Time Salvager: a fast-paced time travel adventure from Wesley Chu, the John W. Campbell award-winning author of The Lives of Tao.
In a future when Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humanity has spread into the outer solar system to survive, the tightly controlled use of time travel holds the key maintaining a fragile existence among the other planets and their moons. James Griffin-Mars is a chronman--a convicted criminal recruited for his unique psychological makeup to undertake the most dangerous job there is: missions into Earth's past to recover resources and treasure without altering the timeline. Most chronmen never reach old age, and James is reaching his breaking point.
On a final mission that is to secure his retirement, James meets an intriguing woman from a previous century, scientist Elise Kim, who is fated to die during the destruction of an oceanic rig. Against his training and his common sense, James brings her back to the future with him, saving her life, but turning them both into fugitives. Remaining free means losing themselves in the wild and poisonous wastes of Earth, and discovering what hope may yet remain for humanity's home world.
About the Author
Wesley Chu is the winner of the 2015 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. His debut novel, The Lives of Tao, earned him a Young Adult Library Services Association Alex Award and a Science Fiction Goodreads Choice Award Finalist slot.
Read an Excerpt
By Wesley Chu
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2015 Wesley Chu
All rights reserved.
A sliver of light cut through the void, shooting toward the center of the battle display. Every soul on the bridge, breaths collectively held, eyed its path as it streaked across space. The room was dead quiet, except for the droning voice counting down to the point of impact. An explosion the size of a thumbnail blinked and flowered to fill half the display, then darkened again.
The bridge erupted into cheers as the Neptune Divinity flagship's holographic avatar disappeared. But the celebration was short-lived. Captain Dustinius Monk's voice cut through the chatter.
"Station status!" he demanded. The grim news of the health of the ship trickled in.
"Shield arms down," a bridge acolyte said.
"Mobility thrusters offline," another added.
"Aft hull breached."
The list of the ship's injuries continued to grow longer as each station confirmed the already perilous situation. It was a miracle and a testament to her crew that the High Marker, the flagship of the Technology Isolationists, was still intact.
Grace Priestly yawned, bored. She was usually bored when dealing with the painfully slow mental pace of average humans. She wondered how long she would have to wait for someone to say something interesting.
Then Monk's second in command, sounding close to panic, reported in. "We are not past the termination shock wave, Captain!" The chatter died and the room became dead silent again.
"Can we get any of the shield arms functional?" Monk asked.
"Not without extensive exterior repair."
"Get me just one damn shield arm and I can deflect the blast!" Captain Monk roared, his voice cutting through the tension in the air. The rest of the crew froze in place. "What about engines? Side thrusters? Any way to move her? Anything, for space's sake!"
"We're adrift, Captain." The acolyte standing next to him shook his head. "Power core down to six percent. There must be damage to the Titan source as well."
"Convert more immediately."
The acolyte's face turned white. "Captain, the systems acolyte reports the converter is gone."
"Gone? How is that possible?"
"She is at a loss, Captain."
Monk pulled up a display and stared at the blast wave of the Neptune Divinity flagship. He brought up another screen and scrolled through the data projections. His body stiffened and the blood drained from his face.
He glanced over at Grace, who stared back with cold indifference. Monk began spitting out orders in rapid succession, doing everything he could to prevent the impending disaster. Every hand on deck worked frantically as the ship's clock counted down to the impact of the wavefront barreling toward them.
Grace knew better. They were doomed the instant the fusion missile struck the enemy ship. With the main engine and side thrusters offline and all three shield arms inactive, the High Marker was completely exposed. The brunt of the blast wave would carry her away from the solar system toward the heliopause, from which no ship had ever returned.
Grace knew this was a high probability outcome, as did Monk. That's why, with the High Marker's propulsions disabled, he had asked for her authority to execute a planet cracker missile at such short range. Even knowing the potential consequences, she had still ordered it launched. After all, if they were going to die, the least they could do was take out the enemy.
The captain and his crew were fighting to save the High Marker, but as far as Grace was concerned, they might as well be attempting to raise the dead. There were definitely enough bodies lying around the ship for them to try.
Still, it amused her that Monk fought so hard against the inevitable. The captain was a smart man, having been a spacefarer for all of his eighty years. If Grace hadn't known better, she would have guessed that the noble captain was trying to do whatever it took to save his ship. But Grace did know better. He was putting on a show for her, because having the High Scion of the Technology Isolationists die on his ship would shame his family line for all time.
