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Revise the World
Brenda Clough
180K words

Revise the World
Brenda Clough
Brenda Clough has written a number of novels, including Doors of Death and Life. Her short stories have been published in numerous magazines, including Analog and the anthology Starlight 3. Other work has appeared in SF Age, Aboriginal, Marion Zimmer Bradley Magazine, and many anthologies. She was a finalist for both the Hugo Award and Nebula Award in 2002.

Brenda Clough Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

In 2001, Brenda Clough published the Hugo- and Nebula-nominated story "May Be Some Time" in Analog. The story dealt with attempts in the 21st century to revive Antarctic polar explorer "Titus" Oates, who had died on Robert Scott's attempt to reach the South Pole. The story dealt with Oates's attempts to acclimatize to his new surroundings. It also forms the opening portion of Clough's novel Revise the World, which not only looks at Oates's revival, but further examines the world around him and the reasons for his revival.

Historically, Captain Lawrence "Titus" Oates was born in 1880 and died in the Antarctic in 1912 after leaving his tent to walk into a blizzard, saying, "I am just going outside and may be some time." His body was never recovered and his comrades, Scott, Henry Bowers, and Edward Wilson, died thirteen days later. While his comrades bodies were recovered later that year, Oates's body has never been found. Clough used that fact as the basis for her story and novel, explaining that his body was pulled into the mid-twentieth century and repaired, giving Oates a second chance at life.

Revise the World is divided into three parts. The first details Oates's revival and his initial introduction into a New York City nearly 150 years after his death. Oates must not only come to terms with the technological changes, but more challenging, the social changes. Attitudes towards religion, basic ideas of decency, and especially woman, force him to re-evaluate everything he was raised to know. His situation isn't helped by the fact that he is surrounded by care-givers he isn't sure he can trust, the doctors and scientists who revived him. Unfortunately, few of the people he comes into contact with are unbiased, most notably the picketers who feel he should have been left in 1912 to die in the blizzard as history recorded.

Slowly, Oates learns that his revival is only part of a program to learn more about the alien Forties who have been in contact with the human race and against whom the protestors ire is actually targeted. In order to avoid making himself a target, Oates accompanies one of his doctors, Shelly Gedeon, to visit her ex-husband in Wyoming. This interlude allows Oates to process the new world and new attitudes in a setting which is more familiar to him than the futuristic skyscrapers of New York. He also realizes that Shelly is scheduled to go into space to seek out the Forties.

Clough does an excellent job of showing Oates as a fish out of water. His reactions to mid-twenty-first century America are as much a first contact story as Shel's eventually contact with the Forties. For Oates, Shel and the world in which she lives are as strange as the Forties are when Clough finally shows them to the reader.

However, Clough is content to elide major portions of her story, whether the period in which Oates most fully manages to conform to the societal norms of the twenty-first century or the final outcome of the Fortie expedition. This latter leaves plenty of room for a sequel, and, despite the open-ended nature of the novel, the reader is not left feeling as if Clough cheated them out of a worthwhile and complete story.

In Revise the World, Clough offers a successful story of time and space travel, a look at the future of our world,and two distinct first contact stories while following the personal growth of her primary character, a brave adventurer from 1912 who finds himself in the world of the 2030s instead of the death in a blizzard he expected. And just as Titus Oates is surprised, Clough's story offers many surprises for her audience.

Copyright © 2010 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a seven-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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