Review: Time Split – Briggs (Patricia Smith)

Patricia’s powerful writing in “Time Split – Briggs” brings us multiple time lines thanks to a time machine / teleporter backed up with experimental development from the first novel (“Time Split”). Be prepared for some blood and gore with the evil Briggs!

Time Split Briggs written by Patricia Smith and reviewed by Paul Wandason

Time Split Briggs is the second novel by Patricia Smith in her Time Split series. The first novel of the same name operates on a single time line. Now all that changes and the title really comes into play!

Briggs

Briggs himself is the ‘bad guy’ in the original novel – and I’m glad that he gets to have this sequel novel named after him.

Review of "Time Split Briggs" by Patricia Smith

Perhaps I shouldn’t feel like this, but when I watch the X-Men movies I feel sorry for the villain, Magneto. OK, he dumps Mystique quicker than a hot potato when she loses her mutancy, but other than that I think he has a fair view of the world – it’s against him, and ultimately he seeks protection for himself, and for his kind. I’ve forgotten which DVD it is, but one of them you get the option to choose your side – and yes, I chose Magneto’s.

It’s the same here. Bad guys aren’t always bad; they just have a slightly different view. Briggs wants to be someone in a messed up world rather than a nobody in a world where there’s no nuclear holocaust. Don’t we all want to be somebody?

Author Patricia Smith presents Briggs mostly as an antagonist to Jason and Sarah, but we also get an insight into his own character and motivation. We also get to see a slightly different side to him in his double from a different time line.

The bottom line is that he’s an evil character. A really horrible one. I’m reminded of one of Terry Pratchett’s phrases – that if you’re busy running away from something, then where you’re running to kind of takes care of itself. I think Jason and Sarah often operated under this regime, Sarah in particular, ensuring that their paths weren’t going to cross.

I think it was a wise decision.

Time travel

I loved the experimental introduction into how time travel was ‘discovered’ in Time Split. In Time Split – Briggs the methodology is given as a pre and the focus is more on the complexities of time travel, in particular, those which arise from introducing a new time line. (Incidentally, I thought this was a nice way to make a sequel!)

With multiple time lines there is the possibility for multiple versions of the same person. We see this with Briggs. And we also have characters performing actions across different time lines. This latter scenario plays out where Sarah keeps pointing out to Jason things that he (i.e. his double) has already done, or will do, in another time line. (Indeed, in this respect Sarah often seemed to be more of a main character than either Jason or Briggs).

Where we learn more about Briggs through his multiple ‘identities’, Jason learns more about himself through hearing about his.

Having said that the time travel methodology in Time Split – Briggs is a given, I did note a couple of oddities with the time travel machine.

The first is that a message is given that the rotation of Earth has been taken into consideration. At first glance this makes sense – but I’d have expected this to have been the default setting and that a warning message would be displayed if the user opted not to take the Earth’s rotation into account (when would that be?). And come to think of it, what about other astronomical rotations and movements?

Still, this is nit-picking the nits off a nit-picker on a picnic – although possibly annoying for the user. I remember making (paper) photocopies at the Plymouth University library (it was a long time ago…). The default paper setting was A3 which meant you paid 3 times as much as for regular A4. And of course the copy never came out nicely so it was unusable and needed to be made again – with the correct setting. It was a crafty way for the university to effectively extract 4 times as much cash from us hard-up students than I think they should have. It was an annoying setting.

Thankfully Jason and Sarah didn’t seem too perturbed by their machine’s settings!

I was also surprised that this rotation consideration message came before the length of stay had been input. Wouldn’t the consideration require the length of stay? Then again, time is irrelevant with a time machine! πŸ˜‰

Going back to basics though, Sarah poses the question whether the teleporter time machine can differentiate between 2 bodies which are inside it. Recalling the effects seen in The Fly movie it’s a factor well worth considering. Jason figures that since he travelled without being fused with his clothes, then things should be OK.

Now I may be remembering this incorrectly, but wasn’t the difference between animate and inanimate objects the trigger for time travel instead of teleportation? In other words, I think the comparison that Jason makes between people and clothes is like comparing apples and oranges. Or at least, Adam and fig leaves…

Writing style

In keeping with the first novel, Patricia writes with a mighty pen. The horrors of nuclear fallout are vivid – both physically, and the emotional effects. You can’t help thinking “What the b***dy hell were people thinking when they set off those nuclear bombs?

There’s an interesting observation where WW2 was instrumental in advancing technology (much like the cold war), whereas with nuclear war sets things back. Radiation knows no borders – there are really no winners. Even the kids in the War Games movies knew that. (Then again, when you look at current British politics it doesn’t take long to realise that no-one’s thinking).

Perhaps in keeping with the insanity of humankind, there’s a fair amount of blood and gore. This is inflicted by Briggs (for example, twisting knives to release the vacuum, or catching blades on a piece of back-bone) and inflicted by the pricks who pressed the red button (nuclear blast / survival in post nuclear fallout).

Worrying as it is that Patricia has a startling knowledge of such things (and for clarity – this is not the reason why I’m saying I enjoyed her novel!) – I’m pleased that although subtle, Patricia’s passion for astronomy comes into play. Whereas many authors would cast a reference to the familiarity of the night sky by blurting some speel about the North Star (which is not particularly bright), Patricia mentions Spica and Arcturus – two different stars than the standard stars that your average author would pick. These are two bright stars, one of which can be quite low on the horizon – though now I come to think of it, it would be higher in the sky up near Newcastle (UK) where this novel is set.

(Actually, now I recall, Deb mentioned the constellations of Ursa Major and Orion in Dead Time. Whilst the latter is a well known constellation, it’s situated on the other side of the night sky to Ursa Major so these two in combination would give a good idea of how Earth’s celestial settings is.)

Closing

There is good and bad news when it comes to the ending – things seem to wrap up well (I won’t mention how or for whom! πŸ˜‰ ) but the bad news is that this suggests that there won’t be a sequel.

I hope I’m wrong…

Paul

PS: Why not read my interview with Patricia?

Author interview: Patricia Smith (Time Split)

Link to my review of Time Split.

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Summary
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Time Spilt - Briggs by Patricia Smith
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Author: Paul Wandason

I love astronomy and science fiction, but I love my family more. So I love time travel too!

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