17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Gordon Dickson's "Time Storm", first published in 1977, is an excellent post-apocalyptic novel concerning the catastrophic after effects caused by on-going time storms (or time lines that appear as, and are called in the book, `mistwalls') that continually sweep across sections of the Earth, as well as throughout the universe. As a time storm passes, a large swath of land becomes forever changed in time. A side effect is that for most of the population these time sweeps are deadly.
Luckily (or you would have no story), a small percentage of the population (including a few animals) seem immuned to the deadly effects of the time storms. The three main characters; the protagonist (Marc Despard), a young teenage girl (known as `Girl'), and a leopard (called Sunday), are all richly defined. Those who have read "Wolf and Iron", another good post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel by Dickson (published thirteen years after "Time Storm"), may see a pattern here (a leopard instead of a wolf, the protagonist searching for his ex-wife instead of his brother, and a young teenage girl whose personality is remarkably similar to the teenager in "Wolf and Iron"). However, that's where the similarities end.
This story begins with the three unlikely partners traveling across country where they cross area after area that has been changed in time. The people (and/or creatures) that have been `deposited' into the effected areas (if there are anyone at all), are either from some point in the future or from the past, but like any post-apocalyptic story, few are friendly. Even the survivors of his own time can be, and usually are, extremely dangerous. Unfortunately, a couple of the time-changed situations the group run into aren't treated very deeply by Dickson, thus leaving this reader a little confused and wondering why he mentioned them at all.
However, the heart of the story is the Despard's single-minded goal of understanding the time storms, and maybe even doing something about them. He is sort of a freak of nature, being almost a human calculator whose mind will not stop until a problem is solved. And because of this, he is also a man that has extreme difficulty with his emotions toward others, especially those he loves. And whether he likes it or not, his small, motly band soon grows to a community, and the cast of characters are handled quite well. These are not stilted, cardboard characters by any means. Dickson did a wonderful job creating believable characters.
Dickson also does a masterful job involving the reader in Despard's attempts to expand his mind and search out the patterns of the time storms so he may understand them. This becomes almost mystical in nature and leads him to reach out to the stars and beyond. I found this particularly fascinating and was quickly drawn into this strange world of the mind, space, and time. There is also the standard (but interesting) sub-plot concerning the "Empress" who wants to control what little is left of the world. And ever present is Depard's inner conflict with people, any people, especially the `Girl', creating and heightening the tension for the reader.
"Time Storm" is one of my favorite reads in this sub-genre (actually two sub-genres; time and post-apocalyptic). If you like either of these sub-genres, I think you will really enjoy "Time Storm". I consider it a "page-turner". Between 1 and 10, I give it a solid 8.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2000
maybe THE best, though I can't claim to have read them all. This book was my introduction to Gordon Dickson, who has been one of my favorite SF authors ever since. This is a deeply plotted story that develops with the characters. The scope begins at a simple, personal level and builds to galactic proportions. The narrator/main character is a gruff, usually stoic individual (like other Dickson main characters), but his emotions nevertheless come out reluctantly in the telling. I reread it every couple of years and it always seems new. Well worth the time.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2005
I found this 70's science fiction tale among the crowded stacks of of my favorite used book store. It's theme of mass disappearance of humans due to a disruptions of time interesting, so I grabbed it thinking it would be nice light reading. Well, it's far from light. Here Dickson takes us on a 70's head trip of physics and philosophy. Ther first half of the book is a strong Post Apocalytic tale of a man, a teenage girl and a leopard traveling through a broken, disjointed land where Time Storms have switched large chucks or land with land of the past and the future, and where traveling Mistwalls threaten to displace the travelers themselves. The second part of the book is hard science fiction where the main character battles the very physical forces of nature which are causing these problems. In the end this book is a tale of love, and finding what's inside a person by stepping out of their own body, and their comfort zones and looking at things in a way one would never conceived. Beware of some weird 70's new-age corniness, but enjoy.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2010
I'm trying to decide whether my dislike for this book is simply because, ironically, the main character did not stand the test of time.
Our protagonist, Marc Despard, is one of a relative handful of survivors after Earth is ravaged by a "time storm" - Marc's coined phrase. Literally, the planet is divided by walls of mist into different periods from the past, present, and presumable future. Roads end abruptly where the time storm has passed through, and inhuman creatures roam in their own pockets of time. Now Marc must lead his growing clan of survivors to - where? Or when?
The premise was enough to lure me in, and some of the alternate realities are really intriguing. However, the main drawback to the book is that it is narrated by Marc Despard in the first person, and, unfortunately, I hated Marc Despard.
