To Sail the Century Sea by G.C. Edmondson (1981) – This has some nice writing in the pure science fiction vein that I appreciate. Part of his Time Ship series, it relies heavily on the writer’s time with the U.S. Marines in WWII. It has some drawbacks: being the third in a related series of books about a group of US Navy men who patrol the sea and referring to past events, having a homophobic hero, and thrusting romance on us that doesn’t quite work. In spite of those negatives, the adventure is very exciting, and I wanted the characters to win.
Commander Joseph Rate and the crew of the Alice have been mothballed after they weren’t believed when they and their yawl travelled back in time in earlier novels (referred to but not necessary to follow the action in this book), but the government fears the Russians may be attempting to try something similar so they send Joe and his crew back out to sea to try and stop Christianity from splitting from Islam in ancient Constantinople.
Along the way in their new shiny, solar-paneled clipper ship, they encounter time storms, a Pacific island native, Joe’s stowaway yeoman, a trigger-happy government assassin, and an inept chrono-scientist. They flop back and forth through time before reaching their destination, and the assassin fulfills his mission of disrupting the bishops at their famous counsel. Fleeing, they encounter a former lover of Joe’s, now aged and a powerful shaman on the islander’s home isle. She gives Joe and his yeoman her blessing, and Joe discovers the reason the time machine has been so wonky – it’s connected to his personal desires!
Arriving back at base in their own time, the crew is happy to discover that they are heroes and time has returned to a new normal where peace and brotherhood abound.
Again, the drawbacks include homophobia where it’s obvious that Joe has no place for “faggots” and “those kind of guys.” I guess there are no gays in the Navy. Also, the romance between him and the yeoman is stilted and almost an aside. Finally, I had a little trouble believing that Joe spoke the language of every time period they were in (Latin, Greek, Roman, etc.) although I can see from the author’s biography that he spoke six languages and was originally from Mexico.
I wouldn’t read it again or any of the previous novels, but it was exciting and moved along rapidly.