Wesley Chu is having a moment. Earlier this year, he wrapped up his first trilogy, The Lives of Tao. He’s launching a new spinoff next spring. And, most importantly for those of you who like your SF big and flashy, his latest novel, Time Salvager (out tomorrow) has been optioned for film adaptation by director Michael Bay. As much as geeks might grumble about the Transformers films, this could be a very good thing: Chu’s novel is perfect material for a filmmaker like Bay, who has proven he has a love for big SF-nal ideas. Here’s why.
The leading character in Time Salvager does what the title suggests: James Griffin is a Chronoman, jumping back and forth in time to salvage artifacts from the past to keep the lights on for a diminished humanity living in the future. Earth is wrecked, and every year, living gets a little harder for the survivors. Griffin is the perfect sort of character for Bay to play with: he’s tough—a former convict, and the everything is against him, from authorities in his own world, to the circumstances of the pickle he finds himself in: after he brings scientist Elsie Kim into the future with him—breaking the most important rule of his profession—he must go on the run to escape his former employers and, maybe, save humanity.
If there’s one thing Bay excels at, it’s creating memorable bad guys. Tough, burley men, loaded down with guns and sunglasses, and shadowy, unscrupulous leaders who will stand at nothing to keep troublemakers in line. Chu’s got this in the form of the ChronoCom, the autocratic organization responsible for salvaging the past for spare parts. When Griffin and Kim go on the run, the corporation sends everything they can after them, and it’s a fantastic chase.
Bay’s films are enormous. His visuals rush over cities, across major landmarks, and around planet Earth. Chu’s novel does the same thing, but across time: Griffin flashes from a future starship, to Nazi Germany, to a scientific facility moments away from an explosion. Visually, Bay’s movies can be like an eager puppy who can’t get out of his own way, but they look spectacular, with frantic action and dynamic colors and angles, a perfect fit for Chu’s thrill-a-minute style.
This is a book geared for the big screen: it efficiently lays out the characters and their professions, introduces the antagonists, and then kicks the story into high gear in fairly short order, and accelerates from there. It’s a dead run of high octane time travel, but it doesn’t skimp on the meaty big ideas: the ethics of Griffin’s job, and the possibly world-changing consequences of his meddling with time.
Basically, Time Salvager is a blockbuster in book form: as you speed through it, you’ll practically be able to see the big-budget action sequences unfolding. Michael Bay’s movies showcase his eye for capturing frenetic, high-concept set-pieces, and Chu’s book has them to spare. I really hope this one makes it through the Hollywood machine. It would be a helluva ride.