Philip Jose Farmer is one of those authors many of us have on our “to read” list. He’s been on mine for a while. Fortunately, Titan Books is reprinting a lot of his work.
When I picked up Time’s Last Gift and began to read, I was skeptical; I’m not one to embrace time-travel stories. I find them to be full of plot holes and unsubstantiated theories that boggle my mind. Simply put – time travel has never been explained to me in a way that made sense.
This books explains time travel in a way that makes sense.
The story is based on the self-consistency principle of time travel. In a nutshell: anything you go back and do in the past you have already done in the future you came from.
“Time is something man will never comprehend,” Gribardsun said. “Partly because Time is outside man. Man is, of course, partly in Time, but there are elements of Time that are completely exterior to him. He can’t even see those elements and never will because they can’t be put under the microscope or telescope or be detected by radiation-sensitive equipment.” (p 119, Time’s Last Gift)
A team of scholarly scientists from 2070 travel back to 12,000 BC in a time machine vessel. It’s the farthest back in time they’re able to go, and they are tasked with gathering as much scientific data as they can.
Under the direction of their eerily comfortable leader, John Gribardsun, the group meets and falls in with a local tribe of people. As the scientists learn the customs and beliefs of the tribe, their own faults and weaknesses begin to surface. The longer the scientific expedition is with the tribe the more mysterious Gribardsun seems; he has an uncanny ability to fit in with the tribesmen and seems detached from the emotional side of things.
He is a mystery. Exactly how much of a mystery he is doesn’t become clear until the end of the book.
Although this work is considered part of the “Wold Newton Prehistory Series”, it certainly stands alone as a novel. While the time-travelers can, at times, seem slightly aloof, they become entwined with the tribe and it’s well-being. They spend years with them and form friendships and bonds as they face their own very “human” challenges.
This story is entertaining and more than that, somehow it’s impossible not to connect with the characters. The team of scientists is the best and the worst of us; they argue, fall in love, make life-altering mistakes, even as they carry on with their work.
The book is an exploration of the simple life versus the complexities of modern life and the faults and challenges of both. And, it’s not preachy. Enjoyable and complex at the same time: a rare combination.
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Titan Books (June 12, 2012)
Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
Charlotte Kinzie||Kamloops, BC