The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Time Patrol series is a loosely unified though thematically consistent collection comprising short stories and novellas. Guardians of Time was first published as a collection in 1960. Many of the stories had appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction throughout the 1950’s. “Time Patrol,” the opening story, introduces the underlying premise of the series and occupies a central role. Manse Everard is the main protagonist, and he is recruited under mysterious circumstances to the Time Patrol. The story follows his induction and his training in the academy as well as outlining the form and function of the Patrol itself.

The Time Patrol is the invention of the Danellians, a superior race who live millions of years in the future and who wish to retain their supremacy by ensuring that history unfolds as it should. The invention of time travel has allowed certain rogue elements to alter the course of time and history for their own ends. It is the role of the Time Patrol to police history and investigate anomalies or strange occurrences.

While investigating a seemingly harmless oddity, Everard finds himself in ancient Britain tracking down a time rogue who is attempting to alter the course of history. The story is intricate and relies on the parallel plot line of a colleague who is trying to travel back and visit his dead wife. In this story, Poul Anderson outlines the prime directive of the Patrol, namely, that the past can be changed as long as changes are not of a significant nature.

The second story, “Brave to Be a King,” is set in ancient Iran and concerns Everard’s search for a lost agent. The agent, Keith Denison, is trapped by local politicians and is crowned Cyrus the Great. Everard rescues Denison and brings him back to the present. The irony...

(The entire section is 745 words.)