I found this 70's science fiction tale among the crowded stacks of of my favorite used book
store. It's theme of mass disappearance of humans due to a disruptions of time interesting, so I
grabbed it thinking it would be nice light reading. Well, it's far from light. Here Dickson
takes us on a 70's head trip of physics and philosophy. Ther first half of the book is a strong
Post Apocalytic tale of a man, a teenage girl and a leopard traveling through a broken,
disjointed land where Time Storms have switched large chucks or land with land of the past and
the future, and where traveling Mistwalls threaten to displace the travelers themselves. The
second part of the book is hard science fiction where the main character battles the very
physical forces of nature which are causing these problems. In the end this book is a tale of
love, and finding what's inside a person by stepping out of their own body, and their comfort
zones and looking at things in a way one would never conceived.
Gordon Dickson's "Time Storm", first published in 1977, is an excellent post-apocalyptic novel
concerning the catastrophic after effects caused by on-going time storms (or time lines that
appear as, and are called in the book, `mistwalls') that continually sweep across sections of
the Earth, as well as throughout the universe. As a time storm passes, a large swath of land
becomes forever changed in time. A side effect is that for most of the population these time
sweeps are deadly.
Luckily (or you would have no story), a small percentage of the population (including a few
animals) seem immuned to the deadly effects of the time storms. The three main characters; the
protagonist (Marc Despard), a young teenage girl (known as `Girl'), and a leopard (called
Sunday), are all richly defined. Those who have read "Wolf and Iron", another good
post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel by Dickson (published thirteen years after "Time Storm"), may see
a pattern here (a leopard instead of a wolf, the protagonist searching for his ex-wife instead
of his brother, and a young teenage girl whose personality is remarkably similar to the teenager
in "Wolf and Iron"). However, that's where the similarities end.
This story begins with the three unlikely partners traveling across country where they cross
area after area that has been changed in time. The people (and/or creatures) that have been
`deposited' into the effected areas (if there are anyone at all), are either from some point in
the future or from the past, but like any post-apocalyptic story, few are friendly. Even the
survivors of his own time can be, and usually are, extremely dangerous. Unfortunately, a couple
of the time-changed situations the group run into aren't treated very deeply by Dickson, thus
leaving this reader a little confused and wondering why he mentioned them at all.
However, the heart of the story is the Despard's single-minded goal of understanding the time
storms, and maybe even doing something about them. He is sort of a freak of nature, being almost
a human calculator whose mind will not stop until a problem is solved. And because of this, he
is also a man that has extreme difficulty with his emotions toward others, especially those he
loves. And whether he likes it or not, his small, motly band soon grows to a community, and the
cast of characters are handled quite well. These are not stilted, cardboard characters by any
means. Dickson did a wonderful job creating believable characters.
Dickson also does a masterful job involving the reader in Despard's attempts to expand his mind
and search out the patterns of the time storms so he may understand them. This becomes almost
mystical in nature and leads him to reach out to the stars and beyond. I found this particularly
fascinating and was quickly drawn into this strange world of the mind, space, and time. There is
also the standard (but interesting) sub-plot concerning the "Empress" who wants to control what
little is left of the world. And ever present is Depard's inner conflict with people, any
people, especially the `Girl', creating and heightening the tension for the reader.
"Time Storm" is one of my favorite reads in this sub-genre (actually two sub-genres; time and
post-apocalyptic). If you like either of these sub-genres, I think you will really enjoy "Time
Storm". I consider it a "page-turner".