The shield of time
(Poul Anderson, 1990)

This book continues the adventures of Manse Everard and the Time Patrol. It's almost the last word on the subject; only the short story ‘Death and the knight’ was written later.

Although presented as a novel in six parts, this is really a series of three linked but separate stories, all featuring Manse Everard and Wanda Tamberly (who also appeared in ‘The year of the ransom’).

  1. ‘Women and horses and power and war’ shows Everard pursuing the last few surviving Exaltationists to the ancient city of Bactra (northern Afghanistan) in 209 BC. The Exaltationists are a group of clever maniacs from the far future, equipped with time machines and other high technology, who aim to change history decisively, thereby erase the Time Patrol completely, and then do as they please without constraint.
  2. ‘Beringia’ is a tale of the prehistoric past, set in North America in 13212 BC. A peaceful, primitive, and naïve people (the true first inhabitants) are about to be displaced by the more advanced and more aggressive ancestors of the Red Indians — a process that distresses Wanda Tamberly.
  3. ‘Amazement of the world’ describes not one but two consecutive changes to human history that need to be corrected by Manse Everard and his colleagues in order to preserve their own version of history, including the origins of the Time Patrol. This time, it seems that the changes have occurred as a result of random natural fluctuations in the stream of time, rather than being caused by the activities of time travellers. However, the key agent of change is a 12-century Italian knight called Lorenzo de Conti, whose disruptive activities must somehow be prevented although he is himself innocent and blameless.

Much historical research has gone into these stories, which contain detailed and evocative descriptions of past times. As fiction, they maintain the standard of the other Time Patrol stories reasonably well, without surpassing the best of them. I recommend reading Time Patrol first, and then continuing with this book if you want more.

Written in September 2007