In a world not quite identical to ours, a ""Department of Reconstruction"" is furiously acting out the beliefs of a mad physicist who claimed that the past would cease to exist (taking the rest of time with it) unless constantly reinforced by time-traveling ""surrogates"" from the present. Among the apathetic plebs of the 23rd-century. surrogate corps is one Reuter, wearily re-enacting the achievements of Ludwig van Beethoven in a smelly 19th-century Vienna which, he gradually apprehends, has something wrong about it. Is the past nothing but a snafu-ridden conspiracy of the present, or can it be redeemed to reality? The idea is a good one, but Malzberg did better by it in a shorter version (in Graven Images, 1977). Sustained over the longer narrative, the insistent metaphysical paradoxes appear to be pretentiously belabored rather than explored; the novella's lovely ending, for instance, can't quite take all the extra Sturm und Drang. Lots of window-dressing (musical references, distractingly odd details), some flashes of wit, but disappointing.