From the Files of the Time Rangers Hardcover – Sep 28 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Reminiscent of the Company stories of Kage Baker (who provides a glowing foreword), the individual tales that make up Bowes's "mosaic" novel add up to a relatively coherent alternate history of Greek gods, men, heroes and cyborgs. Apollo, Bacchus and Pluto have been having their fun for millennia, but just up the Time Stream disaster looms, so they have recruited lost children to become "Time Rangers," humans able to surf the Time Stream at will and perhaps change history to the gods' advantage. Various stories loosely follow the lives of three rangers as they fall in love with gods and each other, produce offspring important to the future and return to life from the Gate of Sighs. Also featured are Pluto's two godsons, who can sense death, a useful skill when avoiding gay serial killers and uncovering murderers. While the gods themselves are mostly seen from afar, by novel's end oracles, Furies and fate have all come together in a grand Telling for humanity's future. The interwoven plot lines are sometimes hard to follow, but the diligent reader will uncover a worthwhile, fantastic world.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
He's telling a story about America as a land of promises kept and broken, America as ground zero in a war between gods (mainly in Greek and Roman incarnations), humans, and strange machine intelligences of the far future who seem destined to replace them both. The machines are relentlessly pressing back the advent of their future triumph, so that it occurs earlier and earlier, while the gods are struggling desperately to hold on to what they've got. The Time Rangers of the novel's title are humans who serve the God Apollo; but there are also humans aligned with other gods, notably Mercury, Pluto (Godfather Death), Dionysus, Diana, and Ares (Lord Storm). Nor are the gods and their followers always allied with each other against the threat of the machines; on the contrary, the gods are as protean and volatile as mythology paints them--and Dionysus and Apollo, for example, have very different ideas about the best way to fight the machines. But this is merely the backdrop of the novel; it informs everything, yet Bowes' real story is elsewhere, in the dreams and aspirations of his human characters, in the lives they lead, which are, to a greater or lesser extent, shaped by the gods for their own purposes.
Thus we have the Timothy McCauley, groomed by the gods for the Presidency; Robert Logue, blessed/cursed by Godfather Death with the ability to sense the deaths of others; Nancy Kane, Ed Brown, and Jake Stockley, three young Rangers who in the course of the novel grow old and young and live and die and live again; and many, many others, a cast of Dickensian scope, each portrayed with sensitivity and acuity. Bowes writes with enviable economy and precision of detail: the amount of information and feeling he can convey in a seemingly simple sentence is truly amazing, and his narrative voice possesses unimpeachable authority yet is capable of devastating irony and profound sympathy. From the Files of the Time Rangers is his best book yet, a book I will unhesitatingly recommend to friends who read speculative fiction and to those who do not.
The premise is great. It is, after all, stories told by and about Time Rangers, individuals who travel the time stream on behalf of the gods (we're talking Apollo and Diana here) to ensure that humanity makes the right choices and to tweak history into place. I was initially recommended this book because I loved Kage Baker's time travel stories, and it seemed to have some resonance with Gaiman's excellent American Gods: A Novel, and... well, I'm a fool for any kind of alternate history. So how could this fail?
_From the Files of the Time Rangers_ is told as a "mosaic" of stories, as the author describes in an afterward. Several such books manage to pull this off, the most successful of which is Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. Kage Baker has also collected several short stories of The Company into book collections. I'm sure you can think of other examples.
But the key is that each of the winners is truly standalone but interlinked stories, each with clear beginnings, middles, and ends. This book made me feel as though an acquaintance had handed me a huge stack of photographs of people I didn't know. In my imagination, as I'd flip through the snapshots, I'd gradually realize that the people were connected, but they're still just photos of strangers.
Richard Bowes writes wonderful anecdotes and there are some characters that I really became very fond of, and I wanted to learn more about. But the "mosaic" was too random for my comfort, and there were too many snapshots of people I didn't know. I pushed my way through to the end of this book, but I had mostly lost interest halfway through.