Rickey R. Mallory
Dreams Unlimited / 230 pages / November 1998
Okay. Here’s the plot: a killing machine is sent back from the future to kill the woman who will be the mother to a race of rebels. Think you’ve got it? You haven’t. Forget the futuristic weapons, the indestructible monster, the multi-million dollar special effects, and the mind-numbing violence, because this is not that story. This is a story of a woman and a man and the dangers of loyalty. And, it’s about remembering.
Rider Savage has been sent from five hundred years in our future to kill Kristen Skipworth. Why? She will pass her empathic abilities to all her descendants, and that can’t be allowed. Skipworths, or Deviants, are evil and nothing but trouble. In fact, Deviants killed Rider’s wife and he’s traveled back to avenge her death. That makes him the perfect executioner.
Unless, something goes wrong. And, in the future, they must have gotten everything right…
Unless, everything is wrong.
See, it’s not “Terminator” or any of its clones. What Mallory has created is a rare surprise: an actual love story in a science fiction setting. Not a slurpy romance, plunked down in the future to snare a few more readers, but an involving, earthy love dependent on its speculative story. And, it’s not a “young miss” kind of romance; this is emotion, and lust, and definitely not for the kiddies.
Whatever else you may decide about the novel, Mallory can certainly make you sweat. Keep a glass of ice water to dash into your face every now and then. Or, read it by the pool and you can just casually jump in.
That’s just a fringe benefit, however, because this book is, quite simply, a good read. You may not see it on the Hugos or shortlisted for the Booker Prize, but you’re probably going to feel driven to read it in one go. It’s exciting, the characters are complete and compelling, the story drags you along with a tight hand on your arm. The interaction of Rider and Kristen is realistic, evocative, and one of the most fully-drawn relationships to be seen in science fiction. Or mainstream.
And the questions! The novel is full of them and not all get answered by the end. Mallory is not one of those authors who is going to spoonfeed you the solutions. Perhaps she has more respect for readers than that. Then again, maybe she just enjoys a good mystery like the rest of us and refuses to spoil it. If we all go out and buy Time Rider, I’ll bet we’ll get the answers to some of those riddles in a second instalment. It’s worth a try.
And so is Time Rider. Like I said, it may not be destined to be a classic, but it’s a delicious contribution to a genre that sometimes forgets the heat in favour of formulas.