The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 12 August 2002

Up the Line

by Robert Silverberg

In 2059, time-travel tourism has become commonplace. Our hero, Jud Elliott, joins the Couriers, rogue-ish community of people who escort tourists to various moments in history. His particular specialty is ancient Byzantium. Soon, he is leaping around the centuries, jumping into bed with all the women he finds there. The book was published in 1969. The social and sexual fantasies of the day are extrapolated a century into the future, where psychedelic drugs and casual sex are the norm. The protagonist is a product of his fictional age. The book is full of sex satisfying some adolescent male fantasy. In all centuries, the women are eager and submissive sexual partners with no personality beyond how well they perform in bed. The men hand women around as if they were cans of beer. This almost predatory fantasy rapidly becomes tiresome, and when Jud finally finds love, it is utterly unconvincing. Meanwhile, Jud becomes entangled in an insanely twisted knot of time-travel paradoxes when one of his tourist clients gets control of the time machine strapped around his waist. This aspect of the plot holds together only very loosely, though some of the bizarre thought experiments are interesting. At times, once he gets away from the sex and into his apparently broad knowledge of history, Silverberg manages to craft an entertaining set of intertwining trips into the past. At others, though, his insistence on repeated sexual adventure just gets in the way of his writing. A light, but hormonally oppressive, read.

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Also by Silverberg: [The Time Hoppers]

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