Navigator: Time's Tapestry, Book Three
by Stephen Baxter
Review by Paul Haggerty
Ace Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441015597
Date: 02 January 2008 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
There are wars of men and ideas that wash across the landscape. There are wars of words that seek to bend people to a particular way of life. And in the Time's Tapestry series, there's a war of time itself where those in the distant future continually meddle with the time stream, trying to rewrite history itself to serve their purposes. In the 11th century A.D. the war between Islam and Christianity is a never ending series of battles that continually shifts the front lines across Europe, each side ascending in power, then wilting under the opposition onslaught. But there are other powers in the world, empires and hordes that could wash over Europe and make the whole feud moot. And for those whose families have been pawns to the prophecies of the meddlers from the future, the true history of the world is becoming more and more in doubt.
Navigator is the third volume in the Time's Tapestry series. Here we begin where Conqueror left off, in 1070 with Orm Egilsson and the Norman conquest of England. The previous prophecy has failed to change the time line according to its makers design, but now a new prophecy is sent back. One of even grander scope and dire predictions; if only the enigmatic clues can be deciphered.
The bulk of this book takes place in Spain, ranging in time from 1085 to 1492. Orm and his son Robert travel to Spain to meet with Sihtric, a priest that Orm knew while serving William during the Conquest. Sihtric is also in possession of a piece of the future: plans for weapons of massive destructive power. Weapons that he believes can assure the domination of Christianity for all time to come. But Orm comes armed with his own prophecy, which hints that Sihtric's plans will bring nothing but ruin. And when trying to make sense of cryptic warnings from the future, it's nearly always impossible to tell who's right and who's wrong until after it's too late.
This meeting of opposing prophecies then drives the families of Robert and Sihtric's daughter Moraima through the next four hundred years, each faction striving to understand and promote what they believe to be what's best for the future of the world. What they get, of course, is war, disaster, betrayal, and all the parts of the human psyche that have followed our species from its inception. Each side seeks the weapons in order to guarantee their plan is predominate, but the problem with technology from the future is that it took a long time to develop it to begin with, and there really aren't that many possible shortcuts. Long range cannons sound like a good idea until you find you don't have the tools to make the tools that will be needed. Even medium technology is the fruition of years of science and engineering. And that, of course, costs money. So from one court to another, each family tries to play power against power in order to glean yet another footstep towards victory.
Played in the background of this volume are the other prophecies. It seems there are many in the future who wish to meddle. Although not central to the primary characters, other prophecies hint of mass changes to the world that are averted through one hint from the future or another. One begins to wonder just how inevitable history can be when whispering in a general's ear turns the course of a single battle that prevents the entire subjugation of Europe. One cup of tea at the right time repels the Mongol hordes and spares both Christianity and Islam from total annihilation. How many other stories are there in this universe that are being skimmed over in order to focus on just this one arc?
I assume there will be a book 4 in this series since it closes in 1492 with Christopher Columbus setting forth to discover the New World. With five hundred years of history, two new continents, and the clash of new powers and old to come, I can only assume those who seek to control the warp and weft of Time's Tapestry will have even more threads to pluck.