THE DEPTHS OF TIME
by Roger MacBride Allen
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Recently, Roger MacBride Allen has become known for writing Star Wars novels and a continuation of Isaac Asimov's "robot" novels. Before he began to write in other authors' universes, he demonstrated the ability to create his own complex space opera universes. With The Depths of Time, Allen demonstrates that his ability to create interesting worlds is as strong as ever.
The Depths of Time includes a complex system of wormhole travel which makes interstellar trade and travel possible. A series of strict laws enforced by the Chronologic Patrol ensures that causality is protected. In addition to wormhole technology, Allen has the human race attempting to terraform several planets using a technique pioneered by the legendary Oskar DeSilvo.
The novel opens with a strange attack on a wormhole which results in the wormhole's destruction, the sequestering of the terraformed planet Glister, and the apparent ruination of Anton Koffield's career, despite the fact that he followed all proper procedures in dealing with the attack.
Allen is not interested in the attack, at least not primarily. Instead, he uses the attack as a means of stranding Koffield in his own future and throwing him together with DeSilvo, who has had himself cryogenically put to sleep in order to manage the centuries-long terraforming project.
One of the interesting aspects of The Depths of Time is how influenced Allen seems to have been by his work with Isaac Asimov. Although slightly more pessimistic than Asimov's novels, Allen's nomenclature is very reminiscent of the names used by Asimov. In many ways, The Depths of Time feels like Asimov's "Foundation" novels. In addition to the similarities of names, Anton Koffield's ecological predictions about the terraforming of the planet Solace seem very similar to the predictions of Hari Seldon. However, whereas Asimov's planets tended to have single cultures, at least until the later works, Solace has a multivariegated culture when Allen shows and could easily explore in further depth.
Because Allen includes many subplots which don't seem to be related to the main plot, The Depths of Time moves a little more slowly than one would expect from a space opera. Furthermore, since Koffield describes the significant portion of the wormhole attack to his pilot, Norla Chandray later in the novel, Allen creates the feeling that the initial depiction is unnecessary.
The Depths of Time gives a glimpse into the well-realized universe filled with many big ideas. The measure of Allen's ability to create a universe is the fact that there is a multitude of room for additional stories either with Allen's primary characters or concepts, worlds and characters which are only peripheral. On the other hand, one of the weakness of the book is that it does appear to be the first book of a series, although nothing on the book indicates it as such.
Just as most of his novels, The Depths of Time provides a good introduction to Allen's writing style and the concepts which he uses. With any luck, readers of The Depths of Time will decide to take the trouble to hunt down his older works such as The Ring of Charon, Allies and Aliens or his anthropological novel Orphan of Creation.
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