by Richard Bowes

Golden Gryphon


268pp/$24.95/September 2005

From the Files of the Time Rangers
Cover by John Picacio

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

If you look closely at a mosaic, you see colorful tiles although the overall picture is not evident.  Richard Bowes describes his novel, From the Files of the Time Rangers as a mosaic novel.  It is certainly an apt title, for the as the reader works their way through the novel, the individual story-lines and plots do not always seem to tie together.  Bowes does include numerous familiar elements throughout the book, giving the reader hints of the overall look of the book and the world he has created.

The Time Rangers exist in a continuum where the gods of Greek legend exist.  The Rangers themselves are loyal to Apollo while others serve Dionysius, Ares, Pluto, and others.  Interestingly, as the work opens, the Rangers are given the task of protecting Lady Olivia Wexford, a worshipper of Dionysius, despite the traditional Apollo and Dionysius being seen as in opposition to each other.

Many of the characters and situations Bowes describes are interesting in and of themselves, from the trio of Rangers Nancy Kane, Ed Brown, and Jake Stockley, who begin as cadets together, but as their paths cross, they rapidly find themselves at different stages of their careers.  Similarly, the life of Tim Macauley, which runs throughout much of the mosaic, offers a look at the ranks of the powerful throughout our own history and potentially how those powerful may have achieved their position in other pathways of history.

Not all the pieces of the mosaic fit in perfectly, even when viewed as a whole.  The presence of the gods, or people who claim to be the gods, is never adequately explained.  In a work of science fiction and time travel, this presents a leap of disbelief which is difficult to sustain for the duration necessary.  This may be the most obvious indication that portions of the book were previously published at shorter forms.  In a novelette or novella which is clearly part of a larger work, ambiguity is more permissible than when those parts are woven into a whole.

The nature of Bowes’s book does permit him to show off more of his world and characters than would normally be possible in a straight novel.  Rather than simply taking the disparate stories which make up the “Files of the Time Rangers” and publishing them as a collection, the way a standard fix-up novel is done, Bowes works to integrate the original stories into a whole greater than the sum of its parts, with a piece of a story here, and then another there, separated by pieces of other stories and original materials.  In doing this, Bowes is taking a chance which is not entirely successful.

Bowes’s characters and worlds allow for endless exploration, but he does a good job of limiting himself in From the Files of the Time Rangers.  The introduction to the book was written by Kage Baker, whose own stories of Dr. Zeus, Inc. play with a conceit similar to Bowes’s Time Rangers.  Those who like Baker’s stories and writing will find From the Files of the Time Rangers to be an excellent companion to the ideas Baker presents.

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