Piercing the Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable
Having gone Beyond the Elastic Limit author Howard Loring now helps us to pierce it in the second in the series: Piercing the Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable.
Beginnings (or endings)
Piercing the Elastic Limit by Howard Loring is effectively a series of short stories – though “series” may not be the right word given that Howard’s true book of short stories,
Tales of the Elastic Limit, can be read in any order. It sounds like an interesting idea, though not a premise I’d feel like trying out given the annoyances of e-book formats!
(Actually on that note, take a look at this screen shot – the page numbers insert themselves into the text which can sometimes make for some funny reading! See this shot on page 73!)
The set up reminds me of the Cloud Atlas movie which spans across a number of time eras with different characters but who seem to follow a similar ‘template’ of existence (and acted by the same actors / actresses). This is achieved in the novel through common themes and characters – but crucially it’s the differences which are central to the plot, so keep an eye out!
The time travel element
I’m going to jump straight into the time travel element, and rather fittingly, mention that we have time jumpers in place of time travellers. This already begins to give us a clue about the nature of the movement through and within time in this novel.
Actually we’ve already been introduced to the model of time and the technology behind it in Beyond the Elastic Limit; the time line is projected into the past within the bounds of the elastic limit. This is similar to the River of Time. The “time fistula” is a separate technology which opens up a window to view the past – like placing a rock in a river and seeing how the water flows differently around it.
Crucially, the future cannot be viewed, and viewing the past doesn’t modify the time line itself (which reminds of me the Deja Vu movie where Denzel Washington peers into the past through discreet time windows).
The crux is what happens when the observation window turns into a door.
Various groups of characters have access to the appropriate technology – a machine which distorts time with an electromagnetic field. Some characters can only travel in time; others are able to hold and restrain time completely.
One particular feature I liked is that the time jumpers don’t age when they’re outside of their own natural timeline. (Their metabolism doesn’t react to their surrounding – you may recall that I rather like the crossover of time travel into biology – for example, watch the Echo Back – Time Travel Virus video and read my thoughts on biological time travel underneath).
It did get me thinking again about what time is it in a time machine anyway? When the whole time machine goes, say backwards in time, do the people inside still age as the internal time still goes forward? They can’t be ageing backwards because then they may regress to child-hood – even non-existence – if they’re traveling to a time before their birth. Or is time held constant? But if this is the case then there’s no event as all events need time?
I really like how Howard’s writing style encapsulates many epochs. For example, there’s a description of a peice of music which has just been written; in the future this would be considered to be great, but that was decades away from now and today it wasn’t recognised.
And I must quote this:
“They’re in the past,” he said to reassure her. “Once it’s done it will already be over, and long ago…”
Actually, whilst I’m busy quoting I’m going to do another one – and probably use it at several more moments along the time line of my forthcoming life. It says much more elegantly than I can my disinterest in history and would rather set my eyes on the future:
“What he wanted was insight into the future. The long dead past,no matter how glorious,would do him no good.”
As I briefly mentioned earlier, similar characters help to tie all epochs together. In particular there’s the ageless “red haired girl” with her enchanting and all-knowing smile. Other than her hair there’s very little physical description of her – but her presence is powerful!
My only negative vibe from Piercing the Elastic Limit lies with the closing section where I became quite lost. Things seemed to be coming together but there was a lot of flitting about between different characters and I couldn’t make the connection. I didn’t understand the significance of a musician with a mangled hand and / or some children for example. Given the quality of the writing beforehand it’s more than likely that this is my own failing…
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