Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 3/5 Rating
About the author:
Cordwainer Smith was a pseudonym of American writer Paul M.A. Linebarger. As a child, he traveled and lives overseas in Europe and also the Far East with his family and was fluent in several languages. His first professional science fiction story, “Scanners Live in Vain,” was published in Fantasy Book in 1950; however, it wasn’t until the mid-1950s that he was encouraged to write more. Most of his science fiction was written between 1955 and 1966. In addition to his many short stories, he also wrote one science fiction novel, Norstrilia, and three mainstream novels, Ria, Corola, and Atomsk. This story was published posthumously in his definitive collection, The Rediscovery of Man, in 2003.
Well, so much for getting three weeks in a row of simple and meaningful stories. This story did start off promising enough, going hard on emotion, but the next thing I know, we’re flying all over space and time, and there is nothing for me to grab onto.
Tasco and Dita are newlyweds; only three days. Dita desperately wants to go on a time-travel ship for their honey-moon. Tasco knows it is wrong, and his Subchief warms his not to take her with him – to bring her another time – but Dita flutters her eyelashes and Tasco can’t say no. The reason his Subchief didn’t want Tasco to take her is because that ship is only built for one, and Tasco’s mission is to find the Knot in Time.
They do find they the Knot, but at a cost. The ship was only built for one, and even when they get rid of all essential supplies, it is still too heavy to make the trip home. The is only one decision left to lighten the load: Tasco must leave ship.
This really did start off good enough. We immediately learn that this ship is too heavy, they are running out of time to leave, Tasco’s Subchief warned of this – taking this honeymoon – and Tasco must sacrifice himself for Dita and the knowledge of the Knot in Time to survive the trip home. Very quickly you learn how dire the current situation is.
It is also very apparent that Tasco does loves Dita. However, their relationship did’t feel very believable to me. Dita seemed too ditzy and gullible, and too dramatic about the situation of Tasco leaving. In the same sense, despite the dangers, Dita literally only had to make a sad puppy dog face to get him to taker her. Tasco tries the being mean thing to make Dita let him leave ship, and that did make sense for him to try, but that whole situation with the two of them before Tasco left was very gimmicky and their reactions too expected.
The actual meat of the story is when Tasco leaves the ship and is starting to travel time. Here, Smith starts talking about hightiming and lowtiming, and Probability toward Formal or Resolved, and Selectors. High/lowtiming is travel forward or backward in time – I got that. The other stuff, the Probability… it all had something to do with returning to his time or not. In all honesty, it was quite confusing. And just as Tasco is traveling thought time, trying to figure out where he is going, I too, was trying to figure out what the heck was going on. And it did take me a while to grasp what was happening.
I discovered the plot is extremely simple, but all the Knot stuff – which I am still not sure what the Knot of Time is – how he aged, and how he was seeing things… I had to pause several times to understand it… or, at least, get the gist.
What actually happens to Tasco as he goes into space and goes through time is pretty cool, and I thought this had a cool twist at the end about him time traveling. The word “anachronism” mean something that belongs to another time period that which is exits. Like, seeing a crane being used to build the ancient pyramids. But this exactly what and where Tasco is; he traveling to a time period that his does not belong.
Unfortunately, the end of of Tasco trip was unclimatic for me, and the end of story was… meh, I just wasn’t a fan.
Spolierific Speculations: (Highlight to read)
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This was a short and quick read – only 6 pages. If I were to go back, I’m sure I could decipher more of the time-traveling mechanics, and what (or where) exactly the Knot of Time is, but I have no interest to do that.
It’s a really good idea for a time-travel story, and I did enjoy reading it, but it was made more complicated than it needed to be, character’s just weren’t believable to me.
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See you next Thursday for The Time Machine by H.G. Wells