Review of TIME SPIKE by Eric Flint and Marilyn Kosmatka
Baen, May 2008
One moment the understaffed maximum security prison is in southern Illinois. The next, it's a hundred million years in the past. The prison guards struggle to deal with a couple of thousand confused but dangerous prisoners in a world where the primary food available might be butchered dinosaur, but where a scattering of other time wanderers--including Trail of Tears Cherokees, pre-Columbian, Mound Indians, and explorer/slaver Hernando de Soto also attempt to survive.
A couple of hundred prison guards can't keep two thousand prisoners under perpetual lock-down, and food is bound to run short. But freeing the prisoners would create a killing frenzy--and would probably be equivalent to killing most of them since urban crime is no preparation for survival in a world where even flowering plants are not yet known and where fifteen ton predators will happily dine on humans. When most of the guards leave to make contact with the Cherokees and attempt to forge an alliance against de Soto, the prisoners rebel, taking over the prison and instituting a brutal purge.
Set in Eric Flint's 1632 universe, TIME SPIKE includes occasional glimpses of those left behind--scientists and conspiracy experts who realize that the government has fabricated terrorism stories about both Grantville (1632) and the prison disappearance. Eric Flint (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Flint) teams with new author Marilyn Kosmatka to take the story of time-traveling societies to a much more distant past.
Because TIME SPIKE is set in the land of dinosaurs, we don't get one of the primary joys of alternate history--seeing how modern people interact with the cultures of the past, changing history as they exchange values and information. Flint/Kosmatka attempt to offset this by introducing the Cherokee and Spanish victims of the time spike but for me, this expedient was only partially successful. For me, TIME SPIKE didn't really develop its characters sufficiently--except for prisoner Cook. Finally, if we were going to have a time travel story set in the world of dinosaurs, I would have liked to see a lot more dinosaurs.
Flint and Kosmatka deliver a fair amount of not-too-subtle political commentary. Although I agree with them in this case, political commentary is most valuable when it's developed in the process of the story. In TIME SPIKE, I found the political aspects a bit heavy-handed. And speaking of heavy-hands, my editing pencil kept twitching as I wanted to de-clunk some of the English. TIME SPIKE should be read as light-weight enjoyment. It doesn't pack the interest that the 1632 series does, but it'll do for light reading.
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