Tyson hails from the year 2304, where he has been raised from birth (and shaped even before that) to be a time-traveling historian. Madi lives in the year 2136 and has accidentally managed to stumble into time travel before it’s been invented. Their stories become intertwined when something happens to break history as they know it—something that may fall at their time-traveling feet.
Rysa Walker’s Now, Then, and Everywhen is a big, sprawling time travel adventure that hints at more questions than it answers. The bulk of the story jumps between Tyson and Madi, each surrounded by their own cast of supporting characters and influences, and each traveling in time independently of one another. For Tyson, time travel is his everyday reality; he and his co-historians at CHRONOS explore history in the flesh, trying to capture those nuances that don’t generally survive the telling. For Madi, it’s a dangerous game; she’s literally fallen into time travel and is exploring it without a safety net of any sort (either for herself or for the course of history).
The book is a prequel to Walker’s CHRONOS series, and while it certainly isn’t necessary to have read her previous books, I’m sure one would benefit from being familiar with the world she has created. The book is peppered with references and moments that feel like they carry unseen weight, and this can leave the new reader feeling like they’re not getting the whole story. Now, Then, and Everywhen stands on its own, but the most intriguing of these references generate interest and questions that the book itself never answers. Whether this is because they’ve been addressed in previous books or because they may someday be addressed in future novels is unclear. Time travel makes for a tricky focal point and there’s certainly some risk inherent in putting it under a literary microscope—risk that Walker has embraced, more to her audience’s benefit than not.
Now, Then, and Everywhen is an often entertaining and occasionally compelling read, but it suffers a little from its size and scope. There is a tremendous amount of set-up involving a daunting number of characters, and many of the most intriguing questions aren’t effectively answered by the book’s conclusion. The result is a novel that feels like a paradox of its own; it runs a little long and yet ends too soon.
Walker’s new book won’t be for everybody, but it has lots to offer to the right sort of reader.
This review was originally published by Cloud Lake Literary in December of 2020.
I’m playing a pen and paper rpg again!
The game is Stars Without Number, an Old School style science fiction rpg with a cool setting, written by Kevin Crawford and available via rpgnow, etc. The other night we sat down to build our characters and even got a little bit of gaming in, and it felt good. Too early to really declare an informed opinion (we were only half-using the rules, since we didn’t arrive planning to play and hadn’t prepared), but we had a lot of fun. We’ve got 5 of us playing, with CP running the game, and in classic scifi style, we opened with a jailbreak. Our players?
P – Ashok, a weak but pretty confident wanderer that seems to have both a knack for getting into trouble and a talent for talking himself back out of it.
MM – XLT to be Decommissioned (Decom for short), a medical robot that was manufactured with an assassin’s body by mistake. He seems unsure about where his destiny lies.
MR – Weesah, a victim of a misogynist tech-based caste system that was drafted into a revolution and trained in explosives and terror tactics
CD – Asdon, an illegal salvager that’s apparently got some aggression issues and a *very* lax moral compass.
Me – Jaeger, a pilot from a dysfunctional and once-powerful family heavily involved in technology R&D, especially where space travel is concerned. Recent events have left me alone and broke, supporting myself via contract work.
After a contract gone wrong, we all found ourselves locked up in a Star Command prison cell. A riot broke out elsewhere in the prison and we were able to get free of our cell. Weesah hacked some systems, Ashok distracted and misdirected some guards, and Jaeger retrieved or belongings from some lockers before piloting our impounded disaster of a ship out of the prison and to safety.
Decom ran interference and provided support, and Asdon shot a couple guards in the back so he could take their Star Command shuttle. After arriving at a nearby moon known as Luke’s, Jaeger stripped a few useful upgrades out of the shuttle and then Asdon sold it for parts.
We’re a strange crew; it’ll be interesting to see how these characters develop…
Ugh. I like these minis, but the slottas are hot garbage. I wish I’d thought to take a picture. Awkward shapes and sizes, some of them were more like thick flash or chunks of bad sprues. I’ve almost never used green stuff for bases, but I used it for every single one of these. Gross. Don’t know when I’ll get around to painting any of these (I haven’t enough free time to actually try/play Judge Dredd these days, so right now they’re more of a curiosity than something I’ll actually make use of).
I work at a bookstore, and a while back we got something in called the Finder library. It looked pretty cool, it had apparently won an Eisner award, and it was being released by dark horse, who may not be perfect but are responsible for the english version of Blade of the Immortal. This fact alone is enough to convince me to at least look at their stuff (Blade remains the only comic book series of any length that I purchased and read the entire run of).
So I bought it. And I read it. And I was floored. It’s huge and amazing and staggeringly deep, and I reread it fom cover to cover only a week after reading it the first time. I read it a third time before the second volume came out, at which point I read it a fourth time so I could read them back to back.
