I only half read Time Salvager. I’m really stubborn and I absolutely hate to DNF but this book has been sitting on my coffee table and my Goodreads “Currently Reading” for three years. I wish that were an exaggeration. Even though my copy was signed by the author when I went to a reading when this first came out, it’s time.
I should have liked this. The general premise and the opening scenes are really intriguing. Humanity can time travel but it’s really dangerous and eventually leads to the time-traveler deteriorating and dying. Time travel was discovered and regulated by a set of Time Laws by Grace Priestly who is in imminent danger and meets someone from the future. They speak briefly and the traveler returns to his own time, leaving her fate unknown.
James is a veteran time traveler with the requisite overly melodramatic backstory. He has one last mission. He has a supervisor whom he hates who was a former colleague and friend named Levin.
Things start to go wrong on the last mission to the past, both for James and for me. James can’t bring himself to let a pretty and gifted scientist named Elise die when she’s supposed to. Once he saves her, they’re on the run from (among others) Levin, and discover that the Time Travel agency is in fact under the thumb of evil corporations who only care about profits. Part of the discovery entails finding a civilization which is in danger of dying but Elise and her expertise can save them, so long as James can protect her. This is where things just died for me. The “earnest idealistic lady scientist who takes a stand to save a poor threatened native society” really irritated me and every time I hit one of these sections, I had to put the book down for a long time.
Eventually, I started to skip them, and the book was much improved. The theories of time travel and the costs, the corporate intrigue, the mysteries that James and others must unravel are all interesting. Science fiction at its best should consider the impacts of technology and society etc; this does, but the whole savior complex that makes Elise so annoying ruins everything. On the other hand, I’m glad she and James don’t hook up, as that would have nothing to do with the actual story. At least I don’t think they do; it’s possible that happens in a part I skipped. And Grace’s final appearance is timed perfectly, and her character has some much possibility that I wish there were more of her in the story. But even her awesomeness and some other kinda but not really unexpected help to save James and Elise can save things. Not even the little twist at the very end about James and his past. It’s really too bad. Time to move on.