would end. Was Myra who she claimed to be? If so, how did she end up in 1982 and still be alive? How was the broach tied into all this? What about the Titan, and the Titanic? The only problem I had was with the very end. I’m not sure what to make of it. What happens goes back to the discussion that Myra and Edward had about time travel.

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Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove, Household Gods

Tarr-Household Gods (2013-09-01 026)Title: Household Gods

Author: Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove

Publication Information: New York: Tor Fantasy, 2000

ISBN: 0-812-56466-9 (i.e. 978-08-1256-466-2)

Library of Congress Classification: PS3570.A655

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Hotelkeepers—Rome—Fiction
Time travel—Fiction
Carnuntum (Extinct city)—Fiction
Rome—Social conditions—Fiction
Rome—History—Empire, 30 B.C.-284 A.D.—Fiction

This is probably the best book I have ever read that puts you in ancient Rome.

I do not like Harry Turtledove’s writing. Why, I do not know. I read his Agent of Byzantium years ago and I just did not like it. Besides, he writes an alternate history of the American Civil War, where the south won. It just does not appeal to me.

Judith Tarr’s name is listed first, and this is the only book I’ve read of Tarr’s to date. Whether it was her doing most of the writing, a collaboration of the two, or Turtledove supplying the research to Tarr (he has a Ph. D. in history), the book is a page-turner. Anyone who wants to learn what life was like in the second century near the Roman border in Austria, this is a must read.

Nicole Gunther-Perrin, a divorced mother of two, lives in Los Angeles and works at a law firm in the last decade of the 20th century. Her husband, a professor, ran off with one of his students half her age; they married. Nicole got the custody of the children, but the child support is usually months late as ex-hubby is busy traveling around with his youthful bride.

We learn a lot about Nicole before she makes her trip back to Rome. She hates her job, hates her life, and is basically burned out on everything. Ironically, the best time she remembers having is being on her honeymoon and visiting the ruins of Carnuntum, a Roman city in what is now Austria. She admired the ruins and the Romans. Having bought a statue of Liber and Libera, Roman fertility deities, while there, she prays to them for a simpler life, a life that would take her away from the one she is suffering through.

She gets her wish and wakes up in Carnuntum. She inhabits a woman’s body which she knows is an ancestor of hers. She’s now an innkeeper and tavern owner. She has two children and a slave. Thus Nicole must come to grips with Rome in the second century on the frontier. Her education starts right away as she watches a woman coughing up black mucus in the baths, and watching it disperse in the water. Immediately she fears tuberculosis. This is just one surprise for her as plague, a barbarian invasion, and the inevitable return of Roman rule affect her and her family.

Her visit to Rome gifts her with the Latin language. Her mind is intact, and she puts her knowledge of the law to work. After an incident where she is wronged, Nicole writes to Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher emperor, informing him that he is ultimately responsible as the head of the Roman state. Her letter merits an audience with the emperor, which is quite interesting.

The book simply does not end with her return to Los Angeles. No, we get to see how her experience in the past has changed her for the better. Her entire attitude shifts and, because of that, she finds that her life isn’t all that bad, and is getting better. At least it is much easier living in Los Angeles than in second century Rome.

I loved this book. I can remember so many of the details even though I read it several years ago. It is a big novel at 664 pages, but well-worth the effort.

L. Sprague de Camp, Lest Darkness Fall

De Camp-Lest Darkness FallTitle: Lest Darkness Fall

Author: L. Sprague de Camp

Publication Information:  New York: Ballantine Books, 1983

ISBN: 0-345-31016-0 (i.e., 978-034-5310-16-3)

Library of Congress Classification: PS3507.E2344

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Time travel–Fiction
Rome–Fiction

This is an old one, and a good one.

When I was young, I used to be an avid science fiction reader. I remember L. Sprague de Camp’s The Tritonian Ring fondly.  I still have the book. It was so much, with the protagonist being a cynical hero that, in the end, just gave up and walked away from a potential drawn-out fight with his brother for the rule of their city.

The protagonist of this book is Martin Padway, an American graduate student in Rome doing research for his Ph. D. On the first page, the idea of time travel is introduced as Padway’s host, Tancredi, discusses his idea of time “pockets” simply appearing here and there and people, who just disappear and are never seen again, having fallen through and into the past. Thus the entire premise of the book is introduced.

Padway falls into one of these holes, going from fascist Italy (the original copyright is 1939 and explains why there’s a remark about Mussolini) into Ostrogothic Italy. Rome is in ruins and civilization is slowly sinking into the Dark Ages. Now known as Martinus–to the general public he will later be known as Mysterious Martinus–Padway begins his attempt to save Western civilization from decline.

The first order of business is to get money, so he sells the coins he has for their gold and silver, making friends with a Goth who knows Latin. Slowly, Martin learns the Germanic spoken by the Ostrogoths, and secures a loan (after teaching modern math to the accountants of the banker) at a high interest rate–far higher than today’s rates. With the money, Padway invents brandy, which quickly becomes a hit and makes him a wealthy man. Then Padway “invents” a printing press and then a telegraph.

Right away Padway runs into problems with religion. The Ostrogoths, converts to Arian Christianity, are heretics in the eyes of the the mainstream Christians, being the Romans and the Byzantines, who later enter the picture. Nonetheless, the Goths tolerate the range of Christians and their beliefs. Padway knows history, and he knows that Justinian, an orthodox Christian and a zealot, would be a horrible master. Also, the disastrous war waged by Justinian’s armies lasted two decades, bringing Italy back into the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire but at a terrible price. The peninsula was completely ravaged and it would be centuries before the damage could be undone.

Sorcery is leveled at Padway, so he has to fight for his survival, eventually using his wealth to bribe an influential bishop.  In the end, Padway ends up serving as the quaestor of the king whose life he saves. He’s able to defeat Justinian’s armies, throw back an attack by the Franks, and also crown a new king. He explains away his “gift” as not so much being able to see the future but to see “paths” that can be changed if those around him listen and act accordingly. He tells them his religion is Congregationalist, coming from America, which no one has ever heard of.

What is perhaps most interesting of all in this book is the alien nature of Ostrogothic society, and that of the last of the Romans living under Gothic rule. There is no sense of a nation-state as we are used to; identity at this time was very fluid. Vandals and Alemani serve in Italy under the Ostrogoths. The “kingdom” as such is held together by the nobles who follow the king; a council of nobles elect–and can depose–a king. The Goths overall distrust those who read and write; they are mostly illiterate.

The Ostrogoths have no idea of cohesion; the reason to fight is for honor and booty, nothing more. Padway desperately tries to introduce military organization and tactics from the far future, but the Ostrogoths do not understand the purpose. Even the idea of the early type of Roman government is alien; the Romans resent Gothic rule and refuse to help, preferring the orthodox Justinian as their ruler. There is no other word for it: these medievals are stupid by our standards, seeing nothing past what already exists. There is no interest in being inquisitive and no interest in discovering the unknown or questioning the status quo; religion explains everything.

A really fun book, and a quick read.