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Time's Chariot    by Ben Jeapes order for
Time's Chariot
by Ben Jeapes
Order:  USA  Can
David Fickling Books, 2008 (2000)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Time's Chariot (published in the UK in 2000, entitled Winged Chariot) is a challenging read, an SF time travel mystery like no other I have experienced. The book-jacket's front-lapel speaks truly of 'more twists than a coiled spring', as within minutes one travels from one spot to another in a saga that covers all centuries and geographic locations.

The plot: an undercover investigation into the death of Commissioner Li Daiho, who supposedly died from a heart ailment that led to a plunge off of his residential Himalayan balcony. The setting and territories: lots of them, ranging from but not limited to Africa; Antarctica; Isfahan (circa 1029); the Spanish mainland; and the Port-Royal-des-Champs, France. Transport includes super vehicles that whisk travelers from place to place in minutes, including taxis described as: 'a hollow sphere with a transparent membrane and a padded bench all around its circular cabin'.

The place: in Home Time and the College created by Jean Morbern along with his tenets, known as Morbern's Code. To prevent his creation from dissolving, he willed the College as overseer so that billions of residents, along with tourists, are able to 'walk in the same streets and breathe the same air' as past individuals such as Shakespeare, Al-Nasir, Einstein, Kennedy, Genghis Khan, Beethoven, Galileo, and Dabrowski. The College is 'sparkling white like the land around it and perched like a miniature city overlooking the Ross Sea. A city, not an ecopolis; the College was made of old-fashioned steel and concrete and plastic, not land coral, and the outlines were straight and regular: the truncated pyramid that was the transference hall and a host of smaller shapes, like a child's collection of play bricks'. Morbern's Code was hatched to govern the ops of the College, and safeguard rights of bygoners.

The cast: Field Operative Ricardo Garron and his supervisor/partner Su Zo; Acting Commissioner Dr. Marje Orendal, also Head of Psychological Profiles at the College; her assistant Hossein Asaldra; Journeymen/Partners: Jontan Baiget and Sairi Killin; Phenuel Scott (wealthy with plans for evil deeds); Li Daiho (former Commissioner of Correspondents (presumed dead); Correspondents (the lowest rank for misfits, assigned to hundreds of years of interviews and reporting), Specifics, Bygoners, Patricians (at the top of the ladder - wealthy, and powerful in the Patricians Guild); Registers, Field Technicians, Security Technicians, and more.

Technology, vocabulary and nomenclature: projecting, transference, eidolons, agravs, and agrav harnesses - which allow leaps ten-twenty feet with one bound (and come in handy when in a mess of heavy undergrowth); field computers (imbedded into the forearm); gelfabric (automatically garbs the body designing and adjusting to uniforms or suitable garments); synjammer; transference; forcefield; hypersonic; plasma bolts; terawatts; and the symb fieldsuit from which sparks can be cast; chain of ecosystem link, as per some descriptors: 'Life was engaged in a constant, to-the-death battle with itself and yet was involved in an intricate balance, every organism depending minutely on every other'.

Further background: Rico and Su were crèche children, i.e. not born in Home Time. Rico was an orphan, raised by the College; demoted and on suspension twice so far for his outspokenness. But Acting Commissioner Marje knows a good PI when she meets one, so she assigns Rico to investigate Daiho's death. Rico's detective jaunts begin to implicate powerful people, further revealing that Home Time is in dire danger. Entwined in one story is a second - Jontan Baiget and Sairi Killin, chosen by Mr. Scott for a particular mission the two Journeymen soon realize is illegal; without their knowledge they are drugged one night, and each wonders, why lowly me?

Time's Chariot is a complex spiral of subterfuge and power play, threatening the future of the time-travel world and spanning 7,000 years of history. The storylines come together in the last pages, like leftover pieces of a puzzle. Be prepared for more than one sitting in a read you can sink your teeth into (so to speak).

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