THE WHISPERS (BOOK #1 OF THE GATES OF TIME)

Author: Dan Simmons

Del Rey Books / 275 pages / April 1998

ISBN: 1931081549

Would you like to make more money? Sure, we all do. So, why not start your own business? A travel agency? Yeah, that can be risky, but your travel agency is going to be different. Your clients are heading for the past, not Fiji. That’s right, you can convert your spare room into a time portal.

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Lucas and Maude Hawthorn hadn’t planned on changing careers, but when the mysterious Edwin Limmer enters (re-enters?) their lives, it’s a proposition they can’t turn down. In fact, they already run the agency, and do a darn fine job of it — just ask their future satisfied customers.

Or listen to the white noise of the wraith-like Whispers. Barely heard, almost, but not quite seen, The Whispers are the managers of this unique travel agency.

When the time scale runs from 1703 to 3006, and the action bounces back and forth between those extremes, things can get a bit confusing. For the characters, though, not for readers; Parkinson keep it all nicely sorted out. Without ever layering on the exposition or interrupting the flow, he manages to effortlessly guide us through the centuries and the ancestries. Look! Nothing up his sleeve… but talent.

And a background as a western writer, that may be where Parkinson developed his flair for period pieces. His forays into the past read as true as the scenes of the present.

The Whispers is like the soon-to-retire Disney World’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, it shakes you up and rattles your teeth, but it’s all in play. Your heart may pound, but your shrieks are more than half in laughter. Even when the merciless villains are on the scene, it’s difficult to invest real concern into the situation; you’re just having too much fun to take it seriously.

That’s not a complaint; I don’t subscribe to the love-to-hate theory. Where is the joy in despising a character and seeing them get the upper hand every time? Parkinson gives you villains — and they are quite loathsome — but allows you the comfort of believing that things will turn out all right. It’s a luxury I can get used to.

It’s a series I can settle down with, too. As much as I liked Book One, I’m looking forward to the next volume. There is a pairing in The Whispers that cries out for a book of its own. Two intelligent, witty, and gutsy people that share a talent and a future. And a past. And a present. And, well… you get the picture. In a cast of endearing characters, they are standouts. Did I mention their sensuality?