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Revise the World by Brenda W. Clough
Review by Colleen Cahill
Book View Cafe  ISBN/ITEM#: BVCBWClough1
Date: 01 April 2009

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Although time travel stories can be about someone going from present to the past (such as L. Sprague De Camp's Lest Darkness Fall) or forward to the future (as with H.G. Well's Time Machine), I really enjoy the ones where someone from the past is brought forward. Partly this is because I like history and partly because these stories often reveal the oddities of our society we barely notice. Brenda W. Clough's Revise the World, an expansion of her Nebula nominated "May Be Some Time", is one such tale. Set in the very near future of 2045, we are introduced to two worlds: that of an Edwardian gentleman and that of the next generation.

When Captain Lawrence "Titus" Oates first regains conscientiousness, he knew he had to be dead. After all, he had walked into a blizzard rather than let his failing health imperil the Scott expedition to the South Pole in 1912. But why did the ministering angels have American accents, as he had an "unanalyzed assumption that all the denizens of Heaven must be British". This was just the first and perhaps gentlest jolt that Oates is to receive, as he is not dead, but is still alive due to an experiment to prove time travel is possible. All this was done to support an exploratory mission to Tau Ceti star system, seeking whoever had sent out binary signals picked up by Earth satellites. But Oates is not to join in; he is merely living evidence that the process works. What does a late nineteenth century cavalry captain do now?

Oates, an Edwardian gentleman with all the refinement and prejudices of that era, finds himself in a future that is both full of nightmares and dreams. Perhaps because he had trained as an explorer, Oates finds this new world puzzling, amazing, and disappointing, but he rarely finds it frightening. Most of his problems are due to changes in society rather than technology, having to adapt to a totally different role for not only women and minorities, but how humanity looks at other species. He has suspicions about the alien message and tries to warn Dr. Shell Gedeon (who not only helped bring Oates forward in time but becomes romantically involved with the good Captain) that the message could be a trap.

Clough does a splendid job of bringing together two very different eras and does not flinch in showing Oates as a heroic man, full of courage and badly out of place in this new society. Not only does he have views that would be considered shocking today, but he has great difficultly trying to find a purpose for his existence; there is not much need for a daring, brave man who has no knowledge of modern technology or skills. Oates is finely portrayed and I felt real sympathy for his situation--having no one who could understand his mind.

This ebook is a must read for any who enjoyed "May Be Some Time" or for anyone fond of time travel tales. It also brings in themes of exploration, not only of our planet, but of worlds beyond and in both cases, the challenges inherent both in the task and in humans. Certainly I am glad I took the trip in Revise the World.

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