sábado, 16 de maio de 2009
Review: Phillip Ellis Jackson’s Timeshift, by Octavio Aragão
We are in the year 2416, the United States are united no more (i.e.: splited in two) and, after a dark period of wars and plague, humanity are again back on the rails, rebuilding civilization.
Three big institutions - B.E.T.A., T.I.M.E. and P.A.S.T. - are responsible for the control and organization of the newest great technological treasure of Earth: the Beta Lights, a system that can scan a person (called a "jumper") and, after transforming him in "data with conscience", project the jumper through time, to the past, to record events that could help the world to rebuilt much of humanity's lost history.
Soon this recordings hits the public eye and people begin to pay to watch history as it really was. The past becomes a great theme park for those who looks for fun and research: a dinner with King Henry VIII; an evening with the last president of the old USA; the 1920's war gangs of Chicago... nothing is impossible, no place is forbidden, no secret is hidden.
And, of course, crime is no more profitable.
Yeah, because if you commits a killing or robbery, all the authorities have to do is to send a jumper to the past and record your image with the gun in your hands... that's an unquestionable proof.
But even yet an assassination takes place, the suspect is put behind bars and finally executed - the man is forced to "jump" through the Beta Lights, becoming some kind of 'ghost', watching the world until his atoms finally vanish.
The hero, a young researcher of B.E.T.A. named Paul Thorndyke, suspects of an alteration in the Beta Lights recordings of the crime and then, side by side with his girlfriend and three other fellow scientists, he begins to uncover a huge plot that threatens the structure of the upcoming society.
Well, now my point of view.
The concept of a "past recorder" is fantastic and all the 'science' around that is a masterpiece of Hard Science Fiction thanks to Jackson's detailled description. All the "Hard" aspects of the book are well built and really convincing. From the "jump suit" to the technology needed to record the past is all very well written.
The plot axis of a crime in a society where crime is virtually impossible reminds me of the great "Demolished Man", by Alfred Bester, but here is the basic problem of TimeShift, IMHO: the sociological side of the story is a little flat.
Let's see our world, for instance. When WWII ended, Jaques Bergier, who was hidden in a bunker in France, went back to Paris, a city he hasn't visited since the beginning of the war. The 'new' Paris he saw seemed to him like a science fiction scenario because of all the new technology that was everywhere. Even in the small things, like new neologisms, or little gadgets like cigarrette lighters, technological toys were all around, changing the world and the people forever.
So, the TimeShift people survived the greatest war ever saw and a hideous plague. They witnessed the most fantastic scientific revolution, the creation of the Time Machine, that changed their lives in a way never done before and - at last but not at least - they could uncover all the great mysteries of the world. With the Beta Lights tech we could see what killed the dinosaurs, what sank Atlantis, what happened to Adolf Hitler, who killed JFK, who Shakespeare really was... it is absolutelly astonishing that not even one of these questions pop up in the heads of the scientists and researchers of the three big companies which controls the Beta Lights. Ok, they have a great problem to solve, to find the cure to "The Ash", a lethal desease that killed most of the world's population, but if people have time to spend with historical movies and curiosity to make arqueologic expeditions to the ruins of old museums, why nobody even think about the "great mysteries"?
In one of the great scenes of the book, when a jumper watches the presidential room in the past and witness the last President of the USA chatting with his daughter, what do we see? A great man and a perfect child. Great people taking big decisions but with heart, with a true feeling of "right". Well, nothing against a great leader and a perfect family but when we remember Clinton and the "Lewinsky affair", comes to mind that a President is a man with his qualities and bad days too. So, besides the fact that it's a great scene, with a believable setting, the characters seems fragile.
Another point that took my attention was the total absense of the notion of a world outside the rebuilt USA. The “world”, all the society, is just the North American world. Nobody seems interested in using the Beta Lights to see what happened to other countries.
But the last 50 pages are a real blast! Things happens so fast in such a glorious action/movie style that seems impossible not to take the next book to see where all that great ideas will end.
I will not tell you what happens in the end, but I must say: it's huge. And we have a great-great-great showdown scene with "tarantinean bullits" flying all over... the times (and my friends knows how I like those kind of scenes)!
A very good book. Not a masterpiece, but a great reading.
And now, Phillip Ellis Jackson's words about my review:
Thanks for the very generous comments. I've always maintained you can't go wrong when GOD likes your work!
Book #2 is out, and is already ranked 15,000 out of 1.75 million on Barnesandnoble.com. [Anyone who wants an autographed copy please send it (with an IRC for return postage) to my brother's company below. Be sure to print clearly the proper spelling of your name, and tell me if you want anything special said].
Dan Jackson Economists.com
5500 Democracy Dr.
Plano, Texas USA 75024
Regarding some of the points you raised:
"With the Beta Lights tech we could see what killed the dinossaurs, what sank Atlantis (if it really existed), what happened to Adolf Hitler, who killed JFK, who Shakespeare really was... it is absolutelly astonishing that not even one of these questions pop up in the heads of the scientists and researchers of the three big companies whichcontrols the Beta Lights! Ok, they have a great problem to solve: to find the cure to "The Ash", the lethal desease that killed most of the world's population, but if people have time to spend with historical movies and curiosity to make arqueologic expeditions to the ruins of old museums, why nobody even think about the "great mysteries"? Or do I miss something?"
** The discovery of this process is relatively new. Some of these questions have presumably been answered before Book 1 begins (although I don't give any details). The "ash" which started out as a nuisance 300 years earlier, has mutated into a deadly killing machine within the last 50 years. [There is more on the ash in book 2, and we learn the true origin of it in book 3].
Therefore, I begin the story with the attempt to discover the origin of the ash, since now it is a serious problem. "Jumps" to look at other historical events still occur, but at a reduced level. As you read books 2 and 3 (book 2 is out now, book 3 is due out in 2003), you'll see the constant competition between science, history and entertainment for more "jump time".
"In one of the great scenes of the book, when a jumper watches the presidential room in the past and witness the last President of the USA chatting with his daughter, what do we see? A great man. A perfect child.
Great people taking great decisions but with heart, with a true feeling of "right". Well, nothing against a great leader and a perfect family but when we remember Clinton and the "Lewinsky affair", comes to our mind that a President is a man with his qualities and bad days too. So, besides the fact that it's a great scene, with a believable setting, the characters - IMHO - seemed fragile."
** You raise a good point about the one-dimensional character of President Haley you see in book 1, but keep in mind the scene was meant to do 4 things: Establish Haley as a president and good man (compared to Witherspoon, his successor); through his child show how the fragile world is as it is about to be changed; tell the "history" of the world following his assassination; and introduce the ash. [Haley is in 50% of book 3. There you'll learn all about him: his strengths and weaknesses.] As for the comment about Clinton (which, as a Republican, I very much agree with!), look at President Drees of the 24th century. He is willing to sell out the memory of Jim Robenalt for political advantage. As the other books proceed, you'll see a more balanced view of politicians. I used to work in Washington, and know how slimy they are!
"Another point that took my attention was the total absence of the notion of a world outside the rebuilt USA. The world, all the society, is just the North American world. Nobody seemed interested in using the Beta Lights to see what happened in other countries."
** Unfortunately, you got me here. One bad habit we Americans have is looking at the world as a subset of our country. I even made poor Canada --- the country of my mother's birth --- a U.S. colony.
Thanks again for the great review. (And your English was superb).
Phillip Ellis Jackson, Ph.D
Literary works: http://www.scifi-jackson.com
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