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Timescape (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 9 Mar 2000
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Scientists in the 60's struggle to interpret a message from the future and prevent catastrophe by changing the course of science itself.
From the Author
Great to see a 20 year old novel still read!
I'm grateful to UK & other readers who have reacted to a novel that now lies 20 years in my past... To the Toronto fellow: I felt Peterson had to eventually reach completion (polite word) with Marjorie, to complete the plot arc. It's a sign of things falling apart/center cannot hold in that gloomy 1999. (Whoosh, glad we're not on that timeline here!)
As one reader noted, my more recent COSM is like TIMESCAPE on speed, and my next two, THE MARTIAN RACE (December) and EATER (April) will have the same solid scientific background...
Gregory Benford --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product description
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The structure of the book is pleasing: chapters flit between past and present, emphasising Benford's move away from a Newtonian concept of time as a "flux" .
These ideas are developed further within the plot and to Benford's credit his use of physics is very clearly explained. I am not a scientist, and I found his ideas clear cut and thought provoking.
Timescape's faults lie in its length: it should have been edited by 50 pages to make it tighter. Although Benford spends ample time developing his characters they are from government or academic backgrounds. To his credit Benford places the character of Renfrew in the 1998 chapters and Bernstein in the 1963 sections. Amidst the world of the self-centered Peterson and the academic jealousy of Lakin, Renfrew and Bernstein emerge as credible heroes: the very subtlety of their characters (the understated theme in the book of both being outsiders,both having had to earn their places at their universities rather than gain them through favouritism) lends them realism.
Benford's book is good but slightly overlong: an excellent example of the diversity of style inherent in intelligent science fiction. It is also a good advertisement for the excellent Millenium Masterworks SF series. I wonder if the publishers would consider the long out of print "A for Andromeda" as a companion piece to Benford's book?
For anybody who complains that Science Fiction struggles to gain respect because of poor development of characters, I offer this book. The characters are uninteresting and actually take away from some of the Physics ideas and concepts of this book. I suppose we were supposed to relate to the human side of this story, but that could have been done quite as well and with about 100 pages or so less.
Perhaps the inside dealings of the characters' every day lives was done purposely. For the science in this sci-fi book was wonderful and the idea was great. So much so that the inclusion of the meanderings of the characters every day lives served as filler which in turn acted as a form of building suspense.
My recommendation...read the book, but skip over certain sections. They don't add to the book, but on the other hand they don't take away from it either. Otherwise its a good sci-fi offering.
Let the tachyons flow.
The concept of the novel is that the future of the Earth is one of environmental catastrophe due to the unforeseen effects of pollution, in which a scientific group based in Cambridge try to send warning messages into the past using tachyons, subatomic particles that travel faster than light. A second research group based in La Jolla in 1962 begin receiving what they initially perceive as interference in their resonance experiments. Gradually the truth dawns on them that this is some type of encoded message. They struggle to understand where the signal is coming from, what the relevance of it is, and above all to be taken seriously by the scientific community.
The novel has the feel of a SF book written by a scientist, exploring some heavy concepts in physics around particle physics, the nature of time and paradoxes based upon time manipulation. The science is interesting but difficult to follow in places. The book is really very prescient concerning environmental issues, and has a reasonably credible plot for the genre. The author writes quite well and develops the characters involved in the various research groups. He particularly well captures the environment of competition and rivalry in academia, which gives the novel a realistic feel.
On the critical side though, the novel does sag a little in the middle sections and in my view would benefit from a bit of shortening. I couldn't really believe in the character of Ian Peterson. I wonder if the author, whom I assume is a scientist, was letting off a bit of steam over civil servants who often control the purse strings. Also, it does rather fizzle out at then end, almost as if the author couldn't really deliver a creative conclusion.
A thought provoking novel which despite its faults is well worth reading for the scientific SF enthusiast.
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This is a beautiful work, absolute top sci-fi
Great plot, great characterization, a superb read...Read more