Or perhaps Captain Monk wasn't going through the motions and was actually deluded enough to try to pull off a miracle. Grace certainly hoped not. She'd hate to think she had made the mistake of putting an imbecile in charge of her flagship. Well, there were no such things as miracles, and Grace tired of watching their pointless exercise. The High Marker was doomed.
The blast wave's impact jolted the ship, knocking those standing off their feet. Half a dozen more alerts lit up the battle display. Grace, sitting in her gravity chair, watched the crew scramble to combat these new problems as the High Marker was swept up by the forward force of the blast.
Grace stood up and looked at her pet. "Come, Swails. When the good captain is ready to report, he can call my cabin."
Swails, her man pet, stood and fell in step next to her. Her wrinkled hands caressed his perfect face. The poor idiot was incapable of grasping what had just happened. He had probably never had an original thought in his beautiful head, but then, that was the way she liked her pets. The bridge crew stopped what they were doing and waited respectfully as she passed.
"Oh, do continue trying to save the ship," she remarked, gliding out of the room. Those dolts would work themselves to death playing this futile game. Such a waste. Grace thought she had guided the Technology Isolationists to be better humans than this.
"Come, pet," she said, motioning to Swails again as she walked down the wreckage-strewn walkways. The flagship High Marker was the most advanced ship ever built by man. What the Technology Isolationists lacked in numbers and resources, they more than made up for in power and technological prowess. But even then, sheer numbers and resources could overcome that power, and that was exactly what the Neptune Divinities had been doing. There was only so much opposition any faction could muster without proper resources, after all.
The High Marker had been set upon shortly after her rendezvous with the research base on Eris. The flagship, her two escorts, and the dozen or so reinforcements summoned from the planet below took on sixty-some Neptune Divinity ships and won. Pyrrhic victories might not be true victories, but they were still better than the alternative.
The ship attrition rate on both sides of this massive battle was near total, save for the High Marker, which was now being knocked out of the solar system. Unless they could repair the engine, a feat no ship had ever accomplished without a space dock, they were doomed to die either in the cold of space or upon impact with a celestial object. Grace hoped the High Marker crashed into something interesting like a plasma cloud or a black hole, out of scientific curiosity, of course.
She decided to maximize the use of her remaining time alive and have her pet fuck her senseless. Might as well die happy.
They reached a partially collapsed intersection of the ship. A metal beam and several large fragments of debris blocked their path. Grace saw the blackened remains of a leg sticking out from the rubble and carefully stepped over it, trying to avoid dirtying her dress.
"Help me, pet," she said.
He dutifully complied, gently holding the tips of her fingers as she slowly swung one leg over the beam, and then the other. She moved well for a ninety-three-year-old. Grace watched as Swails jumped over the beam and fell in line beside her again. His movements felt wrong. She played that mental image of him over and over in her head. Something had been bothering her since they had boarded; Swails wasn't himself today.
Details were what differentiated the smart from the brilliant, and Grace was the foremost mind of her generation, and one of the brightest to have ever lived. Soon, it wouldn't matter anymore. She stared at Swails's genetically modified face; it was perfect. He looked like her pet and even moved like Swails, but something behind those eyes betrayed him. They weren't quite as vacuous as her pets' usually were.
He was an impostor in all the small ways that most people wouldn't notice, but she wasn't most people. Perhaps he was just ill and had suffered a bout of momentary thought. It happened from time to time, though the breeders did try their best to wean that tendency out of them. Well, no matter. There was only one thing she needed him for anyway.
The lights on the ship flickered and dimmed by exactly 18 percent. No doubt the good Captain Monk was conserving power to sustain the ship on the remote chance that they might be rescued. Grace's mouth cracked upward into a small smile. The foolish man was just prolonging their torture. If he really wanted to do the right thing, he would open all the air locks and instantly kill everyone on board. That's what she would do. But then, she was known for her mind and sexual appetite, not for her heart.
Grace did wonder how the power levels on the High Marker could have fallen so precipitously. Like every other modern space-faring vessel, the power source was located at the heart of the flagship. It was almost impossible to damage the power core without destroying the ship, and there were no scenarios where a 94 percent core leak could occur without some sort of catastrophic failure. At a less dire time, she would have been keen to solve this little mystery. Right now, not so much; she had far baser goals in mind.
"Come, pet." She motioned to him again. "Let us retire to my quarters."
