Wesley Chu’s “Time Salvager”

A Must Read 300There’s one problem that plagues the sci-fi genre more than just about any other genre: most of it has been done before. In a genre dedicated to the flaunting of imagination, there is a startling amount of sameness among many books, with plots so interchangeable that the nuances are quickly forgotten once the read is over. With this in the back of my mind, I picked up a copy of Wesley Chu’s Time Salvager this past week while meandering through the sci-fi section of my usual bookstore. I’m glad I did.

Time Salvager follows the exploits of James Griffin-Mars, a futuristic treasure hunter and procurer of desirable artifacts. James is what is known as a chronman: someone who uses time-travel technology to explore the past for lost artifacts and valuables. After embarking on his last mission, meant to secure a comfortable life of relaxation, James saves a woman’s life and brings her back into the future… the problem being that time travel travel is incredibly regulated, and James has just broken the most sacred tenant of all, turning himself and his guest, Elise, into fugitives. James and Elise then have to work together to survive in the hostile waste that is Earth, all while finding a way to right their wrongs, and maybe even the mistakes of their ancestors.

As far as sci-fi tropes go, time travel is arguably the most difficult to write well, since the idea of going into the past with the desire to make a change leads to there never being any motivation to go at all (If I go back to keep myself from tripping, then I never tripped, meaning I never needed to go back and keep myself from tripping in the first place). This immediately rules out 90% of time travel plots as trite. What caught my eye with Time Salvager is that there are defined rules set in place in the same vein as I Robot‘s Four Laws of Robotics. The process of time travel is exceptionally detailed, and the effects it has on people make sense. On top of that, the main storyline of James and Elise is something fairly original in the science fiction genre, especially since it incorporates a well-developed lore of technology. You’ll still have to suspend disbelief quite a bit as far as the science goes, but you’ll at least be interested while doing so. The story told throughout the book is filled with beautiful locales, and is most importantly a fun foray into the science fiction genre.

Chu’s writing is competent and smart across many areas, though it struggle in one place in particular. Imagery of the technology in Time Salvager is well-crafted, and is arguably the high point of Chu’s writing, but the conveyance of characters’ thoughts can seem out of place, especially in comparison to how they speak or act. While sounding like a normal person thinking may be in-character for our protagonist James, the thoughts of, say, a hyperintelligent politician should be slightly different in tone. Still, the actual dialogue between characters is neat and consistent, and the book never feels like it is dragging in its pacing.

If you are a fan of science fiction, Time Salvager is an absolute blast, especially if you are getting tired of seeing the same old plots rehashed with different names. The characters are fairly original and memorable, the lore is immensely detailed, and the universe Wesley Chu creates is one I hope inspires other new writers in the sci-fi genre. Keep in mind, this book likely won’t be the one to wean you onto the genre if you don’t like it already (unless you specifically don’t like how many sci-fi books have very similar plots). One thing I know for certain is that I’ll be sure to look for more from Wesley Chu.

Source: Jake Depew, Assistant Editor