When time travel is discovered and secretly explored by a multi-national team at a secret American base in the 2040s, it’s unclear exactly what its implications will be. Time travelers can occupy the bodies of their earlier selves, or even genetically similar relatives, but can they change the path of time, or is history condemned to adjust and repeat itself despite any interventions? In KILLING TIME, the third installment of Mike Murphey’s “Physics, Lust and Greed” series, a team of have been locked away in a research center to try and establish exactly how time travel works, and with most of their funding withdrawn, and one of their travelers lost to the past, they have dueling interests: establishing a financially viable use for time travel that justifies its extensive economic backing, and retrieving their friend. A difficulty arises, though, in the extent to which they’re able to travel: they can go back only to time where they were alive, and their bodies able to host them — with some small exceptions — and so their past exploration is limited, especially in terms of observational powers. In a bid to go back a few extra decades, the team recruits a man in his 90s, Sean Brody. Brody has his own incentives in attempting to put right the mistakes of his childhood.
The various timelines of the text here can be confusing at first–especially without reading the earlier two books in the series–but the tale that unfolds is playful and sentimental, and shows an authentic feeling around its various time zones, including some nice little additions around the technology of the 2040s. Sean’s story is particularly moving, as is the effort to weed out the member of the international team who is acting on corporate interests, and why. The seemingly largely physical love affair between Marta and Marshall, two of the team leads, is another aspect that unwinds nicely into something with depth and nuance. That said, at times it is complicated to follow, and though the writing style makes it somewhat easy reading, it certainly feels like key details might need a couple of extra glances to fully grasp. Some of the pressures introduced–like the arrival of the project inspector at a time that’s particularly unhelpful–feel a little bit forced.
Time travel is a great canon of sci-fi, and while–if readers are prepared to put that aspect aside–this book doesn’t feel overly ‘sci-fi’ in nature (it’s more an exploration of human behavior and characteristics, set in a time-shifting world). Largely, but not exclusively, the outcome is not so much ‘the butterfly effect’ as periods of temporary life influence in the characters’ inhabited past bodies. Their past selves don’t always take the intrusion well.
A time travel book weaving possibilities into a smart, emotional, character-led narrative–Mike Murphey’s KILLING TIME is imaginative, vibrant and full of personality.
~James Hendicott for IndieReader