Again, she noticed the slight change in his footsteps. They were wider than Swails's usual stride by a few centimeters. His posture was slightly more erect; the pressure of his hand on hers a few degrees less gentle. Swails wasn't acting fully himself today, but as far as she knew, no technology existing today could completely change someone's appearance. And if it did exist, she would have been the one to invent it. Just to be on the safe side, though, she reached out and caressed his face once more to make sure there wasn't a hologram or illusory veil in place. Yes, the perfect face was still his.
They entered the antechamber of her quarters. She looked over at her two blindfolded kill mutes standing in the corner. Those two pets were quite different from the man pet; violent and slavishly loyal, but prone to excitement and hard to control. All the lights and noise on the ship could send them into a frenzy. Leaving them here was for the best. Still, she was comforted that they were now back within earshot.
"A cup of warm water, pet," she ordered, "and fetch my wrap. If we are to die tonight, I wish to do so in comfort." Swails brought her the water as she disrobed.
Grace looked outside her portholes into black space. By the angle of the stars streaking across the window, the out-of-control tumbling of the ship seemed to have worsened. She expected the gravity to be cut at any moment to conserve energy. Monk was predictable, if anything.
She tore her gaze away from the portholes and gestured for Swails to attend to her. This could be her last fuck, so she wanted to enjoy it. Her pet was the finest of his litter; she would miss his tender touch. At least she had tonight.
She lay down on the bed and motioned for Swails to fulfill his duties. He obediently stripped and performed the Slave's Prayer to request permission for the honor of joining a master's bed.
Grace studied Swails's movements; she had seen him perform the ritual dozens of times before. The gestures were correct, but he was missing his usual grace. As he finished the prayer, Swails fell to his knees at the corner of the bed, spread his arms out, and looked up at the ceiling.
Instead of giving permission, Grace crawled seductively to him and placed her palm on his hard, toned chest. She ran her hand down his stomach, feeling all the familiar grooves and bumps of his muscles. Then her fingers wandered up to his heart. She closed her eyes and listened. The beats; impossibly fast for a clone. She cupped his chin with her other hand and lowered his face toward her.
"Who are you, stranger?" she asked.
Swails hesitated for an instant. "You know?"
"I've suspected since this morning. You haven't been Swails all day."
A smile broke out on his face. "You're a rare woman, Grace Priestly. It's an honor." Swails left her bed. He walked to her desk at the other end of the room and began rummaging through her belongings.
"What are you doing?" She stood up and retreated to the corner of the room, alarmed.
Swails ignored her as he picked out papers, scans, and datachips. He tossed aside several rare books and sorted through her personal tab files, generally making a mess. Grace hated messes. Then he pulled out the recently engraved Time Law Charter and lingered on it, his fingers brushing the inscriptions. He had found what he was looking for.
The charter was the culmination and moral principle of the past ten years of her research. The technology was ready. All humanity needed was a force that could responsibly wield this new power. If her new agency was successful, Grace Priestly would be credited with not only saving mankind, but propelling the Technology Isolationists to new heights. That allorium-engraved charter he held in his hands was the guiding law of this new agency, Chronological Regulatory Command, and it would lead them out of humanity's self-inflicted starvation.
"Put that back!" she yelled. "Kau, Trau! To me!"
Her two kill mutes burst into the room with their blindfolds lifted, exposing their glowing cybernetic red eyes. It grated on her sensibilities to resort to violence right before her end. Grace was never one to favor such heavy-handedness, but this thing wasn't her treasured pet. In fact, she was sure he had killed Swails. Now, she wanted answers.
"Capture. No kill. No kill." She enunciated the words carefully. The kill mutes were of low intelligence, and every command other than "kill" had to be communicated clearly.
Trau leapt into action, a dozen small blades extending out of his arms and legs. He charged the impostor, slashing with his limbs, while Kau moved into a defensive position between her and Swails, his own blades exposed.
"Alive!" Grace barked.
It seemed she had given those orders to the wrong person. Trau reached Swails faster than any human could and raked the impostor across the chest with enough force to split an unenhanced in two. Instead, a faint yellow shield surrounding Swails appeared and burst into sparks, creating an electrical backlash that bounced Trau's blades harmlessly to the side.
The impostor retaliated, moving so quickly his body blurred. The two whirled around each other in a deadly dance, Trau's blades and the strange yellow sparks flashing in the air. Just as quickly as the melee had begun, it was over.
