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Timescape Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 1992

104 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Suspense builds in this novel about scientists, physics, time travel, and saving the Earth. It's 1998, and a physicist in Cambridge, England, attempts to send a message backward in time. Earth is falling apart, and a government faction supports the project in hopes of diverting or avoiding the environmental disasters beginning to tear at the edges of civilization. It's 1962, and a physicist in California struggles with his new life on the West Coast, office politics, and the irregularities of data that plague his experiments. The story's perspective toggles between time lines, physicists, and their communities. Timescape presents the subculture and world of scientists in microcosm: the lab, the loves, the grappling for grants, the pressures from university and government, the rewards and trials of relationships with spouses, the pressures of the scientific race, and the thrill of discovery.

Timescape merits the tag "hard science fiction"; it tells the story of scientists, and readers can't help but learn something about tachyons and physics while reading it. Yet much of the story is about humanity: the men John Renfrew and Gordon Bernstein and their relationships--between husband and wife, lover and lover, English working class and upper class, professor and student, and academician and colleagues.

Winner of the Nebula Award in 1980 and the John W. Clark Award in 1981, Timescape offers readers a great yarn, in terms of both humanity and science.

From the Back Cover

1998. Earth is falling apart, on the brink of ecological disaster. But in England a tachyon scientist is attempting to contact the past, to somehow warn them of the misery and death their actions and experiments have visited upon a ravaged planet.

1962. JFK is still president, rock 'n' roll is king, and the Vietnam War hardly merits front-page news. A young assistant researcher at a California university, Gordon Bernstein, notices strange patterns of interference in a lab experiment. Against all odds, facing ridicule and opposition, Bernstein begins to uncover the incredible truth... a truth that will change his life and alter history... the truth behind time itself.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (August 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553297090
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553297096
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.3 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #391,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gregory Benford, author of top-selling novels, including Jupiter Project, Artifact, Against Infinity, Eater, and Timescape, is that unusual creative combination of scientist scholar and talented artist; his stories capture readers - hearts and minds - with imaginative leaps into the future of science and of us.

A University of California faculty member since 1971, Benford has conducted research in plasma turbulence theory and experiment, and in astrophysics. His published scientific articles include well over a hundred papers in fields of physics from condensed matter, particle physics, plasmas and mathematical physics, and several in biological conservation.

Often called hard science fiction, Benford's stories take physics into inspired realms. What would happen if cryonics worked and people, frozen, were awoken 50 years in the future? What might we encounter in other dimensions? How about sending messages across time? And finding aliens in our midst? The questions that physics and scientists ask, Benford's imagination explores.
With the re-release of some of his earlier works and the new release of current stories and novels, Benford takes the lead in creating science fiction that intrigues and amuses us while also pushing us to think.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 54 people found the following review helpful By V. Hokstad on January 15, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A lot of the reviewers of this book obviously read it not expecting hard SF. Another big chunk did not expect character developments approaching what one would expect from non-SF.

This book is full of details on the science that are highly believable, and as exact as feasible without messing up the plot. That's the point of hard SF, and it succeeds marvellously. For those of the reviewers that expected "mainstream" SF or a non-SF fiction it is a major distraction.

It also spends a lot of time on character development, which is unusual for hard-SF, and many reviewers seem to have expected traditional hard-SF.

On the other hand if you do love hard SF but find most hard SF to have two dimensional characters, this is a book for you.

The book juxtaposes 1963 and 1998. In '63 America had survived the missile crisis, and there appeared to be progress all around - the test ban treaty was being signed, the economy was booming, and the centers of education in California were seeing a massive growth, with a bustling research establishment. Kennedy was pushing the space race. In '63, Gordon (one of the main characters) were assistant professor, had a sexy,sexually liberated girlfriend and was frantically working on a problem that could make his career. It was all good.

The books 1998 is a world in crisis, mostly described via the impacts it has on the main characters - a research team at Cambridge and the rather unsympathetic Mr Peterson - responsible though tough at work, but an chronic womanizer outside of it. The ecology is badly messed up, and we get to see it not just in terms of headlines, as you might in more typical hard SF (i.e. food production is down, fish is dying off, blah. blah.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Adelina Cavanagh on March 14, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
but a lot of people expected it to be and thus the wildly conflicting reviews posted by customers. The sci-fi in this book is really light and anyone who has even a modicum of interest/knowledge of the genre will understand the basic concepts (tachyons, time travel, etc.). The novel is really about PEOPLE, not the sci-fi, and how they deal with implications of time-travel, ecological disaster, and competition for resources. The main characters are likable and somewhat tragic, people muddling through their careers, fumbling toward meaning in their lives amidst chaos around them. Though the novel is dated (having been published in 1980), it still has relevant topics for our time. I would suggest reading this book if you are interested in the human side of sci-fi, but personally, I thought the time-travel aspect was well done and not over the top, with just enough mystery there to make it real. It reminded me somewhat of The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov in which communication between a whole other dimension and humans was tricky at best.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Claude Avary on January 17, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A Nebula winner, and one of a handful of hard SF books considered a classic. I`ll admit that hard SF doesn't gel well with my personal reading tastes with its emphasis on scientific explanation and frequently stock characters; however, I have enjoyed some immensely, such as _The Forge of God_, and this novel only proves that Hard SF CAN be both technically fascinating and be superby piece of literature and characterization as well.
Initially, Timescape caught my attention with its central premise of a dying future (well, 1998, the future when the book was written) finding a way through tachyon messages of contacting the past (1962). But the book does tend to tread water for a long time, and some of the character conflicts get a bit tiresome. But in the finale, which contains a stunning surprise, the strange science at last coalesces into a emotionally stirring vision of time as a landscape. It was at this moment that I saw the book itself become a whole-and an admirable whole. As the thoughtful afterward points out, the book tackles many different types of stories, not all of which will appeal to every reader. Give it shot, even if Hard SF insn't your thing.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Michael Innes on August 27, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book many years ago and loved it and I have been recommending it to others and buying copies for them in the time since. I had a need to get a replacement copy for myself and came to Amazon for that purpose. I was surprised to see the distribution of ratings of reviewers so spread across the entire range and so I read a few. It is amazing just how many people can fail to grasp the point of a book such as this. Is there any formula which says that a science fiction book has to depict action? This book unveils the process of scientific discovery, showing how a scientist has to have enthusiasm and talent but also dogged persistence, a capacity to ignore criticism and even to remain deviant. Benford describes how an individual unravels a problem like a fictional detective unveils a murder mystery. The book shows also the ambiguous nature of institutional support for scientific investigation, with apparently altruistic characters being quite ruthless and egoistic. This story does indeed develop characters who have flaws, scientists who have lives outside of their scientific endeavours which can detract from their focus. But their lives revolve around solving a problem and how many of us have had the experience of meeting obstacles in thinking, of emotional intrusions, which nevertheless can be removed by the passage of time and by the action of unconscious processes of thought. How many of us are without flaws and have difficulties in our interpersonal relationships? I thought that was something that we were meant to enjoy in fiction. The science is brilliant, the notion of parallel universes seems to solve many of the paradoxes of time travel and the social psychology of scientific discovery is better depicted than it is in the professional treatises on the topic.Read more ›
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