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Book Note: John Taine, The Time Stream

I read this book about 11-Mar-2005. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1931. This note was last modified Thursday, 24-Mar-2005 23:20:01 PST.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


I'm reading a Dover three-in-one edition (with The Greatest Adventure and The Purple Saphire) that my parents gave me years ago. The jacket copy is amusing—it says that Taine (a pseudonym for mathematician Eric Temple Bell, incidentally) was "the foremost American science fiction novelist of the 1920's and 30's". (I suspect my father chose this partly because E.T. Bell was a mathematician.)

By my standards, the stories aren't science fiction at all; they're adventure romances, or fantastic adventures, or some such. Mostly the stories are about people confronted by things their science cannot comprehend, rather than about science leading people to greater comprehension of the universe or changing their lives or anything.

And as for being the foremost American SF author of the 1920s and 1930s, Doc Smith has to hold that honor.

The jacket copy says this is his best work, but I remember it as my least favorite of the ones I've read.

Over the last few years I've been noting authors I've read who were active contemporaneously that I hadn't previously considered in any kind of association—Dorothy L. Sayers and Edward E. Smith being the pairing that really got my attention. Well, John Taine fits right in there. He started publishing 4 years before Smith and continued publishing until Smith had written essentially all of his most famous works.

This one is of course time-related. It postulates a circular time-stream, and people from a more real world in the past coming forward to visit this one, and lots of speculation about good and bad social and foreign policy. I feel like it's not fully consistent, and there are inconvenient bodies lying around (unconscious) while people are elsewhere that don't relate properly to who the people are, and generally a lack of rigor. Not one of my favorites, though they say it's regarded as one of his best. Not by me.

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David Dyer-Bennet