In this sci-fi debut, guardians of the time stream inhibit a physicist from completing his experiment, which leads to a catastrophic future event.
Caltech physicist Dr. Ezekiel “Zeke” Levine is on the verge of achieving absolute zero, but someone evidently stops him. His memory is initially fuzzy when a stranger leads him out of his lab and through a portal. This man, Ben, has brought Zeke to the Chronosphere, a place that’s “outside of time.” It’s here that chronologists monitor the time stream and try to amend calamities, like saving some—but not necessarily all—people from a 17th-century plague. It seems that a massive, potentially apocalyptic occurrence down the time stream is the eventual result of Zeke’s experiment. But removing the physicist from his timeline and destroying his notes haven’t prevented a future entropic effect: a glimpse ahead shows a galaxy that appears to be deteriorating. So Headley Grantham, head of the Council of Chronos, assigns Zeke the task of finding a way to rectify the entropy. As part of his training, Zeke joins the chronologists, including historian Dr. Siroush Isfahani, on a mission to the mid-1300s. This ultimately prompts Zeke’s hypothesis: the entropic effect may be caused by the chronologists’ contaminating the time stream, with their constant traveling putting time particles (or chronotons) in the wrong place. Most in the Chronosphere aren’t keen about Zeke’s notion. But when the chronologists realize another group may have its eye on them, they’ll have to face the possibility that the dismal future could very well be their fault.
Tameron fills his book with several genuine surprises, from the future event the chronologists blame on Zeke to the introduction of Aurora Quinn, a woman in the 14th century who’s apparently versed in time traveling. Readers will surely detect similarities between this story and well-known works like Doctor Who and Star Trek. The author even acknowledges these for comic relief: Zeke jokingly calls the chronologists “Time Lords” and later quips, “Dammit, Jim…I’m a nerdy physicist not a master spy.” Nevertheless, Tameron injects his narrative with creativity even when tackling genre staples. There are playful references, for example, to the butterfly effect (traveling to a particular time period sparks a seemingly unrelated change centuries later) as well as the popular idea of going back in time to kill Hitler. Theoretical discussions are, of course, in abundance, and this provides the focus over sci-fi trademarks such as otherworldly tech (a scanning device merely resembles an iPhone). Scientific dialogue often includes terms common to the characters (for example, gluons and other particles) but perhaps not to readers. In a hilarious moment, Siroush stops Zeke from elucidating subatomic particles. “Yes, yes,” he assures the physicist. “I know what bosons are.” Still, all that discourse revolves around solving mysteries, which extend to Zeke’s hunting for details on time-travel pioneer Kamien Zdanie and maybe uncovering something nefarious at the Chronosphere. A gratifying ending leaves room for a continuation, and with an indication that this is Volume One, a series likely awaits.
A smart, absorbing, and inventive time-travel tale.