Time Future
Maxine McArthur

Cover Winner of the second George Turner prize and hopefully not an indication of the future of the award, else it will have a very short life. This book is, at best, mediocre.

Commander Halley is in charge of the Earth space station Jocasta. An alien fleet known as the Seouras has blockaded the station. Halley has the unenviable task of keeping the station running, with diminishing supplies and overcrowding due to refugees. To exacerbate her problems a ship arrives with cryogenically frozen passengers from a hundred years in the past and a barbaric murder takes place.

The most unfortunate aspect of the book is how closely it parallels the 'Babylon 5' television series. It's not simply that they both have space stations filled with multiple alien races. The parallels run much deeper than that. The principle characters are duplicated, as are the races and two tier political system between the races. Although in 'Time Future' humans are on the second tier of power rather than the first. I can even point to the individual episodes in 'Babylon 5' where the storylines run parallel. I doubt it was Maxine's intent, but 'Time Future' is unlikely to be viewed as anything other than derivative of 'Babylon 5', which predates her book by a good 5 years.

Its second major problem is its pace. The book is often tedious and bogged down in mundane irrelevancies. I often found myself nodding off to sleep while trying to read it. The book is written in the first person so we don't read about anything that happens outside of Halley's direct experiance. As a result huge slabs of infodump scattered throughout to let the reader know what is happening with the plot. The infodump is done either as a passage of narrative thinly disguised as Halley's personal reflections, or through dialogue where the characters stand around telling each other things they already know so the reader can be informed. This was particularly the case with the cryogenically frozen people from the past. They became the foils to fill in the background history of the 'Time Future' universe. They themselves serve little other role in the story, though the ship they arrived in has greater import. The ship didn't need to have come from Earth's past for the role it portrays in the book, it merely does, in order to provide a vector for delivering history lessons.

The best aspect of the book is the writing. The ideas and story conveyed are less then great, but they are conveyed very well. Maxine's writing is clear and concise. This is her first book and it shows prospects for the future. Maxine can write and only needs an engaging topic to capture the imagination.