I have made the entire series (two ‘Libraries’ and an additional arc called Voice) my most prominent staff pick at work, where I keep it permanently in stock so that other people can experience it. The fact that it’s a graphic novel seems to scare some people, while the fact that it’s science fiction concerns others, but it’s so much more than either of those labels conveys.
It’s also incredibly deep, and layered, and complex, but it reveals itself to you as you read. Just hang on and enjoy the ride. And for those of you that need the plot? It follows Jaeger, half-Ascian finder and sin-eater, as he weaves in and out of various lives, some of which we get to know more intimately than others. It takes place in a far-flung future where much of civilisation is made up of a few genetic lines, with everybody else living on the fringes. It explores more issues than almost anything I can think of and does it better than most. It builds a world so big you’d swear it had to be real, and introduces you to it a piece at a time.
Finder is one of the best things I’ve ever read.
But don’t take my word for it. Strange Horizons calls it “bar none, the best SF comic being published today.” Warren Ellis calls it “completely fascinating,” and names it as one of his “treasured favourites of the last ten years.” Seriously, read the book. The whole thing. And when you’re finished, tell me you aren’t amazed.
So I’m feeling that familiar, hollywood-inspired, mix of anticipation and terror/anxiety (anxicipation? anticipiety?) that comes with a book I like being made into a movie.
I first read all you need is kill a couple years ago, and enjoyed it a great deal. A few awkward bits of writing here and there but that could just be the translation. Occasionally the effort to turn a ‘hip’ young dialect into english can be a little interesting. The book follows Keiji Kiriya, a young Japanese recruit in a United Defense Force defending the planet from incredibly hard to kill alien invaders. He pilots a mechanized suit of armour, and dies an agonizng death only to wake up and relive the previous couple days. And again. And again. Like groundhog day and vanquish mashed into war of the worlds. Apparently the author was intrigued by the real-world implications/possibility of a videogame-style respawn effect. For sci-fi fans (especially fans of mecha and anime) I definitely recommend it.
I am picking it up again *now* because I’ve discovered there’s a movie coming out in 2014, and I want to reread it before I get too close to the release. While I may or may not end up enjoying hollywood’s version, they’re definitely planning on changing some stuff, and I’ll probably be better off without having the book too fresh in my mind.
So what makes me so sure they’re planning to mess about with the book I liked so much? Remember young, inexperienced rookie jacket pilot Keiji Kiriya, of the UDF’s Japanese component? Meet ‘merican Sgt Bill Cage, as played by Tom Cruise. Given that the whole point to me was that some inexperienced young nobody is granted innumerable deaths and uses them to become one of the greatest warriors the world has ever seen, it seems ludicrous to replace the raw recruit with an experienced soldier. Never mind the hollywood obsession with turning every tailor-made asian role into a white guy. Seems extra weird since the book makes a big deal of there being an American Special Forces squad assisting in the defense of Honshu. I look forward to some fantastically cutting remarks from George Takei.
Games aren’t the only medium I didn’t fully explore as a child. As much as I love sci fi (and as much as I always did), there are a ton of classic science fiction films that I missed as a kid. Let’s be honest, this isn’t a genre that spends much effort avoiding sex and violence. I got to thinking about this a while back and decided to start tracking down some of the movies I didn’t see the first time around (and a few that I did but just wasn’t old enough to appreciate).
This weekend was one of those opportunities. My boy was asleep at a good time every night and I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be. And so: damnation alley (1977), a boy and his dog (1975), shivers (1975), and hardware (1990). Damnation alley was pretty meh, although it did make me want to reread the book. The zelazny classic involved a hard run through an irradiated death zone in a super tank. The movie spent the first 15 of its 91 minutes just getting to the apocalypse, which I’m sure seemed poignant to somebody back in ’77 but was completely unnecessary to the movie. Pretty much the entire budget seems to have gone into the supertank; the rest of the effects are pretty terrible, and the ending was ridiculously abrupt.
Boy and his dog I actually saw as a kid, and is a pretty solid example of something I just wasn’t in any way old enough to appreciate. I think I probably drew pictures or read while it was on, because its incredibly dark and I don’t remember any of those bits. Weird and sorta twisted (the post-apocalyptic world depicted here is a pretty misogynistic hellhole), but I enjoyed it. Not sure how close it came to the source material but I may have to find out.
Shivers struck me as pretty cronenbergy (like zombies but with sex!) and fairly so so. Some gross and disturbing bits but again, that’s pretty much cronenberg’s wheelhouse. Considering it was a movie about parasite-infested sex zombies it was pretty clean on that front. Can’t see myself bothering to watch it again.
Which brings us to hardware. Sorta bad and good at the same time. Pacing was a little rough (the last 20 minutes seemed to pull a bit of a point break) but the movie overall was lots of fun. Some action, some cool-looking robot parts, and a crapload of mayhem.
All told, best oscar night in ages.