A man known only as the Stranger embarks on an adventure through time and space to save the Earth in Scrima’s (From All Sides, 2011, etc.) sci-fi novel.
The Stranger inherited his uncle’s vast fortune with the condition that he complete several assigned time-travel missions. The first, a trip back to 1881 in which the Stranger must stop his uncle’s great-grandfather from being gunned down in the Old West, gets him hooked, and soon, he’s aiding extraterrestrial beings called the Creators and rescuing a woman doomed to die. The planet Earth needs his help the most, however, as it’s threatened by both its own people and a murderous race called “the evil ones.” The book offers five interlocking short stories, each with its own mission. Fans of time-travel stories, however, might be a bit disappointed, as the Stranger spends more time in spaceships than he does trekking through time. After he helps the Creators by reactivating their planet’s shield, he starts traveling by using an otherworldly medallion and officially retires his uncle’s time machine. The protagonist’s development over the course of the stories is fascinating, as he literally evolves into something more alien than human—he even becomes part android. His traveling companion, and ultimate love interest, is a human woman named Laura, but unfortunately, she doesn’t get much to do. Although she trains with the Stranger as they prepare for missions, she’s more often relegated to a damsel-in-distress role in which she faints at the sight of violence. The story is also prone to repetition; for example, as the Stranger and Laura progress through the stories, they eventually no longer need to eat or sleep—a fact the novel notes many times. But Scrima keeps things fresh by avoiding overdone time-travel elements; for example, a journey of billions of years isn’t instantaneous but takes a year to complete and requires weeks of recovery. The overall message—that a disunited humankind risks losing or destroying their planet—may be a little too transparent, but it’s one that never hurts to hear.
An often engaging sci-fi yarn about a journey to save the Earth that will continue in a planned sequel.