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Bookends: Watch out for those butterflies January 17, 2017

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, Science Fiction, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Watch out for those butterflies

By Dan Davidsonweighing-shadows

March 16, 2016

– 676 words –

Weighing Shadows

By Lisa Goldstein

Night Shade Books

317 pages

$15.99 (more in Canada)

In Ray Bradbury’s nasty little short story, “A Sound of Thunder”, a time travelling tourist ignores all warnings, steps off the elevated pathway that keeps them from damaging anything that wasn’t already going to die. They are a hunting party, and somehow they get to kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex which prior investigation has shown was going to die anyway. That would have been fine, but when Eckels steps off the path he kills a butterfly, setting off a chain of events that results in a subtly changed future when they get back home.

The butterfly reference is sort of the time traveller’s version of the Chaos Theory meme that says the fluttering of wings in China night result in a hurricane in Texas.

The people who work for Transformations Inc. are aware of the concept and refer to it frequently, though one suspects this is part of an elaborate deception.

Ann Decker is living a thoroughly uneventful life, working in a computer repair shop, when she is approached with a job offer by this mysterious company. Intrigued, she decides to at least take the company tour, and it turns out that the deal being offered is too good to turn down.

It’s some time, and quite a bit of training, before she learns that the company really does send its agents travelling in time. The story is that they have been approached by people from a future where things have gone badly wrong in terms of the climate and ecology.

Transformations has bought into the idea that if certain very small changes are made in the past timeline, this future can be avoided.

If you watched the full run of the TV show Continuum, it operated on much the same premise, with several sets of time agents dueling to see which could accomplish the best possible future about a century down (or is it up?) the line.

The narrative is interrupted a number of times by internal company memos that tell us, long before Ann figures it out, that all is not as it seems.

Ann is the perfect candidate for their work, not simply because she is intelligent and tech savvy, but also because she has no family, no friends, and no real prospects. She was an orphan raised in foster care, doesn’t have a high level of academic achievement and has tended to avoid attracting attention as much as possible. If something happens to her, no one will miss her. That appears to the case with all the other recruits.

Ann and her team are sent on several missions into the past, notably to ancient Crete, which is a matriarchy that her team is supposed to subvert, and them to the Library of Alexandria, in Egypt, where they are supposed to make sure that the fire that destroys it burns in particular way.

On the first mission one of their team dies mysteriously. On the second, Ann has an unplanned solo time displacement during which she learns a number of things that disturb her greatly.

The company’s secret agenda is to skew the timeline so that the present and the future become more right wing, authoritarian, and bigoted.

Back in the present Ann notes that the world she knew has changed. Women are treated dismissively and all sorts of new rules seem to be cropping up. The world is more restrictive, more repressive, there are more shortages, and even more rudeness.

A third mission takes her to medieval Carcassonne, France, where she learns things that cause her to try to find ways to undo some of the changes she feels responsible for.

She is somewhat successful. The ending is a bit indeterminate, and I haven’t decided whether this is a sign that there will be a sequel or a simple admission that there are no simple answers when it comes to time travel.

-30-

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