Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Long Time Until Now by Michael Z. Williamson

Williamson takes a break from his Freehold and mercenary stories here to play around in the time travel genre. While he is quite capable of spinning an interesting read out of nothing, while his characters attempt to build a civilization in the Stone Age. I'm not certain he's really brought anything new to the genre that hasn't previously been offered by Twain's Connecticut Yankee, Frankowski's Conrad, Flint's Ring of Fire, and Weber's Safehold stories.

A U.S. military convoy in Afghanistan bumps into some sort of temporal anomaly and are transported into Paleolithic times, where they must attempt to stay alive and preserve what civilization and technology they have brought with them.

Some other groups get displaced from their own timelines into the area and the story, as well, including a Roman legions which gives them a great deal of trouble before being cowed into a reluctant cooperation. Does this story by any chance tie into one of the Misplaced Legion stories by Turtledove?

There was a point, at the end of the book, when I thought the entire story was a "shaggy dog" for the entire purpose of making fun of the bureaucracy (such as the EPA) response to people who return from time travel to the past, like, "please fill out this form telling us how many endangered species members you killed while you were there." Pretty much all of the species from the Paleolithic era would now be extinct, so everything they killed was "endangered".

One of the things this book does is to experiment in multi-POV like crazy, and it somehow oddly works. After a short time to establish the setting and story line, Williamson jumps from one character to another, multiple times within a chapter.

If you enjoy reading about the types of workarounds they figured out to achieve a level of technology that provided at least a few of the comforts of home, with only sticks and rocks on hand to begin with, you'll probably enjoy this one. It's also good to be reminded every once in a while just how "nasty brutish and short" our lives would be without modern medicine, hygiene, agriculture, domesticated animals, and so forth. The good old days weren't all that good, merely old, after all.

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