The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Brian Chaney is a demographer who has upset religious fundamentalists with a study of newly translated scrolls showing the Book of Revelations to be stories, not literal truths. On a beach to which he has gone to escape his notoriety, he is informed by the attractive but humorless Kathryn van Hise that the government has purchased his contract with his private employer. To his consternation, he finds himself having to follow her to an Illinois research station and its Time Displacement Vehicle, an experimental time machine.

Chaney joins irrepressible Navy officer Arthur Saltus, with whom he develops an easygoing relationship, and Air Force Major William Theodore Moresby, who disapproves not only of Chaney’s disdain for authority but also his biblical scholarship. The three have been chosen to carry out research in other times.

The United States in 1978 is a land of civil unrest, with trains armored against rocks and gunshots, the Great Lakes flooding, and social mores in flux. The Vietnam War is dragging on, escalating once to a nuclear exchange between the American military and communist China. A weak president who advanced to office on the death of his predecessor wants to use the time travel device to see if he can win the next election. Gilbert Seabrooke, the more imaginative project director, would like to travel backward in time to record the Crucifixion or the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Chaney, Saltus, and Moresby...

(The entire section is 504 words.)