The Coils of Time — A. Bertram Chandler (1964)


Publisher: Ace Books

First Ace Edition, 1964

Cover Art: Ed Valigursky

Plot Synopsis (of cover): “Okay, folks,” began Mark, “The Christmas rush is over, and we’ve got to make our profit margins look good for the new year.” Mark looked at the other game developers around the table. “I’ve got high hopes for us, so let’s hear some ideas.” Shawn, a lanky, bespectacled ginger, cleared his throat. “Well, some of the guys had an idea, but we aren’t all happy about it.” A grunt from the corner, issuing from a hefty (also, coincidentally, ginger) programmer,  made clear from where the protest originated. Shawn continued, “Anyway. So you know how in Halo and other FPSes, after you kill someone, you can go and crouch up and down on their face?” Mark cocked an eyebrow. “You mean teabagging,” he said. “Yes,” replied Shawn, with growing excitement. “Teabagging is the future of gaming! I think that, by capitalizing on the trend now, we can capture an as-yet-untapped market. We’re currently focus-testing names.” The chubby ginger programmer, still in a huff, grumbled, “I still think there should be elves in it.” Shawn glared at him, but spoke to Mark in measured tones, “WE decided against elves because WE thought the players should be giant aliens, and the NPCs getting teabagged should be retrofuturistec robots with goofy TV heads and pincers. You know, if you linger your tackle too long on a forehead, you get pinched and lose HP. As GARY here knows, elves would overly complicate the narriative.” Mark smiled and said, “You know, this isn’t as dumb as it sounds. You could level up to have crazy big nutsacks with oodles of balls in ’em, and we could have micropayments for customization options. This is great!” Shawn beamed, and Gary, the husky programmer, held back his tears. Mark continued, “But I don’t see why there couldn’t be just ONE elf.” (This post is sponsored by SCROTE COMMANDER, coming from EA Games in Fall 2017)

Relatively Irrelevant Inside Text: I’m really not sure what to think of this novel. There are some really nice elements to it. The time travel is done really well, character development is exciting, and the world-building is excellent. I don’t understand how Chandler could create such a fine foundation and fuck so thoroughly up the end product. I sought excuses for this—my first thought was that this was a serial, or maybe an abridged version, but it’s not either of those. It’s got some pretty bargain-basement dialogue, and definitely the lamest tacked-on, single-page ending I’ve ever reviewed, quite possibly the lamest ending in general that I’ve ever read. It’s almost as if Chandler started writing the book, gave it to a fan, and said, “I’m bored with this. You do it. Make sure it’s only 128 pages long.” Such high hopes, such broken dreams. Also, Mr. Chandler, FYI—it’s difficult to take your action scenes and torture porn seriously when you constantly remind your readers that everybody is naked. I don’t care how far you tighten the rack. If my torturer is a naked fat lady and the guards are all hanging dong, you’re working at cross purposes.

Rating: 6.9 Fancy-Free Venutian Nutsacks

Questions for Critical Cover-Viewing:

  • Assuming this is a space-suit I’m looking at, is the seam at the top meant to open so the astronaut can scratch his/her head and think, “When did GE move from doing Bakelite TVs into doing Bakelite space suits?”
  • Again, assuming this is a space-suit, speaking anatomically, what kind of rigorous stretching regimen does one have to adopt in order to properly fit into a suit that would clearly wishbone the untrained along what was once their groin?
  • If you were the woman in the background, confronted with this scene, would you shoot a) the freaky yellow testicle monster, b) the faceless pinching thing, or c) yourself to escape the nightmare world into which you were born?

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2 thoughts on “The Coils of Time — A. Bertram Chandler (1964)

  1. Your continually funny posts with the bizarre illustrations are a joy to read, but they do make me wonder what all these artists were actually on when they did the drawings…. =:o

    Liked by 1 person

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