I love time travel novels, so this classic of time-travel SF that had somehow eluded me until now, was a must read when I came across a review of the novel at From couch to moon. I squeezed it into my reading schedule between my reading for Hugo nominations and when the actual Hugo Awards nominees were announced/the voter packet became available. I know, it’s been a while and my memories of the novel are becoming scetchy, but I’d at least like to share my general impression of the novel.
“No enemy but time” comes across as a time travelling novel, although the protagonist does not actually travel in time. Instead, he travels to some kind of dream space that looks and feels like Africa about 2 million years ago (if I remember correctly). The whole technology part of this travel is not explained, does not make sense, and is assumed to work just fine in a black box kind of way. In the novel, this works as long as the person doing the time/dream travelling regularily has vivid dreams of actual events from a certain time period that feel like memories of real experiences. OK…
The protagonist (I forgot his name) is a self-educated guy who mostly works manual labor jobs of African American heritage. He was born in Spain, raised by his mute-and-deaf biological mother during his early childhood and later adopted by American parents. The story of his life is told in two alternating time strands: in the first strand we meet him as a baby-toddler-child, in the second strand we meet him as an adult and see how he became a time traveller. This two-strandedness is something I liked about the novel.
What left me wondering about the writer, though, is the protagonist’s fascination for human and hominid genitals. Whenever we meet a new species of hominid (or just an African tribesmen) the reader learns everything about size, shape and special features of the males’ penises and the orientation and specialties of the females’ vaginas. And not to forget the pubic hair. The protagonist even has to go through an adult circumcision ceremony. I do not see the point of all this explicity, but maybe it’s typical for the time when this book was written? Or the author did not want to waste what he learned during his reading of probably many, many anthropological sources?
The book was a more or less engaging read, I had no trouble finishing it fast and I didn’t get distracted by other books that seemed more interesting. I am sure I will read more by Bishop sooner or later, because apart from “the attack of the genitals” that I experienced when I read this novel, it was a good book.