cover image The Empire of Time

The Empire of Time

David Wingrove. Random House U.K., $16.95 trade paper (496p) ISBN 978-0-09-195616-5

This ambitious epic is a sad flop. After time travel is discovered in the 28th century, Germany and Russia lock themselves in a never-ending battle to alter history on a genocidal scale, each determined to eliminate the other entirely. Otto Behr, one of Germany’s top soldiers in this war, struggles to keep his side alive from the Middle Ages to the future. Wingrove (the Chung Kuo series) makes it clear that readers aren’t supposed to root for his protagonists, who actively work to help Hitler murder Jews and are outrageously misogynistic, reducing women to brood mares. Otto’s lust for the women he meets does nothing to mollify this. Since the characters are so oppressively unlikable, it’s difficult to appreciate the discussion of how history turns on small decisions or Wingrove’s willingness to tackle time travel paradoxes head-on. Reading about the odious Otto handily demonstrates time dilation: even a few hours of it feels like an eternity. (Apr.)