fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsscience fiction book reviews Robert Silverberg Times ThreeTimes Three by Robert Silverberg

Time travel is one of Robert Silverberg’s favorite themes and he gives us three of his best time travel novels, and an introduction to each, in the collection Times Three from Subterranean Press.

Hawksbill Station (1968) is about a camp for 21st century American political dissidents who are permanently exiled to… the late Cambrian era. Hawksbill Station is a stark and lonely place — it’s all rocks, ocean, and trilobites. With no meat, no women, and no way back, most of the men eventually go mad. Every once in a while they get supplies and news from Up Front when a new exile arrives. One day a new guy shows up and he’s acting rather suspiciously. What could this mean for Hawksbill Station?

This is a story about freedom of speech, friendship, lost love, disenfranchisement, the struggle to survive, hope, and contentment. As an aside, I’d like to mention that I’m sincerely grateful that the real 21st century United States political system looks nothing like the possible one that Robert Silverberg imagined in 1968! Hawksbill Station is 142 pages in my proof copy and it’s based on the short story “Hawksbill Station” which was a runner up for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards in 1967.

Up the Line (1969) is a long and lusty piece (209 pages) about the paradoxes of time travel. Jud Elliott, an expert on the Byzantine Empire, lives in the year 2059 and he’s just been hired as a Time Courier — he takes tourists back in time to visit the high and low points of Byzantine history. Since he is constantly traveling back to the same events with different groups of tourists, he has to be careful about paradoxes such as the Cumulative Audience Paradox (e.g., all of the thousands of tourists watching Christ’s crucifixion are now part of the original audience), the Paradox of Transit Displacement, and the Ultimate Paradox. (After reading Up the Line, I am fairly convinced of the impossibility of time travel.)

Unfortunately, Jud gets a little sloppy when he falls in love with one of his own ancestors and this leads to a hilarious series of time-travel paradoxes and an unforgettable ending. Up the Line is fast, funny, and full of vibrant history. (It’s also full of sex, including incest and pedophilia, which I really could have done without.)

Project Pendulum (1987) is a shorter work (94 pages) about twins, one a paleontologist and one a physicist, who’ve been chosen to be the guinea pigs in the first human time travel experiment. Scientists have connected laboratory versions of a black hole and a white hole so that two similar people can be sent through time in a series of opposing ever-widening jumps, like pendulum swings. So, at first, Sean goes forward 5 minutes while Eric goes backward 5 minutes, then the pendulum swings and Sean goes backward 5 x 102 minutes while Eric goes forward 5 x 102 minutes, etc. Eventually, both twins should get to 95 million years in the past/future and then should return back to the present in the opposite way that they went, hitting all the same places that their twin had been on his trip.

Not only is the fast and furious juxtaposition of the history and future of the human race fascinating to watch and speculate about, but Project Pendulum is also a beautiful story about brotherly love and the special bond between twins.

Though the stories in Times Three are each about time travel, they’re completely different in tone and each offers something unique to the theme. This is a must-read for Silverberg fans, and for anyone who dreams of traveling through time.

Times Three — (2011) Publisher: In Times Three, Science Fiction Grand Master Robert Silverberg presents a trio of ingenious variations on one of science fiction’s most durable themes: time travel. These three novels, all of them prime Silverberg, approach that subject from a dizzying variety of perspectives. The result is a remarkable display of ingenuity, erudition, and sheer narrative power. In Hawksbill Station, political prisoners from the 21st century are sent on a one-way journey to the late Cambrian era a half billion years in the past. Their struggle to survive the privations of this bleak, almost lifeless world forms the centerpiece of a deeply affecting account of loss, exile, and repression. Up the Line, by contrast, is a comic/erotic romp featuring Judson Daniel Elliott III, Time Courier and tour guide to the wonders of the past. While on a routine assignment in ancient Byzantium, Jud unexpectedly encounters his true Heart’s Desire, and his well-ordered life slides inexorably into chaos. In Project Pendulum, identical twins Eric and Sean Gabrielson become the primary participants in the very first experiment in time travel. From a fixed point in time, they move by equidistant, steadily increasing arcs toward both the remote past and the unimaginable future. Their alternating viewpoints constitute a dazzling portrait of the wonders and terrors of a constantly evolving universe. Filled with moments of intimacy, epic grandeur, and mind-bending temporal paradox, these novels provide entertainment and intellectual excitement on virtually every page, offering further proof, if any were needed, of Robert Silverberg’s genuine and enduring importance.


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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