A sadly neglected SF classic is reprinted!
by Philip Jose Farmer, Titan Books
After the disappointment of The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, the previous Titan reprint in Philip Jose Farmer’s so-called “Wold Newton Prehistory” series, we weren’t particularly keen on Time’s Last Gift.
Luckily we however gave Farmer’s 1972 novelette a shot and can’t say we’re sorry at all.
It may be a “Wold Newton” novel, but newbies needn’t worry: Time’s Last Gift works perfectly well as a standalone novel. In fact, all the “Wold Newton” books feature characters from famous novels by other writers – Other Log of Phileas Fogg for example was a meta-textual rip on Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. However only sharp-eyed readers alerted in advance will probably guess the identity of the famous literary character featured in this novel is. (Hint: it’s not H.G. Wells’ time traveler as the title might lead one to believe.)
The plot involves a team of scientists from 2070 being sent back in time 12 000 B.C. to study the ancient so-called Magdalenian culture. There is however something strange about their grey-eyed leader, John Gribardsun. Just how did this enigmatic figure manage to become the leader of such a high-profile expedition when there were much better qualified candidates for the job? And how will it affect the mission and its success?
Farmer’s novelette seems well-researched (we’re not exactly experts on the era in question) and his story also boasts same interesting rifts on the whole time travelling theme. It is slickly-written and the only downside is the sometimes stilted dialogue, the many typos in the book and a denouement that is a bit (but not much) on the underwhelming and overcomplicated side of things. (It’s also somewhat over the top, but never mind.) Farmer will however keep you reading for the simple reason of wanting to find out what happens next, always the first sign of a master storyteller.
An underappreciated gem of a time travel story. Recommended.