Reviewer Praise for CITY BEYOND TIME

More from the same reviewer, Keith West:

http://adventuresfantastic.com/futurespastandpresent/visiting-the-city-beyond-time/

City Beyond Time is a combination short story collection and novel. The setting is Metachronopolis, a city at the end of time controlled by the Time Wardens. They manipulate history for their own ends. This is nothing new in science fiction. Poul Anderson’s Time Patrol stories are probably the high water mark for temporal police, but the concept goes back to the pulps.

Only these time cops aren’t exactly the good guys. They’re more like the cops you find in a noir novel by Raymond Chandler. Shady and on the take, with an agenda of their own.

There is one character who shows up in the first and last stories, a private eye named Jake Frontino. He’s from the 1930s. (More Chandleresque stuff; always a good thing.) The initial and final story are tied together in some subtle ways.

No, Chandler hasn’t reached his expiration date. His work has passed the test of time.

And speaking of time, in “Murder in Metachronopolis”, the lead story, Jake has to solve a murder where time travel plays a role in the murder. This was a creative an innovative story where the tale isn’t told in chronological order. Rather the sections are mixed to provide a greater depth to the narrative.

“Choosers of the Slain” concerns a defeated warrior king in some future or alternate world. He’s about to make his final stand, a stand from which he won’t emerge alive, when a young girl appears and tries to convince him to come with her to the future.

“Bride of the Time Warden” was one of the most riveting tales in the book. The potential wife of a Time Warden living sometime in the 20th century is asked to spend the night alone in the library of the family mansion. It’s a ritual that all potential brides have to pass through before they can marry into the family. During the night she meets her future self, a bitter woman who tells her not to marry this man. Then she meets her son who asks her to please marry him. This was one of my favorites.

Yes, it did appeal to the romantic in me.

In “Father’s Monument” a son struggles to honor the dying wish of his estranged father and build a monument so visitors from the future can find the father. All the son has to do is believe the father’s story…

“Slayer of Souls” is a bit of Lovecraftian horror dressed up in time travel. It’s about a homeless man who is given a book by a book vendor. A book he shouldn’t open.

Henry Kuttner is one of all time favorite authors. His story “Happy Ending” (reviewed here) is a time travel story that is told in three sections, with the events in each section preceding the events of the prior section.  It’s a technique I’ve not seen used often.

Wright takes the concept and runs with it, scoring a touchdown with “The Plural of Helen of Troy”.  In this one Jake is working a case he already knows the outcome of, except where the Time Wardens are concerned, no outcome is certain.

Here’s a quote from that story that really stuck with me:

But how can you have hope in this city?  Hope comes when you have an unknown future waiting like a Christmas gift, shining in its pink-bowed wrapping paper, and every tomorrow is a new surprise to open.

Hope is when you can change your future.  But if the Time Wardens can step through a crystal into your tomorrow, and they can change your tomorrow, but you cannot, then all the gifts have already been opened and all the toys are theirs.

There’s a deep undercurrent of philosophy in these stories.   They aren’t simply adventure tales or clever little time paradoxes or mish-mashes of historical figures.  While some the stories in City Beyond Time contain those things, they also transcend the tropes of time travel and deal with some pretty serious issues.  The relationship between father and son, the objectification of women, and the role of free will in a person’s life to name a few.

These stories and the overarching narrative that contains them is science fiction for people who think and feel on a deep level.  I highly recommend City Beyond Time.

Time for a confession: I was trying to steal Kuttner’s story idea for ‘Plural of Helen of Troy’ but was thwarted of my theft because I could recall neither the title nor the author, so I could not reread it and remind myself about how to pull off the technique.

Apparently, for at least this one reviewer, it is best that I was left to my own devices, because he admired the outcome.

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