Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Threshold Of Eternity: Conclusion

This post, copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, is a sequel to Poul Anderson Update, also on Poul Anderson Appreciation:

OK. I have struggled to the end of John Brunner's Threshold Of Eternity (New York, 1959). I now think that this work is a text book example of how not to write about time travel. Both the narrative and the dialogue present a series of statements that are at at best incomprehensible and at worst incoherent with an apparent assumption that all such statements are clear and unproblematic for the reader.

For example:

"'Assume that the universe has a strong tendency to remain unified. Our original researches into four-dimensional existence suggested that probability. Then my going-double might have been firmly under the impression that he had remained in his own present and was giving information to the [another character] of his own present. However, if that information had been acted upon, it would have ironed out one of the distinctions between the two time-streams. Follow me?'

"'I do indeed...'" (p. 118)

Do you?

I was going to check how Brunner described his characters visiting a historical period. Not as well as Anderson. Brunner's characters dip in and out of the seventeenth century and quickly return to their preferred environment of spaceship interiors. Anderson often evokes the feel of an era by listing the sights, sounds and smells encountered by a time traveler on entering an ancient city. Brunner approaches this in just one paragraph about The Hague:

"Passing men laden with goods, men selling fresh water from barrels, itinerant vendors of needles, distinguished citizens with attendants, rough artisans, slatternly women, they were predominantly conscious of one thing - a stink which was almost nauseating...from upper story windows maidservants were casually tossing night slops into the streets, horses padded through the muddy pools leaving the inevitable signs of their passage..." (p. 85)

But we need far more than this to give us any sense of people, including visiting time travelers, living in that period.

Also, as I suspected, the men of different epochs fighting the space-time war on planets of different cultures exist only in the blurb and not in the text.

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