Skip to main content

TimeOne (SF) – Colin Gillespie **(*)

I have always said that there is a real opportunity if anyone can write fiction that manages to entertain but also to educate about science at the same time. It is certainly possible, but fiercely difficult to do well. As we saw with something like Pythagoras’ Revenge, the result almost inevitably is either bad fiction with a slew of science or readable fiction where the science really doesn’t come across well. So I was excited when I saw the publicity for Colin Gillespie’s TimeOne, intriguingly subtitled ‘discover how the universe began.’
The idea of this work of fiction with a strong science content is to explore the nature of the big bang using the unusual concept of having a detective examine the ‘clues’ to see if they can work out how it all began. I’ve given it an extra bracketed star for ingenuity and effort, but I have to say that the outcome did not give me any joy.
There is plenty of reasonable science in here (along with an awful lot of philosophy and waffle), but the problem is that as a story it is nothing short of awful. There are three main characters, the employer, a mysterious woman who keeps popping into the office then flying off to mysterious destinations, the narrator, who is employed as a researcher to dig up the facts and history of the science, and an ex-cop detective who seems mostly there as a foil for the researcher. Three hours into reading all that had happened was that the employer came and went, the researcher VERY gradually dug out bits of information about relativity, quantum theory and the like, and the detective slobbed about. There was no story, no suspense, no real characters, no development, no plot.
Add to this an incredibly slow laying out of the facts, with a huge slab of philosophising and I really could not keep reading. It was extremely hard work with no real reward. I did try skipping forward to see how it would all turn out, but I couldn’t find any deviation from this formula (nor any great revelation about the big bang).
As I said at the start, I admire the intent and the work that has gone into this – I just don’t think that anyone is going to learn much science, or have any enjoyment from it as fiction.
Hardback:  
Kindle:  
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Feed (SF) - Nick Clark Windo ****

Ever since The War of the Worlds, the post-apocalyptic disaster novel has been a firm fixture in the Science Fiction universe. What's more, such books are often among the few SF titles that are shown any interest by the literati, probably because many future disaster novels feature very little science. With a few exceptions, though (I'm thinking, for instance, The Chrysalids) they can make for pretty miserable reading unless you enjoy a diet of page after page of literary agonising.

The Feed is a real mixture. Large chunks of it are exactly that - page after page of self-examining misery with an occasional bit of action thrown in. But, there are parts where the writing really comes alive and shows its quality. This happens when we get the references back to pre-disaster, when we discover the Feed, which takes The Circle's premise to a whole new level with a mega-connected society where all human interaction is through directly-wired connections… until the whole thing fails …

The Bastard Legion (SF) - Gavin Smith *****

Science fiction has a long tradition of 'military in space' themes - and usually these books are uninspiring at best and verging on fascist at worst. From a serious SF viewpoint, it seemed that Joe Haldeman's magnificent The Forever War made the likes of Starship Troopers a mocked thing of the past, but sadly Hollywood seems to have rebooted the concept and we now see a lot of military SF on the shelves.

The bad news is that The Bastard Legion could not be classified as anything else - but the good news is that, just as Buffy the Vampire Slayer subverted the vampire genre, The Bastard Legion has so many twists on a straightforward 'marines in space' title that it does a brilliant job of subversion too.

The basic scenario is instantly different. Miska is heading up a mercenary legion, except they're all hardened criminals on a stolen prison ship, taking part because she has stolen the ship and fitted them all with explosive collars. Oh, and helping her train her &…

The Laser Inventor - Theodore Maiman ****

While the memoirs of many scientists are probably best kept for family consumption, there are some breakthroughs where the story is sufficiently engaging that it can be fascinating to get an inside view on what really happened. Although Theodore Maiman's autobiographical book is not a slick, journalist-polished account, it is very effective at highlighting two significant narratives - how Maiman was able to construct the first ever laser, despite having far fewer resources than many of his competitors, and how 'establishment' academic physicists, particularly in the US, tried to minimise his achievement.

On the straight autobiographical side, we get some early background and discover how Maiman combined degrees in electrical engineering and physics to have an unusually strong mix of the practical and the theoretical. Rather than go into academia after his doctorate, he went into industry - which seems to have been responsible for the backlash against his invention, which we…