Marc's personal journey leads him to realize he is not like "normal" people in many ways. He has ultra-honed observational skills, particularly in pattern recognition, but no empathy or emotional connections. He withdraws from his surroundings for days, weeks, or years, to stuggle with his issues. By today's standards, he probably would have a diagnosis somewhere in the ASD range.
He is also arrogant, abrasive, and repetitive, especially when talking about how right he is all the time. It is just that much more annoying having it told in the first person.
The other big downside to the book for me was the overuse of hyperbole, mainly in describing Marc's journeys through the time/space continuum. Not only is every experience "indescribable" but it is darker / blacker / lonlier / brighter / more exhilarating than has ever been known. It just seems that a lot of space was used to describe why what Marc was seeing was indescribable.
Maybe Marc's mannerisms were more acceptable in the angry 1970s, but I kept thinking to myself, if I heard this blowhard telling this story in person, I'd find literally any reason to walk away from him.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2007
Time Storm (1977) is a standalone SF novel. The world is divided into a patchwork of different times by the time storm. Moving mistwalls contain time-change lines that shift the landscape behind them into the past or future. Stationary mistwalls separate adjacent zones of differing times.
In this novel, Marc Despard is overrun by a moving mistwall and doesn't know what hit him. At first, he thinks that he has had another heart attack, but gradually he learns the true cause of his confusion and overwhelming emotions. He finds a squirrel felled by the same time-change and picks it up. The creature seems to imprint on him and follows him around as he explores the area. He finally loses contact with it in his ramblings.
As Marc is walking through the woods south of the Twin Cities area, he stumbles over a young black male leopard, who reacts in the same manner as the squirrel. Marc names the leopard Sunday and it follows him thereafter. Later Marc and Sunday run into the girl and she reacts to Sunday much like the leopard behaves toward Marc. The girl doesn't talk, so Marc doesn't know her name.
Marc is obsessed with the time-change lines. He finally decides to check the other side of a pair of stationary lines that have apparently collided with each other. He firmly orders Sunday and the girl to stay on their side of the line and then enters it himself.
Marc experiences the same kind of overwhelming emotional reactions within the mistwall as he had experienced previously, but this time his reactions seem to be less powerful. On the other side of the line is a pack of dogs and the remains of a house. At first, the owner of the house -- Marie -- threatens him with a rifle and the dogs, so Marc tries to reason with her.
Marie and Wendy -- her daughter -- have been waiting for her husband to return from the nearby town, but Marie decides to accompany Marc when he moves on. Heading to the nearby town, they run into Tek and his gang. After Marc and the dogs outmaneuver them, Tek and the others fade back into the woods and disappear.
Later, Marc encounters a large concrete building on the other side of another mistwall. The facility is a military testing center with only one inhabitant: Bill Gault. After discussing the situation, Bill asks to join Marc and they stock up on equipment and weapons, then return across the time-change line.
Marc and Bill continue crossing mistwalls looking for someone from a future society who can help them understand and alleviate the time storm. Finally, they find an area with future buildings and encounter an alien -- Porniarsk Prime Three -- who is an avatar of the original Porniarsk. Although Porniarsk has better instruments that Marc and Bill, he is himself only studying the time storm. They must find someone from the far future to provide them with any assistance.
Eventually, Marc becomes the center of a community studying the time storm. Porniarsk has been using his equipment to extrapolate the time storm patterns to the far future. Then Paula and her army show up to conquer his town.
In this story, Marc has internal conflicts from his childhood. Because of his dysfunctional family, he believes that everyone is self-involved, only appearing to love other people out of self-interest. Unfortunately, he keeps forgetting his role and lets his old habits of expressing love get into his relationships.
A major element in this story is the series of epiphanies that Marc experiences in his relationships with others. At first Marc is obsessed with finding his ex-wife and resuming their relationships. Then he has to deal with the girl and Sunday leaving the group after Marie and Wendy join them. Later, he rethinks his relationship with the Old Man. After each epiphany, Marc expands his worldview and open himself more to others.
This story is built around Marc's talent for finding patterns in seemingly random events. Naturally, his paranormal genius is the key to solving the underlying problem. In many respects, this talent is much the same as the intuitive abilities of Donal Graeme in the Dorsai series.
Highly recommended for Dickson fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of abnormal events, unusual talents, and fractured relationships.
-Arthur W. Jordin
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2014
As far as time travel novels go, and this reviewer has had more than his fair share in this type of novels, Gordon R. Dickson’s concept is a quite original one. Time storms sweep planet Earth, leaving time patches here and there, as well as a few scattered survivors.
In fact, the concept is so good, that I wish we could somehow see interpretations of it by Roger Zelazny or John Crowley or Jack Vance or China Miéville. I am not implying that Gordon R. Dickson is somehow a lesser writer than the above, but I do believe he could have handled his original idea better.
