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Metareview: Time Future by Maxine McArthur
(Warner Aspect, US$7.00, 446 pages, paperback; June 2001; ISBN 0-446-60963-3.)

Rating: "A-/B+": a richly-imagined SF mystery/space opera, and an impressive debut.

"Commander Maria Halley of the deep space station Jocasta is tired--tired of struggling to communicate with the alien ambassadors of the Four Worlds; tired of her presence being demanded by the Seouras, who are blockading Jocasta; tired of the increasing system failures that mean she can't even take a hot shower..."
-- Roberta Johnson, Booklist (Amazon)

New author McArthur is off to a fast start in this classy CJ Cherryh-style space opera, which opens in media res and never lets up --

"Look. You have to have been in a crash priority project to really see how well this author has captured the feel of the almost out of control situation. You jettison sleep, food is interesting, but not really necessary, you focus down to the latest disaster..."
-- Alan Montgomery, Amazon reader's review

Earth is a very junior member of the Confederacy of Allied Worlds, a David Brin-esque organization where the senior Four Races control the high-tech goodies and call the shots. Jocasta is a war-surplus Station in a ruined system, given to Earth as a political sop, but Station Commander Halley is making lemonade from this lemon -- until the mysterious Seouras blockade the station. And no one can figure out what this fleetload of well-armed and (literally) slimy aliens really wants...

There are some first-novel rough spots here, but the characters are exceptionally well-drawn, even minor ones -- here's Helen Sasaki, deputy Security chief: "She is tall, shy, brusque, tenacious and inventive..." And small, rich details abound -- Halley is speaking: "I once went for three years without seeing another human... It was very... stressful. You have to constantly think... There's no autopilot. You can't trust your common sense, because you have nothing in common with anyone else."

There are loose threads dangling at book's end, but a sequel, Time Past, is promised for next year. I'm looking forward to it.

Maxine McCarthur, an Australian, won the George Turner prize for Time Future. She has lived and worked in the Outback, New Guinea and Japan, as well as urban Australia -- near-perfect preparation for her tales of conflict and intrigue among an amazingly mismatched menagerie of sentients.


...and more reviews of Time Future

  • "It's easy to see why Maxine McArthur's impressive first novel, Time Future, won the 1999 George Turner Prize... [She] has a good eye for character, a sure hand for plotting, and an easy familiarity with her materials." -- Jonathan Strahan, Locus
  • "With Time Future you get a story heads above the competition... As the crisis reaches a head, tension stretches almost to the breaking point." -- Lisa DuMond, SF Site
  • "Exceptionally well-done... I found it a page-turner and a very good read" -- Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Amazon reader's review

Review by Peter D Tillman; More of Peter D Tillman's reviews can be found at: SF Site and Google "Peter D. Tillman" +review for many more!

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© Peter D Tillman 20 October 2001