Time salvager

What will the 26th century be like? In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World people are under the strict control of a World State. Vin Diesel’s films, Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick and Riddick, show a universe of advanced technologies, interplanetary space travel and different types of bad guys and beasties. Joss Whedon’s television series Firefly, and motion picture Serenity, focus on the crew of a small ship providing services on the fringes of a large, interplanetary community known as The Alliance starting in the year 2517. In Time Salvagers, author Wesley Chu takes readers to a decidedly more dystopian vision of our future.  

The earth is primarily a toxic wasteland and most of humanity has moved off the planet to the moons of the gas giants. For most, existence is extremely hard, with survival the foremost concern of every day. One way to a more stable existence is to join Chronocom, an organization that exists outside of the remaining political factions and the corporate mega conglomerates to coordinate and execute mankind’s forays into the past to secure resources for the present while minimizing the disruption of the chronosphere. Training is difficult. The psychological and physical requirements more so. Only a select few make it through to become a chronman, an authorized time traveler. Once one becomes a chronman, you must work off the debt accrued while in school. Chronmen are very well paid, but their debt is enormous. And the physical and psychological strains of regular time travel take their toll. Most don’t live to be free and enjoy the wealth they have accumulated. James Griffin-Mars is one of the best chronmen, a Tier-1. He has just secured a “golden ticket,” a job sponsored by a powerful mining company that will, if he retrieves the desired items, buy out his contract and allow him, and his handler Smitt, to retire on Europa in luxury. Golden ticket jobs are never easy, which is why they’re rare and the payoffs so generous. He will have to retrieve several difficult items in the midst of an explosive catastrophe. But once James makes the jump to the location in 2097, things begin to unravel. The information regarding the locations of the items is sketchy, and changes made mid-jump only lower the odds of successfully completing this mission.

And then there is Elise Kim, the first person James interacts with once he makes the jump to the past.  Elise is a research chief on the facility James knows is about to be destroyed. To him, she is a ghost, someone who died centuries ago in an incident that will secure his freedom. And yet, there is something else about her that James cannot shake. In the seconds before Elise is supposed to die, James saves her and brings her back to the present, that is his present and her future. By doing so, James has broken one of the most sacred and important laws imposed on chronmen: NEVER bring anyone back from a jump. Now outlaws, James must figure out how to keep them alive, which is especially difficult because Elise has no idea of how treacherous, and toxic 26th century earth can be. But as she is exposed to her new environment, it also becomes clear that the research Elise was doing in the 21st century may hold the key to saving the earth in the 26th century!

In Time Salvagers, Wesley Chu, author of The Lives of Tao trilogy, presents a future fraught with perils, devastation and toxic environments, but also has interplanetary and time travel. Chu uses the world he has created to comment on our present one with the growing chasm between the “haves” and “have nots,” and the increasing power and control exercised by corporate entities on governments and individuals. It is a world that is completely believable because it all stems from actions being taken in our own world.
The characters are strong, well defined and believable as well. However, there is one character who seems to be somewhat one dimensional. As the story progresses it becomes clear that the character is neither simple nor one dimensional, but rather she is an extension of the singlemindedness of her employer.  This is a thoroughly enjoyable time travel adventure that holds the present accountable for the future that may come. According to the author, there will be a sequel, with no release date set at this time.