Time’s Last Gift by Philip Jose Farmer
Publisher:Titan/June, 2012 (Reprint)
Kind thanks to Titan for providing a review copy
**Reviewed by Peter (husband and resident sci-fi reader)
Though by no means a Philip Jose Farmer completist, I have read numerous works by Farmer and enjoy them more often than not. Farmer excels at universe/world generation, creating complex backdrops in which his characters enact his story. His characterization and interaction, in my opinion, were never as solid but were strong enough that I enjoyed the romps through the worlds he had created.
Time’s Last Gift begins with a team of four scientists traveling back in time to 12,000 BC. The team is made up of Gribardsub, the leader and doctor, von Billmann, a linguist and cultural anthropologist, and the Silversteins, a zoologist/geneticist and a physicist/geologist. They begin to study the tribe nearest their arrival point, though they more or less take over the tribe and make all the major decisions for them. The Silverstein’s marriage begins to break up and jealousy enters the mix as it becomes clear one of the team is not who (or maybe what) they claim to be.
Farmer follows the group as they trek around (literally) the Mediterranean Sea taking samples of native flora and fauna though the major emphasis appears to be on finding the pre-Indo-Hittite speakers. Through it all, the team must find a way to stay together and work as a team for the four years they will be in prehistory.
This is a time travel story only in the fact that people from one time travel to earlier era. The science behind the travel is very light and potential paradoxes are dismissed as impossible since whatever is done in the past has already happened and time has accounted for it. Instead this is a story more concerned with the interactions of the group and the uncovering of the one member’s secret.
Without the grand world scape upon which to act, the characters go from one conflict to the next with a decided lack of transition. There were also a few typos, which distracted me from the narrative a few times. However, if you’re a fan of Farmer’s work it shouldn’t be an issue.
This is a short, quick read and as such, it is worth the time I spent to read it. I’ve seen reviews from one star all the way to 5 stars. Both extremes are not justified:I would place it firmly in the middle and your personal tastes of Farmer’s work will determine which way the pendulum will swing.