Showing posts with label Time Raider. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Time Raider. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Time Raider #03 - Union Fires

In December of 1992 author John Barnes released the last book of his three book series 'Time Raider'. This last chapter, entitled "Union Fires", doesn't quite wrap the series up in a sufficient way to satisfy the completist like myself. The questions are still left unanswered and I'm not convinced the author had many responses. His time traveling parameters lie somewhere within the realms of reincarnation and Doctor Strange but nestled into a men's action adventure novel. However, tucked away in it's own little corner, it proves to be not only the best book of this series but one of the better books I have read in the military fiction genre. Barnes really comes into his own here and delivers a compelling thrill ride of action storytelling. 

The author thrusts Samson and the reader into some very intense and suspenseful situations by dropping the protagonist into Eastern Virgina in the spring of 1864. Samson, who already fought in Vietnam in his present day, has fought Nazi Germany in WWII (first book "War Tide") and struggled in the US-Mexico campaign in El Paso (second book "Battle Cry"). Shortly after his "death" in "Battle Cry" he awakens to find himself in one of the more interesting characters I've read in a long time. Samson finds that he is a double-agent that has infiltrated a small squad of Union agents. It's intricate and left me pondering throughout the book on which side Samson was currently assisting. 

Samson's character is Prescott Heller, a Virginia Military Institute graduate that has become an agent for the Confederacy. At some point he was sent to the north to pose as a Union soldier. He worked through the ranks and became an agent for the Union under Lafayette Baker and his secret service. As "Union Fires" begins Samson is in a small squad of Union secret service on a mission to free northern prisoners from a tobacco plant in Richmond. As if that isn't difficult enough, Samson learns that his former wife, Sarah, in the present day is also living a past life as a Union agent as well as his best friend Matt from his own time. Sarah and Matt don't know that Samson is really Heller which makes for a unique set of circumstances. 

One could read this and dive right into the rather complicated aspect that Barnes is attempting here. Past lives, multiple time streams and a strange time traveling mentor that is more Master Chen Ming Kan (remember 'Kung-Fu'?) than any real help. Without dropping endless spoilers here the main premise of the book is Samson's favoritism to the Union and aborting the original mission that Heller was assigned. This leaves him in a life or death balance between reporting to Union requirements undercover and violating his Confederacy commanders who want him to stop those that mean the most to him in his current time. 

Barnes is quite the storyteller here and provides numerous action sequences that move this along in fast pace. The author has a good knowledge of the Civil War and provides technical details that aren't too far between the lines for casual readers. While this is an action adventure book, Barnes provides a ton of intrigue, espionage and other elements that make the spy sub-genre so much fun. The portions that feature Samson behind bars are absolutely brutal and left me contemplating my own survival in such extreme conditions. 

While Barnes doesn't provide the closure the series really needed he ended on a very high note. Whether there were more books planned is a mystery. In the "Afterword" section Barnes mentions that these books helped him get through a time in his life where things were collapsing. Perhaps it was his own therapy that provoked the series. Either way it leaves a decent trilogy on the table for those that love science fiction, military fiction and action-adventure. Who could ask for more than that?

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, January 13, 2017

Time Raider #02 - Battle Cry

A time traveling Vietnam veteran is summoned through the "Wind Between Time" and forced to fight in some of the bloodiest campaigns in history. It's similar to the earlier series 'Casca', 'Freedom's Rangers' and 'Lost Regiment' The first book in the 'Time Raider' series introduced us to Dan Samson, former Vietnam War vet who gets thrust through time during a weird medical experiment at a local lab. Samson awakens as a young Private in World War II, forced to fight Nazis in the Italian mountains. The end result? Samson gets killed off but awakens in book two, 'Battle Cry', as a US Calvary solider in 1846. Is it any good? Just like the first book...I could take it or leave it. 

The book's premise is Samson is Private Hiram Galt, an alcoholic soldier serving the US Calvary in and near El Paso. El Paso to Chihuahua is hotly disputed between Mexico and the US. They like to shoot at each other. A lot. The battle could have been over rather easily if the two parties could have just agreed on a monetary transaction. Yet they didn't and thousands of soldiers died in the campaign. Samson has Galt's memories and he combines that with his own military experience in what amounts to a whole lot of nothing. Samson's superiors want him to carry military plans to another unit. To do this he must go through a territory that is disputed between two ranches. Barrington Taggart is a US rancher who ultimately is very wealthy, and in 1864 that means he has a lot of slaves. The other side of the mountain is Mexican land owner Rancho Bastida, who claims to have Spanish nobility and won't go down without a fight. The two ranchers actually get along fairly well but they don't cross each other. Yet. 

