Classification: Future Reality
After finding out he has terminal cancer, Jaybee Corbell decides to place himself in suspended animation in the hope that in the future it will be possible to revive him and cure his cancer. After all, he is only in his mid 40s, and surely in the future it’ll be a simple matter to cure him. 200 years pass, and Jaybee wakes up in a world very different from what he remembers – strangely, in a body not his own.
As Jaybee quickly finds out, in the 22nd century, the world is controlled by a single totalitarian government, and he does not have any rights anymore. In fact, he has only been brought back from the dead (his consciousness placed in the body of a mindwiped criminal) to perform a task as ‘payment’ for his resurrection. His mission: pilot a spaceship towards unknown space, and find planets suitable for terraforming. He is informed that unless he complies, a different consciousness will be placed in the body he occupies – effectively, destroying everything that’s left of him.
Jaybee pretends to be complying, but when he is certain he could no longer be stopped, he redirects his spaceship towards a black hole in the center of the galaxy. His goal is to benefit from relativity, that is, reach a a spatial area where time travels slower in relation to normal space. Ideally, this will propel him enough into the future that he could return back without any repercussions.
His attempt is a success and when he finally reaches Earth, he finds out that 3 million years have passed. However, in this time the Earth has become a much worse place than it was before. In this terrible future, the Earth is controlled by the Boys, the immortal descendants of humanity (who look like children) who capture him. What will he do? I don’t want to spoil the book, so read the book to find out.
This is one of the first time travel books I’ve ever read, and I consider it one of the classics. It has many of the ingredients necessary for a good time travel story: a diverse journey to the future (or the past), interesting setting/s, and a driven protagonist. Although the book does suffer from a malady many other older science fiction novels suffer from, namely, poor characterization, it still makes a very fun read and is highly enjoyable.
In summary: Not Niven’s greatest creation (that would be “The Mote in God’s Eye”), but still an excellent book, I recommend this to anyone who wants to a light read and does not expect a masterpiece.
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Tags: Artificial intelligence, Cryogenics, Dystopia, Future, Futuristic being