No solution saves everyone. Only one keeps us human.
The hope of a dying Earth rests on a crew of astronauts. Their find a new home. But when they touch down on a distant planet, a time-bending anomaly traps them in a situation that no one could’ve predicted, causing them to question the nature of humanity, the snare of destiny, and the shape of time itself. Time’s Ellipse spans generations, orbiting the lives of the scientists and astronauts involved in this historic mission as they discover that escaping the planet is simpler than evading its legacy.
I’ve read a number of Frasier Armitage’s works and each one has been an exciting Crouch/Crichton style science thriller, packed to the gills with action and twists aplenty. So when I went into his latest novel, Time’s Ellipse, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted with a thoughtful, thought-provoking reflection on the near future of humanity after the climate crisis finally takes its toll.
We follow a large cast of characters along a tale that spans generations. In the wake of global climate crisis – one that spells the end for Earth in the not too distant future – a crew of astronauts are sent to a planet to discover if this will be humanity’s salvation. And thanks to some clever physics/science/time related nonsense I’m too thick to understand, these characters find themselves in a completely unexpected situation.
Despite this being different to what I have experienced from Armitage before, he still retains his signature strengths throughout this novel, these being his impeccable character work and his ability to create unique premises and then have his eclectic cast explore its implications fully and satisfactorily. The story is told across a series of what feels like interconnected short stories, each one with a different first-person POV. Armitage also experiments with various styles & language patterns across the different POVs. Each character is completely different from the last, and most of the stories here are emotionally gripping, creating moments of bittersweet happiness, devastating loss and sadness, and beyond all, introspective hopefulness for the future. It’s the kind of story that, to me, is best read in its almost episodic nature as opposed to binging it because each story brings another theme, talking point, and emotional moment to reflect upon.
And for a book that is roughly 280 pages, it’s a story that has some incredible depth and scope. It’s truly an epic in terms of how much time it spans and its implications. Its scale, however, is both a blessing and a curse.
To me, this feels like a story that could have spanned multiple novels. At times, it felt as if it was rushing through one part to try to either setup an upcoming scene, or, especially at the start, because it just wanted to get to the big reveal about a quarter of the way through. The time skips jump vast swathes of time, and these can be very jarring as one minute the world and setting is one way, then suddenly with little set up its completely different. And whilst I always enjoyed each portion of this novel, whenever it did move on to a different POV it was like it came to a halt and then we have to accelerate back up again to where it really shines. Whilst it ultimately works as a complete package, I can’t help but wish there was more to this to help flesh out everything just that bit more, whether this be just a nice chunky novel or even a duology (the latter would work great as there definitely feels like two distinct parts to this novel).
With this said, Frasier Armitage weaves a character heavy sci fi epic that takes us in unexpected and exciting directions. Reflections on discovery, legacy, humanity, climate change, religious/scientific juxtapositions, hope and the future keep this wholly original story engaging throughout. This is contemplative sci-fi at its best!
Time’s Ellipse is available on December 12th 2023!