One moment, the impostor was next to Trau, the next, he was standing behind the kill mute. With a flick of the stranger's wrist, Trau went flying across the room and slammed into the wall so hard the blast shields on the portholes lowered from the force of the impact. Trau's steel-infused back snapped with a loud crack against one of the structural beams jutting out of the wall. He emitted a mechanical wail and went limp, the red glow in his eyes fading.
Grace gaped at the fallen kill mute. This was impossible. These were class-six cyborgs! They were each designed to defeat a platoon of armored marines. Panic seized her as her gaze went back to Swails, or whatever the thing was that looked like her pet.
Excerpted from Time Salvager by Wesley Chu. Copyright © 2015 Wesley Chu. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1. End Times,
2. James Griffin-Mars,
3. Himalia Station,
4. Ming Dynasty,
8. Levin Javier-Oberon,
9. Nutris Platform,
10. Elise Kim,
11. Three Marks,
12. Sunken City,
14. Business as Usual,
15. Present Earth,
16. Powers That Be,
17. Enemy of State,
18. Brave New World,
19. The Hunt,
20. On the Run,
24. The Elfreth,
27. Tribal Life,
28. Earth Plague,
30. Casting the Net,
32. Search for the Cure,
33. Not Quite End Times,
34. Meeting of the Minds,
35. Turning Up the Heat,
36. Building the Base,
37. Puzzle Pieces,
41. Big Brother,
42. The Long Slumber,
43. The Righteous Way,
47. The End,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
NOTE: Wesley Chu won the John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award during the release of TIME SALVAGER. After reading the book, I can see why he received that honor. This novel was a 'level up' for author Wesley Chu. I enjoyed his Tao series - fun, relate-able, and the type of novel that you would feel good reading over a vacation. TIME SALVAGER still had those elements but the character building and world Chu crafted were much more in-depth. I stopped several times and reflected on how easy and enjoyable it was to slip into the world Chu created. PROS Everything I like in a well-paced novel. Complex worldbuilding done right - smooth and intriguing throughout. Excellent characters and pace. My favorite kind of book is one where I simply don't know what will happen next and the author keeps me guessing. Chu's writing in TIME SALVAGER delivered exactly that type of read. CONS It's a trilogy and I simply don't know where it is going next. Possibly could have had more of a cliffhanger to tee up expectations for the next novel. That said, I am very interested in the follow-up book. RECOMMENDATION I'll pass my copy along to others and will likely buy a copy to give away over the holidays. I highly recommend picking up TIME SALVAGER for when you want a well-paced, smart, and fun read.
Time Salvager is the first novel by Wesley Chu that I have listened to, let alone read. Having said that, I was blown away by the originality of the characters and environment, but definitely by the story line. The book takes place on a future Earth; a future Earth that is dying and devoid of critical resources needed for survival. Though there doesn’t seem to be much hope, these humans have become masters of time travel. Groups of highly skilled agents, known as chronmen, are sent back in time to salvage items needed in order to create a future. Of course, that’s easier said than done. These chronmen are sent back to a point in time just before a major disaster threatens, making it easier not to screw with the past and in order to avoid disrupting the natural progression of time. Of course, this is a very dangerous lifestyle and it doesn’t come as a surprise that chronmen have very short lifespans. Our main character, James Griffin-Mars, is a chronman and has been at it for a long while. Though he fulfills the job requirements and is one of the best, he is haunted by the deaths of those he has come across during his many salvages. I mean, don’t you think it would be difficult to ignore the fact that you could stop a disaster from happening or save someone from dying? Too bad doing this could dramatically re-write the future as you know it. There are strict Time Laws put into effect to keep this from happening. In fact, the first law put into place is to never bring someone back from the past, and as you can imagine, doing so results in some very harsh consequences. Well, it was the only unbroken law until James went on his mission to the Nutris Platform. In a moment of panic, and maybe just a little out of love for her, James grabs a scientist named Elise and brings her back to the future. If the pace wasn’t quick enough, it begins to pick up as the two are now on the run from the corporations that enforce the laws that James has broken. I am so glad I chose to listen to the audiobook as Kevin T. Collins gave a great performance. His pacing sort of reminds me of William Shatner’s Kirk as his sentences have distinct pauses and his speech is very articulate. The novel will really get your heart racing and by the end of it, you will feel as though you watched it instead of read/listened to it. Chu did a wonderful job with describing the characters and environments and Collins did a great job bringing the characters to life. I’m very much looking forward to the next book in this series. Audiobook purchased for review by the reviewer. Please find this complete review and many others at my review blog [If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks!]
I enjoyed this very unique time traveling adventure. It is well written and engaging adventurr