Two-time Hugo-winner Allen Steele wraps his time-traveling novel Chronospace
around a pair of pretty interesting ideas: that UFOs are terrestrial in origin, but simply traveling to us from a different time; and that science fiction--and speculative nonfiction--can play a potent, and often unexpected, role in scientific progress.
One of Steele's two Hugos went to a 1997 novella published in Asimov's, "...Where Angels Fear to Tread," and that piece makes up the middle chapters of Chronospace, the story of operatives from the 24th-century Chronospace Research Centre who sneak into Nazi Germany and onto the Hindenburg in hopes of witnessing its fiery end firsthand. The only problem is, the famous zeppelin lands safely on that early summer evening in 1937, and the time travelers have to figure out what went wrong. Because, as they soon learn, their actions might have (have had? will have?) devastating consequences for the entire human race.
Steele has made good use of his already engaging novella, fleshing out what happened before, during, and after the original work, especially concerning present-day NASA scientist David Murphy, who--funny, that--has just been called to task by his superiors for writing a piece in Analog entitled "How to Travel Through Time (And Not Get Caught)." With well-researched detail concerning the Hindenburg and convincingly fabricated logistics surrounding wormhole-powered time travel, Chronospace further proves Steele's mastery of intelligent, readable hard SF. --Paul Hughes
From Publishers Weekly
Clearly written to please his fans and the editors of the science fiction magazines he frequently publishes in, this alternate-world novel by Steele (Oceanspace) panders (by excessive namedropping), without producing stellar results. In the 1998 of our world, David Zachary Murphy, a physicist with NASA who longs to be a professional writer of speculative fiction and see his name featured on SF magazine covers, writes a nonfiction article about the possibility that UFOs are time-travel machines. This story achieves every writer's dream it changes the future of the world. Especially the future for Franc and Lea, time travelers from the year 2314. When Franc and Lea go back to 1937 to observe the crash of the Hindenberg, their participation in the disaster somehow destroys their world and its time line. They are bounced into an alternate time line, in which Murphy and his postulations are a nexus. Franc and Lea's heavy-handed attempts to fix things (including impersonating one of Murphy's idols, real-life SF writer Gregory Benford) only make the situation worse. Meanwhile, mysterious "angels" are observing mankind, using their own extraterrestrial powers to try to stop the paradoxes caused by humanity's use of time travel before humans can infest the galaxy with their follies. Derivative and cloying, this isn't up to the level of Steele's short stories, which do grace the pages of many of the magazines he reverentially mentions throughout this novel.
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