The most common mistakes with time travel stories are the inaccuracies with the past and the absurd speculations of a distant future. Thankfully the novella The Continuum by Wendy Nikel from World Weaver Press hits the mark fairly unscathed on both fronts, making this a fun quick read many fans of time travel should enjoy.
Told in first person, our hero Elise Morley is a Retriever, an agent who goes back in time to retrieve lost clients of the time dimensional vacation company known as Place in Time Travel Agency (PITTA). When customers go back in time, they tend to stay longer than contractually agreed, sometimes by accident, and sometimes by choice. But when Elise is convinced to go on a special mission into the future, everything she’s learned about traveling through history is suddenly upended.
The PITTA organization has ten explicit rules for their clients to follow. Looking at them a bit closer, this list could easily be expanded tenfold when you consider the paradoxes of time and space. Readers not only get a glimpse at the complexity of Nikel’s story, but the difficulty it would be for our hero to police such endeavors.
- “Travelers must return to their original era as scheduled.” This seam simple enough and perhaps the most telling seeing that PITTA is a travel agency and not a relocation firm. But the latter would benefit most with such technology and assuredly lure in the darker, seedier characters of society.
- “Travelers are prohibited from Jumping to any time they have already experienced.” This one is a bit puzzling when you consider the premise of a vacation often being directed toward a retreat – some sort of a comfort place. This is probably a focus on not establishing a close relationship because of the limited time restraint, but it still seems difficult to become comfortable in a new place.
- “Travel dates must be prior to the traveler’s birth.” We don’t want people going back in time to change their own destiny, or worse, there is NO traveling into the future. Got it…unless of course, you’re with the government’s Trial Undertaking Bureau (TUB) and have ulterior motives that will put our hero in some kind of danger. So, it should come as no surprise that THIS rule will be broken – often.
- “Travel within the Black Dates is prohibited.” Yes, altering iconic events that occurred during, say the sinking of the Titanic or the bombing of Pearl Harbor could cause a catastrophic outcome, the same could be said about ANY event in history. What if Grog the caveman ignored that flame because you sneezed, and it went out, or if Einstein caught your cold and died of pneumonia at a young age?
- “Only pre-approved objects may be taken into the past.” This rule is a bit odd for a travel agency. Quite frankly, ANY object taken from the past would be dangerous if not morally wrong. Not to go too far off on a tangent, but the Holy Grail conundrum could be a bit of a mess – if not interesting.
- “Travelers are prohibited from disclosing information about PITTA or its excursions.” It would seem unlikely that anyone would believe you anyway.
- “Travelers are prohibited from disclosing any foreknowledge to people of the past.” Yet another morally subjective dilemma faced by time travelers.
- “Travelers must avoid all unnecessary fraternization with people of past eras.” This one explains rules 1 and 2 and makes for nice romantic drama when broken.
- “Extractions must occur in secure, unobservable locations.” Though understandable, this rule is perhaps the most entertaining when considering the perspective of the onlooker from the past.
- “After Extractions, clients must immediately return their Wormhole Devices to PITTA headquarters.” Reasonable request, but probably too late to enforce after the rule is broken.
Like most time travel stories where past, present and future intertwine with complexity, the conclusion of The Continuum leaves readers with a few unanswered questions. But face it, a satisfying ending often lends to the beginning of an exciting new journey, and that is certainly implied here.
Readers should appreciate the attention to detail Wendy Nikel put into this novella The Continuum. With just enough twists and turns to keep the pages turning, this is a fun little story that revisits some of those delicate questions of time travel we all love to debate.