Monday, June 23, 2014

The Time Patrol Series - by Poul Anderson

I just finished the Time Patrol series. I read it in order (though I think two of the stories were listed backwards) and in one go.

What I found was definitely out of date, but full of depth. Most of the stories featured Manse Everard and those around him. The stories range from ancient history to the present day, though rarely went into the future. Not surprising considering Anderson's background, but it tended to feature a lot of Germanic history.

The stories were a range of problems. Some were rescues, some were fixing unwanted changes in history, some were research. All featured the time patrol characters doing incredible things to keep history on track and to know what that is.

Now for each individual story:

Time Patrol - a fun romp in exploring time travel that gets things started.

Brave to be King - A Time Patrol agent goes missing. Finding him isn't too hard, but finding him at the right time proves a challenge. A very enlightening look at the danger of getting lost in time with a poignant ending.

Gibraltar Falls - This one takes place in pre-history and revolves around rescuing someone and just what happens when people break the rule. Very nice story with a nice twist to it.

The Only Game In Town - Mongols in the American Northwest. These masters of horse are on their way south and could rewrite all of history if they aren't stopped. Manse has to find a way to scare off the unscareable Mongols to keep history as it should be. A wonderful tale that really explored some uncharted territory.

Delenda Est - A routine trip to the past and return to the future reveals that history has been altered. Manse has to first find out when it changed and then how to put it back on track. A wonderful story that gets into just how much history can hinge on one event.

Ivory, Apes, and Peacocks - The Time Patrol has learned that there is going to be an attempt to change history in ancient Tyre and Manse is sent to stop it. Along the way he finds and unlikely recruit. A fun story with a bit of romance and some nice resolution for some of the characters.

The Sorrow of Odin the Goth - This was probably the best of all the stories. Ultimately it was sad. This is also one of the few to feature a time traveler other than Manse. Carl is a researcher tracing various versions of eastern Germanic legends, but he gets caught up in events and becomes part of them when he fathers a child and then is overprotective of his descendants. Manse comes into the story by interviewing Carl to find out what has happened and to figure out the best way to fix it.

Star of the Sea - Something has changed a minor point in history. No key events rest on it, but it is troubling. Manse and a partner, a woman familiar with the people, take to the past to track it down. In the process they create the very situation they uncovered. Manse must find a way to rectify his partner's interference. The search for the cause made this one intriguing.

The Year of the Ransom - So, what happens when a Time Patrol agent is tortured and reveals the secrets of his time machine to a Conquistador? Well, his niece gets kidnapped and only a well timed visit and business card save the day. This story started something that continues later and was very good.

The Shield of Time - This is not a single novel, but rather a collection of short stories.

  • The Stranger That is Within Thy Gates - An introductory scene.
  • Women and Power and Horses and War - In ancient Bactria the Time Patrol lays a trap for a group of meddlers. Manse is pretty much on his own with little support because having too many people would be too dangerous. His years of skill save the day in this fascinating story.
  • Before the Gods That Made the Gods - This is an interesting interlude with Wanda.
  • Beringia - Wanda is studying the natives in Beringia, the land bridge between Asian and Alaska, when a new group from Asia moves in long before they were expected. Wanda does as she is supposed to and reports it, but the other agent sent to study the newcomers ignores her and her people in favor of the group he wants to study. It is an interesting study of academics in the field. The result requires some other intervention and some sacrifice, but a nice story resolution.
  • Riddle Me This - This is a filler interlude with Manse having a conversation with another agent that really links to the previous story and portends the next.
  • Amazement of the World - When changes happen by chance, all centered around one man. Manse and Wanda have separate but parallel in the first part of this story and come back thinking they are successful only to find that there is still a problem. It annoyed me when they found out that both these altered futures revolved around one man why they didn't investigate his parentage and see if it was malicious interference or chance. The writing was as good as always, but the story didn't work for me.

Death and the Knight - The Templars are about to fall and an agent is captured. Manse must free him and hold history on track. A somewhat lackluster end to the series, especially after the disappointment of the previous story.

I would rate the series very highly, but it tapers off and doesn't finish well. A really good story is needed to finish it off, but alas, that is not to be.