Richard Bowes,
From the Files of the Time Rangers
(Golden Gryphon, 2005)

Richard Bowes has constructed a "mosaic novel" with From the Files of the Time Rangers. The term refers to a series of linked stories that combine to tell a larger tale.

As we're informed in the author's afterword, this type of book has a proud heritage in science fiction. Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles and Clifford D. Simak's City are cited as prime examples of the mosaic form, though Bowes suggests that the lineage can be traced back as far as Ovid's Metamorphoses.

All this, while intriguing, mostly serves to point out the fact that From the Files of the Time Rangers is nowhere near the quality of work to which Bowes wishes us to compare it. In fact, it's rather a muddle. Despite the book's enthusiastic introduction by Kage Baker -- "Rick's work is gold, woven out of the straw, blood, sweat, fire and ice of his observations" -- I was less than impressed by this not-quite-a-novel.

The premise behind From the Files of the Time Rangers is that the old Greek/Roman gods continue to exist here in our modern world and that they exert their will through human agents. Apollo, and the gods with whom he aligns himself, seeks out children with the potential to move in time and recruits them into an elite corps known as the Time Rangers. These agents police the myriad parallel time lines, doing their best to keep events on track for Apollo.

Of course, there are plenty of other gods, each with agents and agendas of their own. And in this battle for control of the timelines Rick Bowes finds plenty of room for his fanta-sci-fi tales.

Time has not been kind to the gods, however. "These are old, low-horsepower entities," explains one character in response to the sweeping statement, "a god can do anything."

Perhaps I'm being too much the science-fiction purist, but Bowes never managed to get me to buy into his imagined world. The mix of classical mythology with an inconsistent melange of science fictional tropes including time portals and multiple-worlds theory simply didn't click for me. Why did some people move between worlds via portals (such as those found in Stoneham Cabin) while others twisted a ring on their finger and simply walked out of one time/world and into another? As well, with the book's constantly shifting focus (different portions of the story are told from different viewpoints), I don't think I ever felt as though I fully grasped how the story segments related to one another.

Several of the stories from which From the Files of the Time Rangers is built are potent in and of themselves. The story of Jess Quick's initial encounters with future U.S. president Tim Macauley is a wonderful exploration of hip New York culture and politics in the mid-'60s. The ease with which this story unfolds causes it to stand out from most of the rest of the book. Bowes is obviously very comfortable with this particular time and place and I wish more of the story had taken place there.

Another powerful sequence, chronicling young Bobby Logue's close encounter with a sexual predator, is truly horrific. But here I felt the impact of the story was blunted by other scenes of children exploited. In the end I felt the theme had more than run its course and the sexual violence had become gratuitous.

And how did the world in which Bobby Logue operated fit with Jess Quick's New York? How many versions of New York were we meant to be exploring? I simply felt lost through much of the book and this detracted not only from my enjoyment of the book as a whole but from my appreciation of any of the stories that made up the mosaic. In the end, a collection of Time Ranger stories would have made a stronger impact than this maze-like house of distorting mirrors. Sorry, I left my breadcrumbs in the kitchen and simply could not find my way through the twisted logic of From the Files of the Time Rangers.

by Gregg Thurlbeck
19 November 2005

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