Samson stops in at Taggart's place first. The old guy treats Samson extremely well with hot water and dinner. After the festivities Taggart breaks out some hanky-panky by bringing in a young slave woman and beating her to a pulp. Samson wants no part in this and he is commanded to leave at first light. That night he leaves the camp with another slave woman, Ysabel, who prompts the two of them to leave Taggart in a hurry. The land barren wants Ysabel back and heads out after the two with a crew of hardened men.

The author throws a few firefights at us, mostly just "hit and run" with Samson taking potshots at the crew. The second half of the book is Ysabel's brother Juan showing up. At first he takes Samson captive, however Samson escapes Juan's fort and heads out to fulfill his mission solo. He runs into a pack of Taggart's crew and then runs back to Juan for safety. Together, Juan's crew and Samson take up arms to fight Taggart's gang. It's a little short on plot and seemingly just exists so we can watch Samson skip from Point A to Point B repeatedly. Such a great idea with this time traveling soldier bit but just fails to deliver the goods. 

'Battle Cry' was released through Gold Eagle in 1992 and is the middle book of this time traveling men's action trilogy. Author John Barnes wrote all three of these and I'm not terribly certain if the idea was just the three books or if there were plans to do more with it. It has the ability to go further than a trilogy but Barnes may have become as bored as I have with the rather lackluster plots. This has a few surprises in it that I won't spoil here. The mystery is still fairly thick on why Samson is floating through time. Who is Master Xi? Can our protagonist actually die? Will he ever return home? We may never know. It's around 200 pages and makes for an easy read. It beats exercise or manual labor. Sometimes that's enough of an excuse to read anything.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Time Raider #01 - Wartide

Another barrel-chested action hero emerges with John Barnes 'Time Raider' series. "Wartide" is the first of this series and was published in 1992 by Gold Eagle. Barnes is an American writer that has written a lot of science fiction tales in his career, notably the 'Thousand Cultures' line of books. The 'Time Raider' series was short lived with only three books instead of a long line of time traveling entries that could have made up for a lengthy writing endeavor if Barnes chose to pursue it. 

The book introduces us to a Vietnam War vet named Dan Samson. At the start we get a brief backstory on Samson - decorated veteran who is financially strapped selling cars for a dishonest dealer. To obtain some extra cabbage Samson agrees to a lab experiment that has something to do with cables attached to his head for some sort of hidden memory nonsense. Samson agrees to do it for a measly $200 bucks. The lab tech gives specific instructions that Samson cannot move during the two hour procedure. During the experiment, Barnes throws us a curve ball with some really jumbled writing that seems to suggest an AK-47 toting bad guy breaks into the facility and starts stacking up bodies. Samson moves his body and thus becomes Time Raider.

Trapped in his own time Dr. Sam Becket leaps from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, hoping that his next leap will be the leap home. - wait that's 'Quantum Leap' and this is something very similar. The time traveling hero awakens to find himself in Nazi occupied Italy during WWII. The author treats the whole thing casually as Samson just simply keeps on living in this world as if it's no big deal. I mean we all do this right, leaping around through time fighting wars from the history books. It turns out Samson is in the body of Private Houston, a pimping US Army hustler that has done some really bad things through the course of the war. Like he's a really bad guy. With very little concern or questions Samson kills off an Army rapist and then annihilates a squad of German goons. To prove he is a changed man he teams up with an Italian rebel to break into a German military base and kill off a few Nazis. The two then go back to camp and decide to break into another facility. They get caught, tortured and inevitably break out. The whole purpose of Samson's trip through time is to defeat the Nazi regime's use of Sarin gas on North America. Or was it to make snow angels? 

The book is really written without a whole lot of explanation or reasoning. Nevertheless Barnes gives us a whole lot of action including a much needed shootout in a wine cellar. Kudos to the author for delivering the goods with a fairly decent pace. Why Samson is a ping-pong ball in the time stream really isn't unveiled here. Instead, a bunch of Asian prophecy crap is laid on us with the Winds of Time fortune cookie. At the end, Samson learns that he can't return home and will be time traveling in lieu of collecting Medicare and playing church bingo in his old age. 

While this is a really interesting concept, it surprisingly isn't that original. A series called 'Casca' is essentially the same thing, debuting in 1979 and running through the 80s. 'Janissaries', 'Lost Regiment' and 'Freedom's Rangers' are similar and released prior to this series. The next entry in 'Time Raider' promises the Mexican-American war. I'll be searching the book caves for the remaining two installments. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE