Do I dare disturb the universe?
– (TS Elliot) quoted by The Mastermind
Timecaster by Joe Kimball, a self described Eco-punk novel set in a green utopean future, promises all the thrills, violence, sex, and groin punches that you probably wouldn’t expect in that setting. It’s not short on humor either.
In the year 2064, Chicago is hippy paradise; bio taxes paid by growing plants on every available surface, legalized recreational drugs, state licensed prostitution, and an almost complete absence of crime due to timecaster technology. Seven years previously, violent crime virtually ceased to exist when it was discovered that crimes could be recorded after the fact, making it impossible to escape justice.
Cops with the skill to timecast put themselves out of work by their efficiency, so only a few remain employed. With nothing meaningful left to do, Talon Avalon, one of the only timecasters left on the force, spends most of his time talking to school kids and worrying about his wife’s profession as a State Licensed Prostitute. So when one of her clients asks him to investigate a murder, he finds the possibility of a violent crime hard to fathom. His timecaster Tech reveals something even harder for him to accept – his own face on the killer.
So he must run, solve an impossible murder, and prove his own innocence while the city hunts him down as suspect number one. Even in a world where cops use wax bullets and tasers, his life becomes a never ending series of painful twists, action sequences, and astoundingly funny moments.
Kimball creates a vibrant, interesting world that sucks the reader in. Bio taxes are paid by upstanding citizens in the form of plants grown on every available city surface, giving new meaning to the term ‘urban jungle.’ After the murder is revealed in this green utopian future, the veil starts to tear and this society reveals itself less sparkling and pure than its surface appearance.
For one thing, violent crime has only disappeared among the utopians themselves. Another layer of society, the city’s dissytown, harbors those who refuse to pay their bio taxes and live outside the law. In dissytown, crime doesn’t count and human life is cheap.
As Talon unravels the mystery, there are plenty of funny moments, including bar fights and non stop action that makes 007 seem believable. Throughout it all, he fights to win his life back while clinging to his love for his beloved wife. Though all odds are against him, he sticks to his principles and refuses to quit, no matter what others might think. While a man of his own time, sometimes he seems like a man our own – giving the reader a modern commentary of the future.
However, some of the terminology is distracting. Characters frequently employ acronyms in everyday speech, whether it’s SLP (State Licensed Prostitute) or something more mundane such as BRB (Be Right Back). A handy glossary is available in the last few pages of the book, though looking up abbreviations might interrupt the flow of reading.
Also, as outrageous as some of the scenarios are, some statements seem even more so. At one point, Talon observes, ‘Years back, supernatural phenomena were proven to be bunk by science.’ As the sudden history of this green utopia is revealed, everything seems to have happened too easily, too quickly. Given the satirical nature of the novel, that may have been intentional, but the history itself (outside of timecasting) already requires a fair amount of willing credulity on the reader’s part.
Hilarious fight scenes, jerks getting their comeuppance, and a shameless self promotion by the author will have you laughing out loud. And though the gore, sex, and action sequences require some suspension of disbelief, it’s completely worth it. The major plot points are resolved, the mystery’s revealed, yet the novel still manages a cliffhanger ending.
Fans of science fiction, sex, time travel, satire, and groin shots will enjoy this book; though, I wouldn’t recommend it for younger children. Would I buy it myself?
In fact, I’m already looking forward to the sequel.