The Light of Other Days
Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
Tor, Dec 8 2009, $14.99
In the twenty-first century, Hidamani Patel had escaped the impoverished North Sea that has encroached on the fifty-second state England to make a fortune in the Forty-eight as Hiram Patterson. The successful multi-billionaire built his OurWorld campus on what was once Microsoft back before global warming changed the planet. Now Hiram explains his newest gizmo to journalist Kate Manzoni because of her article on Wormwood and the hit in the Pacific in the twenty-sixth century while Hiram’s son Bobby stands by.
Hiram has invented a WormCam that uses wormhole technology to open a portal anywhere in the world instantly. Privacy is a thing of the past as a person can see anyone at anytime. The technology soon also applies to seeing what has been as secrets are no more.
The underlying premise is brilliant as history’s mysteries are open for public consumption on a big humanity altering scale, but also on a personal individual relationship scale. When the story line focuses on the philosophy of what happens to mankind if basic beliefs are shattered, it is an intriguing tale. When the plot tries to turn inward to the impact on the characters, it loses steam ironically in spite of a lot more action as none of the cast matters especially compared to the historical possibilities. Fans of the two authors will enjoy their collaboration, but the prime what if question will be what if the cast felt remorse, guilt and shame for the lies they told their loved ones or for the lies their heroes told the world. Instead they become comic book action heroes who soar as an action-packed thriller; instead of short stories based on major historical events and legends through the ages that would have been enlightening.