In the toxic wasteland of Earth, Elise still clings to her hope that she can cure the plague and make Earth liveable again. But that hope seems more and more as they – and their tribe – constantly have to flee from attacks from Chronocon and the Valta corporation.
But she isn’t alone, James, while struggling with his own issues, has put together a powerful alliance of brilliant minds to help them. Elise is putting together her own alliance – determined to create something better.
I love how this book portrays the dystopian world – because it’s clearly grim and awful in many many ways, but we portray this through daily existence, how everyone lives and survives every day. There’s no need for pages upon pages upon pages of melodramatic awfulness and description – because it’s portrayed by people’s experiences and what they’re used to. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for characters who are used to the world they live in to spend an excessive long time moping about it.
Because this is a book about time travel (though the focus is very much on the book’s present in this book) there is a large amount of the setting’s history present. There’s a lot of excellent references to this created history, to wars, to the conflicts between the core planets and the outer rims and the very different standards of living and histories of both regions. This leads to interesting resource conflicts – with the outer-rim planets being the most modern and luxurious but with time salvaging being the source of the most precious resources, the core planets, especially broken, diseased Earth, is the motherlode.
Securitate Kuo’s thought processes does give us some insight into the views of the villain who, like most villains, does think of herself as the good guy. In some ways it’s very well done but in others it’s just a little overdone, almost cartoonishly. She is a loyal follower of the corporations and their capitalism = everything motto. And in this dystopian solar system of dwindling resources, she doesn’t just see capitalism as the most profitable but literally the way to save humanity. She knows there’s few resources and she firmly believes in the ruthlessness of obliterating waste – including wasteful people – so that humanity may go forwards
But even through her own eyes we see that the corporations are repeating the same mistakes as the governments and non-profits she disdains so as well as seeing flaws unique to the corporations –like their inability to plan for the long term.
This is, somewhat, the underlying conflict of the books. The megacorporation have co-opted the Time Agency, they have the power and the control. They’re ruthless, devastating and view people as resources to exploit, use and dispose of. They’re cruel, they’re ruthless, they care about the bottom line only – they may be efficient, but it’s a selfish efficiency that is only focused on their own gain.
Then you have Elise and her vision. She’s kind and compassionate and her kindness and willing to share manages to win her massive loyalty from the beleaguered tribes. People coming together in common cause as they’re shown equal respect, share resources and training and expertise to form a much more respectful, honest and greater whole that, in term, is looking forward to the betterment of them all
Yet even with this we see James and many others fretting over the fact they simply don’t have the resources for this generosity, let alone to achieve their long term goals. Without the ability to jump into the past for resources, technology, weapons and even experts, the whole society would collapse over night (though, equally, it has to be noted time salvaging is a major resource for the corporations as well). The equal respect of people and voices means a thousand confusing titles and names, endless arguments and jockeying and a general slowness that leaves Elise conflicted between the principle of all voices being heard and the practicality of everything being so much easier when everyone does as they’re told.
It’s the core conflict of the books and showcases the underlying themes so well.
This book contains a large amount of exploration of James‘s alcoholism which is both horrible and painful reading while at the same time being so very accurate which is what it makes so hard to read. It is hard to see one of the protagonists of a book completely ruin his life and the plot. It’s hard to read a character do things and just sit there and scream “nooo nooo don’t do this! Don’t do this!” It’s not fun to read. It’s not easy to read. But the subject matter is neither fun nor easy either. It was portrayed as difficult and as destructive and hard as it really should be.