An impromptu trip turns into a sobering look into the future for John Roley and Tim Jackson, the hapless heroes of Reinemann’s ongoing series about time travelers given responsibilities and powers they barely understand.
Relatively fresh off the adventures of the first book, John, Tim and ISAC-9, their sentient computer partner, are working on retrofitting an experimental aircraft to be a time ship, but the repair and engineering work needed is far too much for two men and a computer, despite them being powerful Guardians who possess the legendary Amulets of Time. Between the need for extra help and the attention of a young med student John is falling for, Tim and John end up bringing three more people aboard the time ship, now christened the Wells. A surprise visit from a business rival causes the heroes to take the Wells on a short jaunt, but a malfunction drops them in the year 3000, in a world where humans have been almost driven extinct by a race of synthetic people—people originally created by one of the interns brought aboard by Tim and John. Faced with a world they inadvertently created, and split up by warring forces, John and Tim must figure out how to save their new friends while avoiding a grisly end in the ongoing battle between humans and synthetics. As befitting the second book in a series, Reinemann is able to dispense with much of the setup and jump right into the action; however, even readers who haven’t read the first book will be able to roll with the story, as Reinemann quickly and clearly establishes his characters’ voices and basic traits. Fortunately, he understands how to fold pertinent background details into the flow without resorting to infodumps. Despite the dark subject matter in the later pages as well as the philosophical implications the book touches on regarding the travelers’ responsibilities in creating this war-torn future, Reinemann clearly intends John and Tim’s adventures to be light in tone, with plenty of snappy dialogue. During a few stretches, the tone of John and Tim’s adventures clashes with the events of the book—including when a lethal robotic soldier truncates his identity until all that remains is his model number, HIRC-947—but for the most part, Reinemann manages to keep the balance. Even when the tone and subject matter are at odds, the story moves at a steady pace without jettisoning reader interest.
Strong characters, ready wit and an excellent sense of plotting enliven Reinemann’s propulsive tale, which never flags in its 700-plus pages.