Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Escape From 2930 BC

Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006).

This is just one strand in "The Year Of The Ransom."

(i) Helen Tamberly tells Manson Everard that, while holidaying in archaic Japan, her husband Stephen and she have taken up handicrafts, including pottery.

(ii) A time criminal kidnaps Stephen Tamberly and abandons him in tropical America in 2937 BC.

(iii) Tamberly follows a river to the coast, seeking primitive but hospitable settlements where his skills should make him important.

(iv) In 2930 BC, a time traveler from the Universarium of Halla arrives on the coast to investigate the archaeological mystery of the Valdivia ware which almost exactly duplicates the contemporaneous Jomon pottery of archaic Japan...

(v) The explorer meets the tall, pale Vesselmaker and they converse in Temporal. Thus is Tamberly rescued.

There is a similar situation at the end of "The Only Game In Town." The North American potlach tribes have been taught by Mongols and a Confucian scholar who never returned to China because Manson Everard of the Time Patrol killed their horses and burned their ships.

When Castelar abandons Tamberly in 2937 BC, this highlights a curious feature of time travel. In fact, Castelar never returns for Tamberly but several other scenarios were possible. Let us substitute "captor" and "captive" for Castelar and Tamberly:

captor leaves captive in 2937 BC, travels to the twentieth century, lives for three decades in that century and then returns to check whether captive is still alive in 2907 BC;
as above except that captive returns to retrieve captor a fraction of a second after leaving him in 2937 BC;
any other difference between length of time spent by captor in the twentieth century and time endured by captive BC.

Thus, as long as the captor lives, he can regard the captive as "on ice" back in the past and can decide whether to retrieve him with zero time endured by the captive or to retrieve him with some time endured by the captive or not to retrieve him. That is an odd feature of time travel which would not be paralleled if, for example, the captor had been deposited on another planet.


ndrosen said...

I like the Time Patrol tales, and your commentaries on them. One little point: In part (iv), you must mean BC, not AD.

Best Regards,

Paul Shackley said...

Of course. Thank you for the correction.
For me at present, reading Banks does not compete with rereading the Time Patrol.