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Time Future
Maxine McArthur
Warner Aspect, 445 pages


Jim Burns
Time Future
Maxine McArthur
About this book, Maxine McArthur says:

"I'm a sucker for a hero.

"I like to identify with the strong main character who moves the story.

"Trouble is, the older I get, the less satisfying both literature and media versions of these heroes become. Most of them are male and often they're distressingly one-dimensional. Time Future is my attempt to satisfy that craving for a believable (female) hero in a believable story.

"What an optimist, eh? To think that heroes CAN be believable -- why, could be just like you or I! Like Halley or Murdoch. And if they can try to change their world..."

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Time Future

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Hank Luttrell

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Time Future is a thoroughly successful science fiction mystery, and that is no mean accomplishment. Many hybrid stories start out using both SF and mystery elements, only to forget one or the other in a rush to the climax. Other attempts will use unnecessary SF props for a straightforward who-done-it, while still others unnecessarily complicate science fiction plots with murder mystery accessories, such as hard-boiled detectives.

In this story, the circumstances of the crime arise from a power struggle on an isolated Earth-sanctioned space station. The station is rather mysterious right from the start, because it is technology abandoned by a more advance race, and claimed by Earth, which is otherwise a junior member of a multi-cultural galactic alliance.

The station is under siege by a hostile alien force, while representatives from many other civilizations are uneasy occupants. Some balance of power seems to prevent, for the moment, any outside help for the station.

Some of the details of McArthur's story are charmingly familiar. The whole interstellar space station thing is reminiscent of Babylon 5, and McArthur's chief of security resembles B5's Garibaldi. Also, one of the powerful, elder races are known as Invidi, only one letter different from an alien race of the Japanese animated series Robotech.

Into the tense atmosphere of the blockaded station drops an additional catalyst: ancient travellers from Earth. The intrepid explorers left Earth a century ago, about the time Earth was first visited by the Invidi. The extraterrestrials had yet to share faster-than-light travel with Earth, so the travellers were in stasis for most of their slow journey. Just how or why they have arrived at the station is a mystery, but it seems to be somehow relevant, an idea which is emphasized by the murder of an alien trader who assists in the Earth representative's rescue. The murder's motive seems to involve the removal of some artifact or suppression of data from Earth of a century ago.

Another strong point for Time Future is the fact that the protagonist, the station's commander, is an older woman. She is dynamic and robust, but of limited physical ability, a compelling characterization which is realistic and believable, and also unusual for a science fiction novel.

A sequel is planned, and McArthur will almost certainly continue to deliver the real stuff. Her future, in which a handful of powerful races pull the strings for an alliance where Earth is a second class citizen, is a dynamic canvas.

Copyright © 2001 Hank Luttrell

Hank Luttrell has reviewed science fiction for newspapers, magazines and web sites. He was nominated for the Best Fanzine Hugo Award and is currently a bookseller in Madison, Wisconsin.


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