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Book Review: Time Salvager

Time Salvager by Wesley Chu, Time Salvager #1

Convicted criminal James Griffin-Mars is no one’s hero. In his time, Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humans have fled into the outer solar system to survive, eking out a fragile, doomed existence among the other planets and their moons. Those responsible for delaying humanity’s demise believe time travel holds the key, and they have identified James, troubled though he is, as one of a select and expendable few ideally suited for the most dangerous job in history.

James is a chronman, undertaking missions into Earth's past to recover resources and treasure without altering the timeline. The laws governing use of time travel are absolute; break any one of them and, one way or another, your life is over. Most chronmen never reach old age; the stress of each jump through time, compounded by the risk to themselves and to the future, means that many chronmen rapidly reach their breaking point, and James Griffin-Mars is nearing his.

On a final mission that is to secure his retirement, James meets Elise Kim, an intriguing scientist from a previous century, who is fated to die during the destruction of an oceanic rig. Against his training and his common sense, and in violation of the chronmen’s highest law, James brings Elise back to the future with him, saving her life, but turning them both into fugitives. Remaining free means losing themselves in the wild and poisonous wastes of Earth, somehow finding allies, and perhaps discovering what hope may yet remain for humanity's home world.

Every once and a while you come across a book that just has it, for me "it" really is the whole nine yard, the whole experience from start to finish. I read about Wesley Chu's big success with the series The Lives of Tao (which I haven't had the chance to read yet). So I really wanted to give this book a chance. And though I cannot say he did it again. I can say that Wesley Chu did it. Time Salvager, doesn't disappoint one bit, its a race across time and different fronts from start to finish. With what I have heard about Wesley Chu and what I have been able to read in Time Salvager, Wesley Chu will be an author to keep a close eye on. If this is what he is writing now, hang on to your hats.

The story of Time Salvager focuses James Griffin-Mars a chronman, (not to be confused with conmen, well actually he has some pretty cool tricks up his sleeves!). Just to clearify a chronman is a person who travels back and forth in time to retrieve valuable items. It takes a lot to be a chronmen, mentally an physically. Here James' past seems to help him, being an convicted criminal and all. The world that James currently lives in, the current time frame, is a destroyed Earth, viruses have made most of the Earth uninhabitable and many wars have left the world desolate, the surviving humans have chosen to seek to live in other solar systems. With traveling back in the ChronoCom, the organization of Chronmen, try to cure the Earth and make it habitable again. On one of the first mission that we see James feature is when he jumps back to a women who is the creator of the time jumping. Even when she begs him to take her along with here, James has to be resolute and say no, he cannot disturb the balance of the timeline. Taking a person with him is the biggest violation possible. Afterwards it becomes clear that even though James is one of the best chronmen, each jump he makes, tasks him a little bit further. It exhausts him and he can't jump that much any longer. Luckily reprieve seems to come to him soon in the form of one last jump. A big cooperation has said to pay of James' debt to the ChronoCom and set him free once and for all. Not without some reservations, James accepts this new assignment and find himself jumping to a pivotal time point. Here James finds himself utterly surprised. He meets the scientist Elise Kim, who he starts to like more than just liking. When James is down to his last few moments of the jump back, he does one thing, a thing that has never been done before. James takes Elise back to his time. Breaking the first rule of time traveling. James thought that he could cover it up by saying he to a lot of ocean water with him. But the authorities don't by his lie and soon both James and Elise find themselves hunted by the policing force of the ChronoCom. Setting them on the run might just have helped to save Earth though as Elise perhaps has a way of curing the diseased planet. But will James be able to give Elise the resources she need? Perhaps most importantly, can he by Elise enough time to carry out her research?

In my opinion, I am not doing any justice to Welsey Chu's complete story with my brief synopsis of Time Salvager. The whole concept of time travel is very well thought through and it is impossible to find a flaw there. Added to this comes that the way that time travel is carried out is again by far the coolest that I have read about. The writing style that Wesley Chu employes is nicely paced, not over to much just the right amount and this in combination with the short acceleration of when the action takes place offered a very nice dynamic to the storyline. 

The characters that feature in Time Salvager are plenty both taking on big and small roles. First there is James Griffin-Mars. A chronmen. Right from the start I really connected with his character. From his past, that of being a convicted criminal you don't see that much, but in the way that Wesley Chu shows his personality, you can feel that tinge of darkness in him. What makes James' character really nice to read about is the fact that with him being a criminal and with taken up by the ChronoCom cooperation as an way out but then given an enormous debt to pay off before being finally free again, a debt that you cannot pay off because being a chronmen, your life expectancy is short.... Than being offered that a big company with buy your freedom, what would you do? If you health is already on the decline because of the many jumps you made? ALl these individual things makes James a very complex character and humane. Add in this mixture that he meets the love of his life in Elise Kim, well, again what would you do? As for the scientist that James rescues, Elise, I needed a bit more time to connect with her. When you first read about her in her own timeline it doesn't seem that much, but as soon as she is transported to the future things changed. I liked her reaction to all the new things she saw and how she interpreted them, and how determined she was to find that all important cure. Next to James and Elise there is a very nice point-of-view offered by Levin Javier-Oberon. An Auditor of the ChronoCom. As I mentioned James has become a fugitive, the persons who are charged with bringing chronmen to justice are Auditors, who were once chronmen themselves. In the beginning of it all, Levin is conviced that he should bring James to justice as he just broke the first rule of time travel, bringing a person to the future. It's a cardinal sin. But then Wesley Chu drops the bomb on you because what if? I won´t spoil the surprise but I assure you you will be wowed by the truth. I imagined the scene of A Few Good Men there (You cant handle the truth) just wow. This also changes Levin...

The whole setting of Time Salvager just has this very realistic feeling (as far as I can imagine what the future might be). This must be owed to the clear writing style of Wesley Chu, there is so much going on in the story, but there is no sacrifice in not explaining certain events or how technology works, Wesley Chu provides all this information in a learning sort of way, no dump where you are presented with blue prints but you learn as you go. This kept up the pacing of the story very nicely. In showing the world, Wesley Chu shows it as it is. It's destroyed, it's dark and grim and ruled by a few big companies who only have a say in certain decisions. Of course with a the time travel going on, this book has a definite coolness factor to it (A++), from the way the jump is initiated to the cool gadgets they have like the different bands, especially the exo power. I want one! Just awesome. 

With all that Wesley Chu has showed so far in Time Salvager this book and series is off to a very good start. From beginning to end this book won't let you down. Wesley Chu begins the story with a bit lighter material, but not long before he slowly builds up more and more tension towards the inevitable turning point of the story and the eventual race to the finish. This whole book screams for a translation to the big screen. I'd say:  'Michael Bay, I know you want to turn this one in a blockbuster'. Definitely cool stuff. I wish I had the sequel at hand already. Make sure you don't miss out on this one guys. Highly entertaining. And that plot twist. WOW!


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