Book Review: Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 1
Publisher: Tor (July 7, 2015)
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Full disclosure, though I am writing this review for the ARC, I actually had the distinct pleasure of being a beta reader for an early draft of Time Salvager last year, and I just want to say now that being able to experience this story again felt even more amazing. Wesley Chu has already shown a flair for writing thrilling sci-fi adventures with his Tao trilogy, and there’s no doubt that his new novel is another strong entry into the genre.
Time Salvager takes us to a future where Earth has become a toxic wasteland. Those who could afford to get off-planet have long since taken their lives to the outer solar system, but this dispersion has also created a greater need for resources to support the population – resources that Earth is no longer in a position to provide.
Enter ChronoCom and their elite corps of time-traveling agents, aptly known as “Chronmen”. If the present can’t provide the resources that humanity needs, then they shall plunder the past. However, messing around with the chronostream is always dicey, so chronmen are dedicated to keeping their ripples in the past as small as possible so that the timeline can heal itself before effects can be felt in the present. This means that a lot of rules put in place, and the harshest punishments are brought down on those who break them.
Unfortunately for chronman James Griffin-Mars, on his final mission in the twenty-first century to secure his retirement, he experiences a moment of madness and breaks the most important and unforgiveable rule of all. Unstable and already close to snapping, James spontaneously decides to rescue a young woman named Elise from her fated death and brings her back to his time. Viewed as a temporal anomaly that must now be eliminated, Elise is forced to go on the run with James as the full might of ChronoCom descends upon the two fugitives.
Firstly, time traveling stories are always tricky to pull off, and admittedly I can’t think of too many where some willingness to turn a blind eye to temporal paradoxes and contradictions is at least required. Time Salvager is no different, though to Chu’s credit, the time traveling system he proposes is compelling and well-developed. Even though it may not stand up to heavy scrutiny, the process behind the technology lends itself perfectly to the story which will delight readers who are in it for the action and the entertainment. In other words, yes, you’ll probably have to roll with the punches, but at the same time I’m hard pressed to think of any other instance where doing so has been more fun.
Those who have read the author’s Tao series may also notice that the story of Time Salvager has a darker, more despairing vibe. Much of this has to do with the protagonist of James, whose long years working for ChronoCom and salvaging dead-end timelines has exposed him to too much death and destruction. Added to his overall jadedness are the dangerous physiological effects of doing too many time jumps, the character of James Griffin-Mars is definitely not singing a song of sunshine and rainbows. Perhaps the only reason I like Wesley Chu’s Tao books slightly more is because of the emotional cocktail of desperation, hopelessness and pent-up rage that is James’ personality. It fits who he is and makes for interesting development later on in the novel, but it does give Time Salvager a certain gravitas and makes it a heavier read.
Chu, however, did impress me with his characterization of Levin Javier-Oberon, the ChronoCom auditor tasked to capture James and Elise. With his complex view of the world and the way he believes things should be, Levin became my favorite character as soon as he was introduced as a point-of-view character. I can’t even really bring myself to name him as the antagonist; it doesn’t seem fair just because Levin is rigidly tied a set of moral standards that happens to be the antithesis of James’. I hope we’ll see more of Levin in the next book, because I’m not ready for his tale to be over yet, especially given how the book ended.
It goes without saying, I’m really looking forward to the sequel. Time Salvager feels like the next big step in Wesley Chu’s writing career, which continues to rise promisingly. This book does a fantastic job setting up for a fast-paced sci-fi thriller series that is brimming with potential, and you really can’t ask for much more.