I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Time Siege by Wesley Chu
Series: Time Salvager #2
Published by Tor Books on July 12 2016
Genres: Adult, Science fiction
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The nitty-gritty: An fantastic, action-packed follow-up to Time Salvager, full of complex characters and relationships, and yes, some time travel!
I’m always happy to read a Wesley Chu book, especially since he’s the author of one of my favorite science fiction series, the Tao books. And I always love when a favorite author ventures out and manages to come up with a completely different story from the one I’m familiar with. Such is the case with the Time Salvager series, an action-packed time travelling story that takes place on a future Earth (and in space as well) where everything has pretty much gone to hell because of a disease called the Earth Plague. This is a post-apocalyptic world where resources are scarce and people who aren’t lucky enough to have a job with one of the big corporations are scrambling to survive. Chu shows us the wide divide between the two groups, and it’s a chilling look at what our own world could be heading toward.
While the first book in the series, Time Salvager, focused on salvager James Griffin-Mars and how he came to join a tribe of people known as the Elfreth, Time Siege moves the story along as outside threats make it imperative for the Elfreth to leave their home. Because James is a fugitive, an ex-chronman who committed the sin of bringing back a person from the past, his old company ChronoCom is looking for him, and anyone associated with James is in great danger. While James’ girlfriend Elise, a brilliant scientist from the past who might hold the key to saving the planet, continues to work on a cure for the Earth Plague, she’s risen in stature among the Elfreth and is now one of their leaders. But when word reaches the tribe that a woman named Kuo has been tasked with the job of finding and capturing Elise, the Elfreth begin a long and perilous journey to hide from ChronoCom.
Finding shelter and possible allies on what used to be the island of Manhattan, the Elfreth begin rebuilding their lives. But Kuo is a relentless woman who won’t stop until she finds Elise, and if some of the tribe have to die because they’re in her way, so be it.
Obviously, if you haven’t read Time Salvager, there are bound to be some spoilers for that book in this review. But I’ll do my best to keep them to a minimum. One of my favorite parts of Time Siege is Chu’s fantastic development of this post-Earth Plague planet. I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories anyway, but throw in cool details about one of the most famous locations in the world—Manhattan Island—and you have an irresistible setting. In this story, Manhattan has become a veritable jungle, its many skyscrapers uninhabited and overrun by nature. Plant life has taken over, broken through windows, wound its way up staircases and found a home among what used to be hundred stories high glass and steel. Hovering over the island is a permanent fog, a strange byproduct of some earlier, failed technology. The vines and fog make Manhattan more jungle than city, and quite the scary location to throw our characters into. Add in different groups of savages, gangs and marginalized people just trying to survive, who fight over buildings and floors, and you have a volatile setting where sudden violence can erupt at a moment’s notice.
Elise, James and their tribe of Elfreth have perilously made their way to Manhattan, but once there they discover that they will have to fight for every inch of space they try to acquire. The action sequences that take place in Manhattan were fantastic, and the scenes where the Elfreth join forces with other groups to hold back the most violent of the gangs were fascinating. Chu clearly has done lots of research on battles and war strategies and he uses that knowledge to great effect here.
Another standout scene for me was when Levin, a character from the first book who has now reluctantly joined sides with James, infiltrates a penal colony to break out his brother—the brother he arrested in Time Salvager. You can imagine all the emotions and anger lying just beneath the surface of their encounters, and I thought these scenes were some of the most exciting in the book.
James is still the most interesting character for me. Once again, he proves that he’s completely fallible. He suffers guilt over the fact that his sister Sasha is very ill. He’s become depressed because he can no longer make time jumps, due to his deteriorating health (chronmen typical have shorter life spans and can only make so many jumps). And his relationship with Elise isn’t going so well, since Elise is constantly busy with her new job as “Oldest” of the Elfreth. All this has led him to drink more and more, and people are starting to notice. Many of the characters go through trials in the story, but James seems to have the roughest road.
And while there’s action aplenty, what I really wanted more of from this story were time jumps. Because James is unable to jump anymore (although I think he does make at least one jump in the beginning), his rival Levin, another chronman, takes over. But even then, the time jump aspect of the story just wasn’t the focus in Time Siege. I’m hoping Chu gets back to more of it in the next book, because the idea of jumping back in time in order to pillage resources from the past is such a great idea, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy this series so much.
Another small issue for me was the romance between James and Elise. Their relationship starts out strong, but it doesn’t take long before Elise becomes leader of the Elfreth, and this creates an imbalance between the two. Soon poor James is left out of much of the decision-making, and later in the story, Elise becomes downright mean to him while he’s going through alcohol withdrawals. I get the “tough love” thing, but Elise was really a bitch for part of the story, and I didn’t like her very much.
But that said, Time Siege was so entertaining. There is plenty happening on the sidelines that I haven’t even touched on, which just goes to show how intricately Chu has plotted his story. Several things are set in motion at the end, giving the reader a glimmer of where the story might be headed. It certainly made me anxious to find out more—although I don’t see evidence of a third book on Goodreads, so let’s all wish really hard!
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.