Sunday, July 19, 2009

Book Review: 'The Day Before Tomorrow' by Gerard Klein

1/5 Stars

Gerard Klein (b. 1937) is a French SF writer. This novel was originally published as Le Temps n'a pas d'Odeur (‘Time Has No Scent’) in 1963 (1967 ?). The DAW books (No. 11) version was titled ‘The Day Before Tomorrow’ and issued in 1972. The translation to English was done by P. J. Sokolowski, and the cover illustration was done by Josh Kirby.

Far in the future, the galaxy is ruled by an authoritarian Federation. One of the means by which the Federation retains power is to utilize time travel to disrupt the course of civilization on those worlds that may, at some time in their development, threaten the Federation’s hegemony. To accomplish this, teams of seven men, wearing super-spacesuits and carrying ray guns, use time-travel technology to arrive in the past of the targeted planet. There the ‘time team’ uses covert tactics such as assassination, hypnotic control, or simple sabotage, to ensure that no rival to the Federation will ever emerge from the hapless planet.

On the most recent Federation mission, a time team headed by Coordinator Jorgenssen is dispatched two hundred and fifty years into the past of the planet Ygone. Since the planet is inhabited by a human-like race of lotus eaters at a rudimentary level of technology, Ygone seems hardly equipped to pose any threat to the federation. But the time team intend to carry out their orders destroy the planet’s capital city of Dalaam.

However, once on-planet, the team finds itself subjected to ambush from an unseen enemy wielding technology too advanced for the Ygonians to have developed. Barely escaping the ambush, the team finds themselves stranded, their equipment inoperable, with no way to return to the Federation. Jorgenssen makes a decision to visit the city of Dalaam and speak with the residents: what, exactly, is the mystery underlying Ygone and its inhabitants ? How did a people lacking any sort of technological prowess manage to deactivate the advanced weaponry of the time team ? Is there a link between Ygone and the long-vanished inventor of time travel, Archimboldo Urzeit ? Will Jorgenssen and his time team find themselves forced to choose between saving the Federation, or saving their own lives ?

‘The Day After Tomorrow’ starts off with a reasonably entertaining premise, but from the book’s mid-point on to the final sentence, whatever momentum the narrative has achieved begins to dissipate as the author engages in labored philosophical discourses. What initially seems like a time travel adventure promising some degree of technical ingenuity quickly lurches into a ponderous exposition on the nature of reality, destiny, and free will. The reader gets barraged with insipid stretches of dialog that try too hard to be Profound:

“But reality can include everything, even paradoxes. Or, rather, in reality there are no paradoxes.”

I won’t disclose much else about the plot in this short (128 pp) novel, so as not to spoil things. But ‘Day’ didn’t do much for me: author Klein was trying to cook up something like a Herman Hesse novel with SF machinations, and the result was half-baked…..

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