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Timescape | [Gregory Benford]

Timescape

In a future wracked by environmental catastrophe and social instability, physicist John Renfrew devises a longshot plan to use tachyons - strange, time-traveling particles - to send a warning to the past. In 1962, Gordon Bernstein, a California researcher, gets Renfrew's message as a strange pattern of interference in an experiment he's conducting.
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Publisher's Summary

In a future wracked by environmental catastrophe and social instability, physicist John Renfrew devises a longshot plan to use tachyons - strange, time-traveling particles - to send a warning to the past. In 1962, Gordon Bernstein, a California researcher, gets Renfrew's message as a strange pattern of interference in an experiment he's conducting. As the two men struggle to overcome both the limitations of scientific knowledge and the politics of scientific research, a larger question looms: can a new future arise from the paradox of a forewarned past?

Winner of both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Award for best science-fiction novel, Timescape is an enduring classic that examines the ways that science interacts with everyday life to create the many strange worlds in which we live.

©1980 Gregory Benford and Hilary Benford; (P)2001 Recorded Books

What the Critics Say

  • Nebula Award, Best Novel, 1980

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.4 (85 )
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3.6 (43 )
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Story
3.6 (43 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Mike Schultz 10-26-08 Member Since 2008
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    "An enjoyable book with problems"

    Despite some reservations about the book, I did enjoy Timescape. I always treat time travel stories with a grain of salt because I have some very stringent ideas about what makes a good one and it is very hard to meet them.

    My first problem with the story is that it was too long. There are quite few subplots that don't really affect the main story and in the end they were more of a distraction than anything else. (I could have done without the stereotype Jewish mother and the womanizing Peterson.)

    The most interesting thing about the story was the reactions of the scientists when they encounter something that doesn't fit their current scientific theory. The way that they work through it and investigated the situation was really well presented.

    The author's thought processes about the messages from the future and the temporal paradoxes that the might cause really could have used more work. When a character receives confirmation of receipt a message from the past before the message requesting confirmation was sent, I just rolled my eyes. Also when a theorist speculates that a message to the past might cause the whole world around them to change and only the senders would know that it had, I thought "I don't think so".

    I thought that two narrators, one for the past and one for the future was a good idea. And both of the narrators could produce a variety of voices, but the British narrator (the future narrator) kept saying to "casual loops" instead of "causal loops".

    Still, it was an interesting listen, just don't expect to be enlightened on temporal paradoxes.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 10-28-12
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 10-28-12 Member Since 2001

    Letting the rest of the world go by

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good SF and even better science"

    The potential time paradoxes are acknowledged and explained. Using separate narrators for each time period added to the listening pleasure.

    The book leaves none of the science to chance and explains it better than any science book for non-scientist.

    You'll get a good coherent communication across time book nicely read, and great science explanations (okay, tachyons don't really exist, but if they did!). Overall a very fun listen.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen Whitstable, United Kingdom 09-21-09
    Stephen Whitstable, United Kingdom 09-21-09 Member Since 2003
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    "Thoroughly enjoyed it"

    ... but then I read it when it came out - I found it in a friends house.
    It's a grim view of the 'future', but it has the feel of UK in the 1970s.
    It's the style of sci-fi that I prefer, lacking wizzo tech, and lacking wizzo social stuff: Just a premise, and see where you go.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    V. Stone Colorado, USA 07-26-12
    V. Stone Colorado, USA 07-26-12

    love2laugh

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    "Amazingly well-written & poetic, plus totally cool"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This is, quite simply, one of the best-written science fiction novels I have ever read. Scifi can be interesting, quirky, creative, but novels in this genre usually don't read like they're written by people who have mastered the craft of prose. This novel does. It sings!

    Interpersonal nuance, human foibles, narrative tension, and the poetry of the cosmos are all woven toegether expertly. Not only that, but the science is well-explained and is grounded in authentic quantum and relativity theories, though of course it's speculative, being about time travel paradoxes. Still, no hand-waving flux capacitors here! (As you'd expect, since the author is an academic astrophysicist.)


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    I found that although the dramatic performances of the readers were truly excellent, the reading was sloppy in producing some errors, kind of like finding a lot of typos in a written book. The narrators (and especially Audible's editors, who should have caught this) should have been careful about catching these mistakes. One of the protagonist's partners is variously called Penny or Peggy early in the novel, and the phrase "causal loop" is always mis-read as "casual loop", which is laughable. There were one or two other reading errors that I don't remember, but that brought me up short because they didn't make sense.


    Any additional comments?

    There's a reason this is an award-winning novel! If you can prepare yourself to mentally substitute "causal loop" every time the narrators say "casual loop", you'll really enjoy listening to this.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Covington, LA, USA 04-14-09
    Peter Covington, LA, USA 04-14-09
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    "Better than I expected"

    This proved a very entertaining and interesting novel. It is cleverly set in two time periods (now both in the past, but at the time of writing one was in the future - this adds an unintended dimension to the plot)with the later time period trying to contact the earlier one in order to try to head off a global catastrophe. Paradoxes of interfering with the past are cleverly dealt with and some of the science was really ingeniously woven into the plot. If you are interested in this kind of technical science fiction, go for it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Krasner 05-22-08 Member Since 2005
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    "disappointing ending"

    The concept of the book is intriguing but there were too many loose ends. Plus, the ending was very weak. It was as if the author couldn't decide exactly how to conclude. In addition, some of the scenes were irrelevant to the movement of the story. Did we really need the interlude with the Asian wife of a very minor character? If you're looking for a really great sci fi, look to "Spin".

    7 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Gray 05-31-09
    Chris Gray 05-31-09 Listener Since 2008
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    "Interesting plot - irritating characters"

    I had to look at the author's bio after reading this one. After reading the book, I was certain he had some serious issues with women. He is slightly forgiven b/c he is very old and this was written in 1980, but still much older writers than he manage to do it- especially when writing about a future in which he stated that women work and have equal place in the world with men (you can't just say that, you have to write characters that fit it!). The authors biography has the most in common with the main character Gordon, and I imagine his major female characters are all based on ex-girlfriends or ex-wives he doesn't like.

    The science is cool and the depiction of future global disaster is always thrilling. However, how the world gets to such a place of gloom and doom is not adequately explained. He talks about the molecular mechanisms, but not the political change and sheer lack of testing it would take to bring them about. Real world doom scenarios happen slower.

    I agree with other reviews that it was too long. I do think the narrator did a fine job (except for the casual loops, but that gave me some entertaining thoughts about how casual time loops might be different from causal time loops, maybe casual time loops are just a bit more breezy and fashionable).

    Its not terrible, I enjoyed listening even if I got steamed up at the author for half of it.



    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christine Sterling, VA, USA 10-23-08
    Christine Sterling, VA, USA 10-23-08
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    "Wish I would have skipped this one..."

    I found this book very long and very boring. It was hard to follow and there was very little that made it even a little exciting. I regret purchasing this audiobook and recommend you that you stay away if you are looking for something to keep you interested.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J S Ventura, CA, USA 09-16-09
    J S Ventura, CA, USA 09-16-09 Member Since 2007
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    "Quantum mechanics 101"

    This is a well thought out slow reading book. I believe the hero scientists of quantum time displacement were attempting to change there future by changing only a small simple past by sending there earlier counter parts of a letter and morse code with the hope of changing their future from a world wide epidemic of sickness and death. Thats about it. The science was good and it wasn't a total waste of time since I'm interested in time displacement. The audio book was easy enough to read and did not mess with my problem of dyslexia.

    If you have time to read books, I would still say listen to it, without any interruptions.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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