Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
James Griffin-Mars has an unusual job. He’s a dumpster diver in time. He jumps back in time to just before a recorded disaster, takes out energy devices, technology, art work, or other objects that are deemed important in the depressed, toxic future. Most of humanity has left Earth and only the poorest remain in an environmentally devastated world. The large corporations run the governments throughout the solar system. Only the ChronoCom is self-governed, although the different businesses can request and pay for items from the past.
The Chronmen cannot change the incident in the past. James jumps back to retrieve the original version of the Time Laws, but he doesn’t save the Mother of Time or stop her space ship from being destroyed. He can jump into a nuclear power plant at the last moments before meltdown, steal an engine, and leave without changing anything else happening. Occasionally someone dies who didn’t the first time, or lives who died the first time, but ChronoCom watches that to make sure time goes back to its proper timeline.
James is a Tier 1 Chronman, the level that gets the most dangerous cases. He is one of the last two people from his graduating class still alive. The job is dangerous and the stress is even worse. Suicide kills as often as on the job accidents. James is an alcoholic. He barely remembers to take his time recovery medicine as often as he should. Then he is sent back to retrieve some highly technical, unique technology from an exploding ocean lab. He is able to steal everything within a very tight timeline. He also brings back one extra bit of technology that can change everything in his time.
Wesley Chu has pulled together a cool idea into an intriguing novel. The writing is slightly uneven early in the book, but by the end I was completely pulled into the story. Then I discovered that Time Salvager, which was released within the last couple weeks, is only the beginning. There’s a sequel (or more than one??). Even though I had seen an interview with Chu, I missed that bit of information. And it’s very frustrating. That’s what happens when I don’t put a new book on Mt. Bookpile to wait for me to read the other books I bought first. Although Time Salvager ends well enough, there’s still too many loose ends and pieces to be resolved.
Chu’s vision of the future is bleak in Time Salvager. The blue oceans we know now are brown sludge. Very few actual cities exist in the world. Earth is a planet to avoid. Those outside the po.pulated cities live a life of scavadging and hardship. There is no electricity, no energy, little useable land, no medical help, or any of the conveniences we have now. Mankind is spiralling down. A natural apocalypse has struck Earth.
Despite a dreary Earth, intelligence, compassion, and heroism can still be found. Perhaps there’s still hope in Time Salvager.