I’ve only read a few of Jack McDevitt’s novels, Ancient Shores, Omega, and Polaris come to mind, before TIME TRAVELERS NEVER DIE. I much enjoyed this one and should read more of his work somewhere down the line.
The prologue opens with Dave Dryden returning from his best friend’s, Michael Shelborne’s, funeral. He’d been found dead in his bed after his house had burned down during a thunderstorm. At first thought an accident, it was determined he’d been murdered, his skull crushed and the fire a result of arson.
Dave is sitting in his living room when he hears someone walking around upstairs. Michael Shelborne comes walking down the stairs. Dave is not surprised.
Neither should we.
There begins the tale.
When Michael Shelborne’s physicist father missed their dinner date, he wasn’t alarmed at first. Then a week goes by and worry sets in. No one has seen him. Then his father’s lawyer calls and has an envelope to be given to him if his “father died or dropped out of sight.”
The envelope holds a brass key to a UPS box with a letter telling him to destroy the contents completely, disassemble them, smash them flat, burn them, weight what’s left down, and drop it into the ocean. No other explanation.
The box holds what resembles, for lack of a better description, ebook readers. No brand names. Three of them. Quite by accident, Michael figures out they are time machines, invented by his father, and remembers conversations.
Recruiting his friend, Dave Dryden, a linguist, the pair begin a hunt through time for Michael’s father. Something must have happened to him to prevent his return.
They visit Galileo, the civil rights marches of Selma, Alabama, Socrates, and the Library of Alexander looking for him. The lure of visiting famous times, places, people, becomes addictive. They record a number of Sophocles’ lost plays, anonymously sending them to a Greek expert of the period. They visit a young Michaelangelo to commission a couple of sculptures.
They meet each American President when he was a young man, they visit Tombstone and meet the Earps. Edison. The Wright Brothers. Every famous person in history that they can easily locate.
One thing they agreed on was never to visit the future, not wanting to know of their ultimate fates. Until, separately both did. Dave to get some race results to make money on betting. Michael to establish a residence in the twenty-second century. And Michael googles himself.
The paradoxes pile up. Michael knows he’s going to die in that fire. How, why, he goes there knowing the truth he doesn’t understand. But dire consequences will result in changing what has already happened. He understands that and plans to visit as much of history that he can before whatever gets him back to his home.
A wonderful tale this romp through history. All of us, I’m sure, have wanted to see these places, to be a part, somehow, of these major events. Just to witness these things, McDevitt vicariously lets us savor how it might be.
Loved this one. Recommended.