Tuesday, November 8, 2011
The Revisionists--Thomas Mullen
It is a positive thrill to be able to review a book as interesting and profound as Mr. Mullen's The Revisionists. Time travel, or its near facsimile must be this season's zeitgeist, because both The Revisionists and The Map of Time have it as a central core.
For long-time fans of science fiction, Mr. Mullen doesn't really pull out any new stops in his story as far as the SF elements go. If you take an pound or so of Leiber's Change Wars and mix liberally with the paranoia/schizophrenic world you find in Philip K. Dick, you'll have a good sense of the novel. Oh, and add in a little C. L. Moore as in "Vintage Season."
Our hero--known to us as Troy--travels in time to preserve the Perfect Present in which he lives. His job is to preserve the disasters of the past that have ultimately led to the wonders of the future. Right now he watches over the series of events leading up to The Great Conflagration--the event immediately prior to the establishment of the perfect world in which he lives. His previous stint was preserving the integrity of the holocaust.
Battling and besieging him all around are the hags who have plotted to destroy that future society in which everything is so perfect. Truth to tell--the future perfect is quite Orwellian and Troy is trying to understand his place in events and what it means to be an actor in them. The questions he asks are germane to each of us as we try to understand how our single action compile into history.
In addition, Troy is really the name of the person in the near future whose identity he assumes to watch over the Great Conflagration. His real story and Troy's story are very, very similar and so we get the mind-bending rush of Philip K. Dick as we follow the author through the story and try to puzzle out what reality is.
The story is great, the characters well-drawn, but more importantly, as fun as the roller coaster ride is, Mr. Mullen uses it to ask serious and important questions and as in any great work of literature, he doesn't always provide answers nor even good clues as to what the answers might be.
This book is a treat for both SF aficionados and connoisseurs of fine, literary writing. Put this book on your reading lists--you'll be glad you did.