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Time Travelers Never Die Hardcover – November 3, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
McDevitt (Seeker) avoids flashy action scenes in this tale of two friends using a time machine to take a grand tour of history. When Adrian Shel Shelbourne's physicist father disappears and leaves behind a time-travel device, Shel and his friend Dave Dryden, a language expert, search for Shel's father in Galileo's Italy, Selma during the civil rights marches and other famous times and places. Realizing that time resists paradoxes and history can't be changed, the two friends seize the opportunity to live enriching, truly humane lives from Thermopylae to a few minutes in the future. As the paradoxes begin to pile up and their luck in dodging some of history's villains runs out, McDevitt ingeniously handles a tricky denouement that will leave readers satisfied. (Nov.)
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When scientist Michael Shelburne vanishes, his son Adrian—Shel to his friends—suspects unusual circumstances but not that his father has discovered the secret of time travel. Figuring it out, however, Shel and friend David Dryden use Michael’s devices to find the missing man in a quest that takes them through Depression-era Philadelphia, Renaissance Italy, the bloody civil rights march at Selma, and the as-yet-unburned library of Alexandria’s collection of the classical Greek dramatists. Eventually they succeed, but Shel’s curiosity spurs him to travel into the future, where he discovers his impending death, and then to search for a way to avoid that fate. That search occupies the book’s latter half and becomes a masterpiece of storytelling and exploration of the paradoxes of time travel. In fact, the whole book ranks very highly in McDevitt’s quarter-century of work distinguished by high intelligence, fine world building, and superb characterization. --Roland Green
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The plot centers around Adrian Shelburne and David Dryden who cavort to their favorite places in history after Shel (Adrian's nickname) discovers his father created a time machine. Shel's father, Michael, has disappeared and leaves Shel a rather interesting electronic gadget with instructions to destroy it. Through curiosity, which almost gets Shel in trouble throughout the novel, he discovers the device allows one to travel through time and space. Shel and David go in search of Shel's father, visiting their favorite's places and times in history along the way. And that, mostly, is the entire plot. Almost.
The most compelling cliffhanger is the novel opens with Shel's funeral and then he suddenly returns to visit David after the funeral. Finding out what was going on with that scene concludes the book with an interesting twist, and alludes to the title of the book.
The drawback of this novel is often it seems the adventures of Shel and David are just filler and not all that interesting. I found myself bored through significant parts of the story. The ending was a good and dramatic twist, but getting there was not always so enjoyable.
Overall, I'd say I enjoyed the novel but it wasn't great. You won't miss anything if you skip this one.
This book has neither an exciting plot nor interesting characters; I was surprised and disappointed but I stuck it out and finished the book. It's almost as if he didn't really know what to do with his storyline and tried experimenting with several alternatives, none of which worked successfully; some sections were particularly painful and preachy.
McDevitt has written many really good science fiction novels all of which I have enjoyed, most of them many times. This one was really off on a tangent and did not ever really come together for me. I kept hoping the next chapter would display the writer I respect so highly, but it never came.
I would not be sorry if he put this series behind him and got back to what he does best. Do not buy this book expecting classic Jack McDevitt; it represents a departure from his usual style and fails as an experiment.
This is a good standalone adventure in the vein of Ancient Shores or Eternity Road, not either of the series he's more well known for.
Read it, it's worth your time. Just have the right expectations - it's a mystery in a world you recognize, with an element of SciFi that is currently beyond our reach (as far as we know).
And don't read any farther if you don't want spoilers.
I mean, these time machines come out of nowhere - no explanation for how they exist - characters are able to violate the rules of time (which McDevitt set up), characters pick up ancient languages in days/weeks, etc. But it's lightly entertaining and highly readable, as all of McDevitt's books are. No, you don't really feel that the characters are really visiting another time - there's no texture to the canvas, no real juicy details, no smells or sounds that would really make you say 'wow, he really captured this period in time.'
So, I just don't buy it. But ... I did 'buy' it and read it and felt like I'd eaten an attractive meal and was still famished at the end.
Most recent customer reviews
Jack McDevitt can make you feel like you are there as history is happening.