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All of an Instant Hardcover – November 2, 1999

3.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Richard Garfinkle's debut novel, Celestial Matters, won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel and earned its author two nominations for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Author--no surprise, because Celestial Matters is a terrific alternate history with appeal across nearly the entire imaginative-fiction spectrum, from hard SF to epic fantasy. Now Garfinkle returns to alternate history with a very different but equally idea-rich and even more ambitious second novel, All of an Instant.

Humans are trapped in time and space, cause and effect--until a brilliant scientist discovers the Instant, a paradoxical nonplace that is simultaneously all times and no time. Soon contending armies roam the Instant, stirring its waters as they struggle not only to conquer the world but also time itself. But every ripple in the Instant causes entire cultures and timelines to vanish. Even the first humans are threatened with destruction, though that would mean the end of humanity itself. Then Nir, War Chief of the first people, discovers an even greater threat. The waters of time, churned and changed by the ever-more-numerous armies and the ever-increasing time paradoxes, are solidifying--crystallizing into a shattered and toxic island that is spreading, threatening to freeze all time and end not only history but all life. --Cynthia Ward

From Publishers Weekly

Garfinkle's second novel (his debut, Celestial Matters, won the Compton Crook Award for best first novel) launches its talented author into territory utterly unlike his firstAinto the fourth dimension, the "ocean of time" itself. A man named Dhiritirashta is the first to build a suit that allows him to swim in the seas of time, known as the Instant. From there he can swim in the three spatial dimensions, as well as in a fourth spatial dimension corresponding to Earthly time. When changes are made in the past, they flow forward, changing the future, and this flowing substance is the water of time. By manipulating these waters, Dhiritirashta attempts to dominate all of human history, but his changes inadvertently create thousands of histories from which humans can leap into the Instant, all battling to control time. Long into this unending war, a mysterious island of cracked solidity develops in the sea of time, the menace bringing together Nir, born near humanity's beginning; Quillith?, a far-sighted woman from the end of human history; and Kookatchi, a slave created with a memory only a minute long. While at first the narrative may appear to be a simple fantasy plot cloaked in space-time physics, it develops a sophisticated consideration of the nature of consciousness, of the continuity of selfhood across a lifetime, and of ethnic conflict. Should one try to make the future the image of one's own past? Should Nir, Kookatchi, and Quillith? try to save the chaos of the Instant or destroy it by freezing it into a single history? Garfinkle explores both questions with stunning imagination, thrilling the reader with adventure, philosophy, and topological wonders. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (November 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312866178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312866174
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,185,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Mullarky on June 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book has got to be one of the most extraordinary and daring books I have ever read. Pretty much the entire story takes place in a dimension that can only be described using metaphores. At the start I had a tough time believing that Garfinkle could pull it off - but he did. I had a lot of fun just keeping up.
It's not for everyone, though. It takes a fair amount of attention, and the writing style is a bit dry. I'm not a big fan of dry prose, but as far as I was concerned the premise more than made up for that drawback. Also, the plot was a bit thin - more a vehicle to explore the length and breadth this metaphorical dimension then than a gripping nail-biting exercise in suspence, but it was engaging enough to be servicable.
I've spent some time pondering the book since I read it (a sign of a good book) and have spotted some inconsistencies. But that's half the fun, and it hasn't lowered my opinion of Garfinkle or the book.
So: 5+ stars for a fascinating and daring premise, but minus one for dry prose and a fairly thin plot.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was definitely a hard one to start. And seeing just how many pages of this you're going to have to decipher is a little daunting. But man, as the story continued to build and my understanding of the "Instant" grew, I became hooked. Overall: the book is definitely a unique read and takes a little commitment to really dive into. But by the end the book really comes together and (possibly a little biased) turns into a journey through time that you really could not have seen coming.
Disclaimer: Seriously, it's a weird read. No doubt about that. But for anyone into sci-fi reading or with an interest in the perception of time may end up really enjoying this one.
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By A Customer on April 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The idea of "time wars" is not a new one, but Garfinkle cannily sets the action in four dimensions, not three. The time warriors have "tails" -- their own bodies extending backward into the past -- and they use them! Mining technological treasures from an ever-changing future history is also a novel twist. This is a fun, fascinating read.
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Format: Paperback
I read about 16 SF&F books in the last year. All of an Instant was the best of the bunch. It is one of the most stimulating and remarkable stories I have ever read, and the most unusual time travel/alternate history story I have ever read in my life, bar none. Better than H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine?" I suppose it depends on your perspective, and it is a close decision despite the extreme difference between the two approaches of dealing with how movement in time might work and the literary style, but I would say, "Yes, better and more memorable than the classic." I spoke to the author at Chicon 2000 and told him I'd have recommended it as my first choice for the Hugo if I'd had my act together soon enough to submit a nomination. He said the book had received mixed reviews. People either loved it or hated it. It seems that some reviewers had a hard time wrapping their minds around the concept of how time travel takes place in the book and the unique application of normal English words used to describe it. It certainly took me many pages before the descriptions of many events related to the unique approach began to make sense. By half-way through the book I was able to put the concept-related images into a coherent logical framework, and that was where my appreciation for the book really zoomed into the stratosphere. I guess if you never get to that point, you wouldn't like it so much. But if you do get there, the whole of the book is so phenomenal you'll be very glad you took the trouble to put the pieces together. It's not a "light read" because of this aspect. No guarantees you'll get out of the book all that is there to be had, but I wholeheartedly recommend you give it a try, because if you are up to it you'll probably never forget it. It's worth the effort a hundred times over!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I first read this novel, it was somewhat confusing,however, after reading it a second time, it made better sense. The reason for the initel confusion is that since "All Of An Instant" is set in a fourth-dimensional realm, it is written in allegorical terms. Therefore, what was first confusing turns out to be interesting once the allegory is understood.That said, the allegoricle descriptions of the Instant are vivid and unique. For example, I've read other books about time travelers existing outside of time, but they didn't handle the theme as well as "All of an Instant." In conclusion, be prepaired to enter a realm like no other.
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Format: Paperback
One of the reviewers wrote, "you either love or or hate it" and unfortunately I'm in the latter category. I give it two stars for its ambitious concept, but otherwise it's a tortuous read.

It has no characters that you care about, a convoluted plot, and no real "science" -- which is why I call it a fantasy and not science fiction. The time metaphors are interesting, but completely illogical. How could an intelligent being (Kookatchi the Drum) function with only one minute of memory?

Aside from the provocative names of the various "Time Warrior" tribes there is no real alternative history (e.g. Consumerist Mercantile Hegemony, Czar Ivan's Grand Army of Time, Babylonian Timeless Infantry, Eternal Martyrs of Mount Athos, Byzantine Temporal Fusiliers, etc. ad infinitum)

Maybe I'm just too dense to "get" this book... trying to read it is too much work to be fun. I suppose I will have to read Garfinkle's other book, Celestial Matters, which appears to be much better from the reviews.
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