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by John Kessel

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-86116-8
Publisher: Tor

 What if, Kessel (Good News from Outer Space, 1989; Meeting in Infinity, stories, 1992) wonders, time were quantized, or came in discrete instants, each separate from all others, so that each ``moment universe'' could be visited and changed--without affecting succeeding instants? Wealthy paleontologist Owen Vannice, researching in the Cretaceous, returns to 2063 with a baby dinosaur, Wilma, he intends to study. During a stopover in Jerusalem, a.d.40--still run by the Romans, but now with automatic weapons--he runs into grifter Genevieve Faison and her father, August. While Gen ensnares Owen, August attempts to steal Wilma. At the same time, unfortunately, Zealots--the Jewish resistance--led by former disciple Simon, are attempting to kick the Romans out by armed insurrection. Owen discovers who Gen really is and, pretending to have known all along, humiliates her. The Zealot rebellion fails. Back in the present--an age as thoroughly corrupt as the past--Gen evolves an elaborate plan to gain revenge upon Owen. Simon goes on trial and, after passionate pleas from Abraham Lincoln for the prosecution of Yeshu (Jesus) for the defense, is declared ``guilty but innocent'' by the robot judge. Riotous, mordant satire, though Kessel's fascinating time- travel scenario creates as many problems as it solves: highly impressive, then, if not particularly involving.