Time City

Philip.Belben at pgen.com Philip.Belben at pgen.com
Thu Jul 20 13:40:13 EDT 2000

>< For me there is a great richness to ToTC, but I seem
>> to be thoroughly in the minority concerning it.  Could you tell me
>> why you don't like it as much? >>
> It just doesn't ever quite come together for me. The pieces don't fit
> together properly. (Unlike Hexwood, where they all do.) You get the distinct
> feeling that there is much more to Hexwood that we never know about, but Time
> City deliberately exists in semi-isolation and it just doesn't sit right. The
> characters all work, as does the story's tension, but the explanations of how
> the world operates are somehow unconvincing. I do not consider this up to
> Jones's usual standard in worldbuilding at all.

I find this very strange.  I think Time City hangs together _far_ better than

To make Hexwood work, you have to postulate huge powers of time distortion for
the Wood/Bannus combination, to make (for example) Ann able to witness Mordion
and Two arriving, when Vierran didn't arrive until One and Three made the trip.
In fact, I have never been happy with DWJ's treatment of the character of Ann -
she is far too complete a person to deserve being subsumed into Vierran!

Also there are little things.  Language often bothers me - in this case, why did
Vierran need to take language tapes, but Hugon / Gary Stavely could just turn up
and take over the shop?

Not that language is not a problem in Time City (Why do they all speak English?
Why is it understood thousands of years later?) but she doesn't introduce a
solution (language tapes) and then not bother to use it.

And then again, the character of Martin.  If he was so important to the Bannus'
plans, why was he not allowed into the wood until the final conflict?  Could
have been he needed some normal boyhood to prepare him for reignership, but it
all seems a bit strange to me.

> I also suspect that the difference in how this book strikes us may have
> something to do with the ages at which we first read it. IIRC, this one came
> out in the late '80s, didn't it? By that time I would have been solidly into
> my 40s, and time travel was by no means a fresh concept. Nor was the idea of
> a place that existed outside the time stream. I do not dislike the book. I
> just don't think it is up to DWJ's usual standard.

Possibly.  I was in my early 20s (or late teens - can't remember the date) for
Time city, late 20s for Hexwood.  Familiar with a lot of time travel variations
already.  Time City is to my mind far better done than the other book that
immediately springs to mind for this sub-subgenre, "The End of Eternity" by

> (And, fwiw, to me, Elio reads as a first draft for Yam.)

No, no.  All DWJ's robots and androids are like that.  (Probably the only other
writer who takes this approach and still comes close to this quality of AI
characterisation is Simak.)  Anyway, start with No. One (in the short story of
that name) and work from there...  (If you want to look at it from the first
draft point of view, No. One was the first draft, Elio and Yam independent
developments from it)

I do think Arth owes a lot to Time City, though.

Finally, for me the only real hanging-together weakness of Time City is the way
that they treat the Time City timeline as absolute (Start of WWII moved back
however many months in 3 days, why didn't Viv Lee report it? etc.) when
Jonathan's exploits prove that it isn't.


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