Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait
by K. A. Bedford
Cover Artist: Rachel Haupt
Review by Carolyn Frank
EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781894063425
Date: 15 August 2008 List Price $17.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
When time machines become just another expensive consumer item, they will probably behave like any other one, with breakdowns and inconvenient stoppages. In Perth, Australia, to get yours fixed, call Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait. Of course, it does not work exactly like that: Spider Webb shows up with his sidekick, Charlie; they perform enough of an inspection on the time machine to provide an estimate; they take it away to repair it. Once it is repaired, they bring it back, and since it is a time machine, they just bring it back in time to just after they left with it the first place.
A related issue is that in this universe, these time machines can travel in time but not in space. So if you want to go back in time to see the Crucifixion (a very popular choice), you first need to get your time machine to the correct geographical coordinates before invoking the time aspect. And since the folk in charge of ensuring that back history is not impacted by thoughtless or malicious time travelers, personal time machines include an override feature that puts the time traveler traveling back in time into a ghost mode, where they can not be sensed or move objects.
Aloysius Webb, nicknamed Spider, a former homicide detective, lost his position after agreeing to help internal affairs rat out major illegalities being performed by higher-ranking policemen. Now no police department wants anything to do with him, so he has taken the training to become a time machine repair person. He effectively manages one time machine repair location with his technician Charlie and office receptionist, Malaria, a former coffee barrista.
One day after Spider and Charlie show up to look at a recalcitrant time machine and bring it back to the shop, they find a second time machine inside the first and the dead body of a woman inside that. This brings back Spider's longings to be a homicide detective, and so he sets out to attempt to solve the mystery. First, who is she; second, what was she doing in the time machine; and third, who killed her.
The author skillfully manipulates Spider's travails and travels through time. And he does time travel, both slightly backward and far forward, as his personal life both unravels and resolves itself. He does end up meeting other versions of himself, but the author helps both Spider and the reader out by referring to these alternates as Soldier Spider or Near Future Spider. If you relish the conundrums of time travel and enjoy the slightly off-kilter perspective from the opposite side of the world (Australia), this story of a man attempting to both solve a mystery and come to terms with his life will provide a pleasurable escape from present day reality.