Time Travelers Never Die
by Jack McDevitt
Cover Artist: Tony Mauro
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Ace Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441017638
Date: 03 November 2009 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
When Adrian Shelborne's father disappears, he has no idea where his search for his father will eventually take him. Gifted with a set of mysterious Qpods, Adrian discovers that he needs to look for a when, not just a where. He sets out to find his father and tours history's greatest moments with his friend Dave Dryden. Dave is a linguist that specializes in Latin and Greek but knows several other languages as well. When traveling in the past, it is good to have someone who can speak the language.
Time travel isn't as simple as it would seem. There are limits to what travelers can do. The cardiac syndrome prevents travelers from doing something that would create a paradox that would prevent known history from happening. Even with this limitation, they set out to find Shel's father. Their quest takes them to places where they knew his father had interest. They go to the Library of Alexandria. This trip leads to a whole subplot related the recovery of lost texts.
The one thing that they promise to avoid is going into the future and looking at their own lives. Too many complications can arise if they know what is going to happen. As would be expected, neither is completely able to avoid going into the future. Their findings are hopeful but not developed.
Time Travelers Never Die was originally a story published in the May 1996 issue of Asimov’s. The novel is an expansion of the ideas created in that story. The story was nominated for both a Nebula and a Hugo award. In a truly only in fandom experience, I came across the May 1996 issue and read the story because I have enjoyed other works by McDevitt. I read the story and was duly impressed. It was quite a surprise to see the novelization. The novel updates a few things and changes some of the events, but remains mostly true to the original story.
This novel is likely to garner the attention it deserves as the award season rolls around. It is both well written and entertaining. It will make readers think about where they would travel in time given the opportunity. I know it did me. I was actually surprised at the omission of one event. After reading it, I imagine most people will agree. Although I can understand avoiding one that has such potential for complaint of interpretation, I still wish he had explored that time period.
I enjoyed this book a great deal and recommend it to McDevitt’s fans. The disconnect that the characters begin to feel with their real lives is well done and easy to understand as more and more time is spent out of time. Readers that have enjoyed Poul Anderson's Time Patrol stories and Harry Turtledove’s Crosstime Traffic series should enjoy this as well. The universe mechanics avoid the time paradox issues that are created in many time travel stories which should make it more accessible to readers. This is a stand alone novel, although I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more of Shel’s or Dave’s time travelling adventures.