4 out of 4 stars
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Asymptote by L. Anthony Skelton is a science fiction novel that has time travel and its purpose and repercussions as its theme. The sequencing of the chapters reflects three chronologies: the author’s, the hero’s, and the general or Earth chronology. This means one can read the book three times; the main character’s and general chronology would show the reader alternate outcomes.
The narrative begins in 1993, when Harris Johnson, an elderly scientist, has finally achieved his life’s ambition: he discovered how to travel through time, and modified a TV remote control to become a portable time travelling device, called Pythagoras. Pythagoras is his final and only successful machine. Harris is thoroughly prepared for his travels to the future; he has turned a forgotten mine in the mountains just outside his hometown into a safe place of departure, shielding him from such dangers as solar radiation. Wary of altering his own timeline by interfering with his past, he chooses not to revisit or right things already done. With this decision made, he eagerly sets off for the future, hoping that humankind would have cured societal ills in the far future, as well as advanced science and medicine to such a degree that all diseases would be a thing of the past.
Asymptote is a novel about far more than the matter of travelling through time. I interpreted it as a work of perception, reflection about one’s life purpose, and the cost of ambition. Harris is an old man, a hermit devoted to his life’s accomplishment; these aspects give his reflections about life great resonance. He speaks to readers who ponder their purpose and mortality. Skelton handles his plot and character intelligently and such a light touch that the story lived and breathed on its own. I know the author has true storytelling talent because he made this intricate narrative move itself along with ease and grace. Furthermore, the author shares his wisdom with his readers as he weaves science, life experience and philosophy into a dynamic narrative. Harris has set limits to what he could do and where he could go in time, which made more sense to me than flitting off to other continents and well-known historical events. Staying in the setting of his childhood and exploring his own timeline established a tone of self-reflection throughout the novel.
The mathematics was beyond me most of the time, but necessary to establish plausibility. The writing itself is simple and accurate. Although Harris comes across as condescending, this is expected given his loneliness and focus on his purpose; this is a character who worked like a machine for the majority of his life, and his tone matches the way he lived perfectly. This novel has truly unexpected twists and I look forward to reading Harris’s and the Earth’s chronology to see how it changes my perception of the storyline.
I rate this novel 4 out of 4. There is nothing I disliked about Asymptote. The editing of the book is professional, and I noticed no grammatical errors. I recommend this book to all readers, not only fans of the science fiction genre because everyone can learn something profound from Asymptote while enjoying an intelligent story and empathising with a very human character.
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