Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait by K A Bedford.

I originally reviewed Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait  for The Specusphere, a website devoted to speculative fiction, where I was an occasional reviewer. Unfortunately The Specusphere is now gone so I'm now posting an edited version here.

Since that original review there have been some changes. Originally published by Canadian publisher, Edge, in 2008 Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait  has also since been released by Australian publisher, Fremantle Press and it is available through both as a paperback and an e-book.

Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait by K.A. Bedford

Edge 2008 ISBN-13: 978-1-894063-42-5

In Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait , Perth based author, K. A. Bedford, has moved away from the space world of his previous novels but don’t let that put you off. Bedford still has plenty to make you think in this novel set in Perth, Western Australia, in the near future where time travel is commonplace to the point that used time machines can be purchased through the classifieds and people go back to visit family members who have passed away.

Having blown the whistle on corrupt fellow officers travelling through time to commit crimes, and forced out of the police as a result, ex-cop, Aloysius “Spider” Webb, now works for Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait as a time machine repair man. Spider is good at his job but has no love of time travel himself. He spends his days dealing with difficult customers who have little concept of time machine capability and even less of morality or ethics and the laws governing the use of time machines enacted to protect the public.  As far as possible avoiding his irritatingly loony and manipulative boss, the aptly named Dickhead McMahon, he keeps his head down and gets on with his job.  

Outside work things are not much better. Life in the future is not as idyllic as might be expected. The wonderful new devices that should make for a comfortable existence frequently fail. The coffee droid breaks down with infuriating frequency and it’s not the only appliance that creates problems. “Toilet’s stopped talking to me,” wails his estranged artist wife, Molly. "This time it’s something different. It won’t recognize me, won’t open. Nothing but bloody error messages.” and Spider finds himself yet again doing household maintenance for her before returning to his cramped sleeping capsule in the worst motel in town. 

Then things get messy. A brutally murdered woman turns up hidden inside a time machine inside another time machine and DOTAS – the Department of Time and Space – represented by Spider’s friend, James Rutherford, takes over. Their report, which effectively closes down the investigation, only raises more questions in Spider’s mind and intrigued, he can’t resist the urge to investigate as the questions increase. Add in a former lover, ambitious police inspector, Iris Street, and Malaria, the receptionist at Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait, who is being harassed by Dickhead, and Spider has a lot to cope with. This is nothing, though, compared with what happens when Spider keeps meeting up with different versions of his future self.   

The complexities of time travel interweave with relationships, past, present and future, possible and actual, leaving Spider to make stark choices affecting his own and others’ futures. There is a feeling of reality about him as he responds to situations escalating out of control and affecting not only those he cares about but many more. He begins as one of those decent but world weary people whose daily struggles are the stuff of many lives and grows in stature as the full impact of what faces him is revealed. We empathise with him throughout as his relationships tangle and his life spins out of control.

The writer has created a fascinating array of characters and all are well rounded and believable making us care about what happens to them. Even the bad guys, however misguided their actions, have another side to them and remain convincingly human.

Bedford has a light touch with his writing. He obviously enjoys playing with names as Spider, Dickhead and Malaria show and a combination of understated humour and tense drama keeps the reader’s interest in what is an exciting, suspenseful read. While the science is not explained this is definitely science fiction and some of the potential complications of time travel are explored in the context of an entertaining tale. 

If I have a quibble about this story it’s the focus on coffee making in the early part of the book. It seemed to have little to do with the story line and although, I savour fine coffee and sympathised with Spider’s almost obsessive attempts at getting a drinkable cup, I did find it a little distracting.

Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait was the worthy winner of the 2008 Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in a very strong field of finalists and shortlisted for the Philip K. Dick Award 2009. It will appeal to those who enjoy fast moving, suspenseful science fiction more than lovers of hard science fiction and many readers will be delighted that the sequel Paradox Resolution is now available. I'll post a review once i've finished it.

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