Timescape by Gregory Benford


Science Fiction

Timescape TimescapeGregory Benford; Spectra 1992WorldCatThis 1980 Nebula Award winning novel asks if a message could be sent back in time, what would it do to the present? Would a paradox be created? Would the message sent to prevent the destruction of the world actually be received and understood?

In 1998 the Earth is on the brink of ecological disaster. Long chain molecule chemicals have reacted with the environment destroying plantlife in the oceans. There seems to be no way to stop the spread or reverse the poisoning process. But a physicist in Cambridge, England, devises a way to send messages back in time to the early 1960’s. The hope is that those earlier physicists will receive their warning and take steps to prevent the problems created.

In 1962 a young physicist professor at the University of California La Jolla is getting strange noise in the middle of another experiment he and a graduate student are trying to set up. The student finally recognizes that the noise is falling into patterns resembling Morse code. Yet nothing is making sense.

The novel goes back and forth between 1998 and 1962 to 1963. In 1998 they are wary of setting up paradoxes. The scientists are sure they will not wake up one day and find everything has miraculously changed. Yet they need to stop the destruction of the planet. In 1962 to 1963, the physicist has to receive the message, decipher it, and then prove his theories. How could they be getting messages? Could they be from outer space? Is it spontaneous? What is happening?

This book is hard science fiction. There is a lot of science discussed, including tachyons (not yet postulated in 1962), new chemicals, long chain molecules, and other aspects of physics and chemistry. It is well researched and well written. The people involved are not dry scientists, but real people with lives that are affected by their work. It is an involving book, worth delving into.

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