The novel starts well, with an amazing cast of characters including a catatonic girl, a leopard and a future creature with the unbelievable name of Porniarsk Prime Three. The writer even takes the trouble to explore his main hero’s inner world, doing a fairly decent job.
However, the novel somehow seems to disintegrate past its middle point, with the introduction of an antagonistic female character filling in for villain, in a Stephen King Stand-ish way, followed by a trip to the far future, where things become too metaphysical and too improbable.
Time Storm will not probably take you by a storm, but is is still worth reading. 3 stars.
on October 23, 2013
First of all, there's going to be spoilers in this review; it's difficult to proceed otherwise since I'm put in the difficult situation of liking a concept more than how it was written at certain points.
For me the first 150 pages were an excellent roll in the survivalist-adventure story hay; here Gordon Dickson seems to have the talent for introducing colorful characters and tossing at them threats from both future and past. He also has the unsettling introspective movements within Marc Despard (similar to what I've come to expect from Dickson's "Other" character), but nothing too heavy to interfere with the forward motion.
After this however, Dickson seems to spin his wheels in a couple of areas; he makes the Time Storm no longer a threat and uses tons of exposition so that you as the reader are no longer allowed to have interesting adventures on the other side of the mistwalls. Secondly the main character goes into complete douchebag mode and does absolutely nothing for a two year period while the other characters drag his sorry ass. Why? Because Sunday the Leopard is killed due to the cries of an experimental ape-creature. Rather than putting the blame where the blame is due, Marc essentially has this middle-aged white guy self-guilt fest which is only resolved by getting EMO with the ape-creature. Thirdly many of the interesting characters and concepts in the first act just kind of fizzle in the wake of Dickson's over-emphasis on Zen crap and the quasi-science of the Time Storm studies. Why does Tek suddenly decide to betray the group? What is the girl's backstory and reason for being silent and shellshocked (never revealed)? What is the deal with the probes from the other side of the mistwall and the cities with laser defenses? What happened with Bill--he was a scientist of sorts and competent team member but was never used on later missions? And above all, where did Swanee and all the people who disappeared from Earth, go?
Yes, Dickson does make a recovery from his lagging areas by introducing an Empress character and making forays to the future, which ultimately gets the story moving again and provides a (somewhat) satisfactory ending. All in all though, I got the sense that this story was similar to Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series; that the author had a pre-determined flight path which was partially accomplished, but that the book would honestly need a reboot to make the most out of what was presented.
Dickson's idea that the patterns seen by one man would lead to an eventual love and acceptance aren't terrible, but I felt that there needed to be less New Age heavy-handedness and more care in how the story was written. It's telling that much of the disjointedness had nothing to do with characters or events being separated by the Timestorm itself, but were because the author glossed over them too fast. The Final Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 Stars.
on April 17, 2012
This is a book that would have been great if the author had kept up the momentum of the first half or so of the story. Calling it a page turner is an understatement for the first half. There is action and mystery and a feeling of wonder kinda like when you watched the first couple seasons of LOST for the first time.
Then, it all falls apart into some kind of Trippy metaphysical version of an E.E. Smith space battle. The interconnection of humanity amongst itself and the universe has been a theme that pops up often in Dickson novels but he really runs with it in this one. It's like listening to someone who has just come down off of acid try to describe his trip to someone, getting more and more intense and urgent as the other person just fails to comprehend.
Then, it comes back for a little while and there is some engaging activity in the novel and then.... it slams into the acid trip again full friggin force as stuff is just thrown in out of left field with no other explanation than it just is cause the universe is our mind and our mind is the universe etc.
He wraps it up with a decent enough last couple paragraphs considering the head spinning ride up till that last page or two.
It's unfortunate because I really enjoyed the first part of the book.
on January 14, 2013
Though best known for the Childe Cycle (a.k.a. the Dorsai novels), Dickson wrote a range of sf and fantasy that merits a look for fans of those genres. Dickson's reputation is something of a poor man's Poul Anderson, and the two share a lot of parallels--a cultured masculinity of prose style, Scandinavian-North American cultural background, a hard-sf attitude that the universe is an indifferent place combined with an affirmation of human camaraderie inside a campfire's circle of warmth and light. If you're an Anderson fan who hasn't read Dickson, check him out.
Specific to Time Storm, Dickson does a great job of increasing the novel's scope. We begin with a survival adventure, where a handful of people rebuild civilization. Thereafter, we veer into deep philosophy and galactic scale-adventure. The novel loses its focus in the later parts, but the tension built up in the beginning is enough to propel the reader to the final page.
on February 15, 2014
I found this book a long time ago, and have considered it one of my favorite 'time travel' books as it is so different in comparison to other time travel books. I loaned out the book and never got it back, and thankfully found it on Amazon.com.
I hope you like it as much as I do.