Review: Time Salvager by Wesley Chu


James Griffin-Mars is a jaded chronman (a rare, high-profile specialists in time-travelling) with a lot of bad experience. He’s seen it all: historical battles, the bloodiest wars, catastrophes, explosions, disasters, some of them several times. It’s left a mark on him: he is anti-social, he drinks heavily and doesn’t see any point in his life.

One day he is sent to a dangerous mission which is supposed to guarantee him a cushioned retirement. He is asked to salvage several pieces of machinery from an Antarctic research station called Nutris. While exploring Nutris he falls in love with Elise, one of scientists. After watching passively how too many people died and losing too many close relations James simply cannot let Elise go.

He transports the woman into the future – a pretty bleak future. The humankind is able to survive only because chronmen such as James plunder dead timelines for supplies and and machines. Most people live in poverty and squalor; only few working for powerful corporations such as Valta or for Chronocom, the very agency responsible for time-travels, are rich enough to afford cleaner air, better food, drinkable water and high-tech trinkets. Bringing a living person from the past with yourself constitutes the most severe crime as it breaks the First Time law. As soon as his superior finds out about Elise James becomes a fugitive and a rogue. There is nothing but a death sentence waiting for him and his beloved. Will he be able to save himself and her –again?

My impressions:

I do not like time travels in my fiction, sci-fi or otherwise. Time travelling is tricky and few authors manage to avoid all the pitfalls involved. Still I am happy to say Mr. Chu belongs to that minority of authors who cross their t’s and dot their i’s very carefully. It was clear from the beginning he had thought the whole issue out and the result was impressing – take that from a reader which usually picks holes in any time-travelling scenario with relish and crows about it afterwards.

While I had no serious issues concerning the world build of that particular dystopia I have to say the narration was rather difficult to swallow. Infodumps – many of them, especially in the first part – sometimes made me really annoyed. Telling not showing was the order of the day. Characters were simply overwhelmed by the narration and never allowed to develop, even if they had any potential; mind you it never was obvious for most of them. I think here mainly about James who, despite his moody behaviour and heavy drinking was also as predictable as hell. From the very beginning I suspected he had a heart of gold and of course I was right. From scene one it was pretty sure he and Elise would make a couple and of course they fell in love with each other. Don’t get me wrong: I liked these characters but several times I caught myself thinking that they could have been much better. Finally the baddies were just baddies – no remorse, no second thoughts, no redeeming qualities, no subtlety. Pity.

Oh, and the cover art is good. Pity again.

Final verdict:

An interesting story which could have been told way better. Good characters which could have been awesome. Even though some tricks concerning time travel were brilliant indeed they couldn’t make me forget about the flaws of this one. I am not sure I am going to read a second part (providing the author writes one of course).

Rating icon. A hairless cat is wearing a santa hat and a sour expression. On the hat reads: meh.

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12 Responses to Review: Time Salvager by Wesley Chu

  1. blodeuedd says:

    Oh boo, it sounds good

  2. Melfka says:

    I’d swallow the time travel if the rest was superb… Oh well. It’s not like I have nothing to read.

  3. sjhigbee says:

    An interesting, well written review – thank you! The world certainly sounds intriguing, but it sounds as if Chu’s effort falls into the category of world-led hard sci fi, rather than the character-led type I prefer…

  4. heidenkind says:

    “he is anti-social, he drinks heavily and doesn’t see any point in his life.” Hmmm, I already sympathize 😉

  5. Carole Rae says:

    Time travel is tricky. The only show/book/anything that I have liked that deals with time travel is Doctor Who. So no thank you on this one.

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