This review is available here by kind courtesy of the author. Originally published in "Vector 83", in 9/10 - 1977. Copyright Brian Stableford, 1977-1999.COLLISION WITH CHRONOS by Barrington J. Bayley. Allison & Busby, London 1977, 169pp. £3.95 ISBN 0-85031-222-1
An archaeologist discovers evidence that the ruined city he is studying is slowly getting younger. Time scientists find that the past is fixed and dead and that only in the momentary present can life and consciousness exist. The moving finger writes, etc. - except that it turns out that there is not one moving finger but two. There are two momentary presents, and they are sweeping through time toward one another.
Earth is ruled by militaristic neo-Nazis intent on purifying the human race. The Interstellar Space Society, who can control time and whose city is far from any time-locked planetary body, unwisely permit themselves to become involved in the situation on Earth.
The I.S.S. scientists are attempting to contact the "oblique entity" which is moving through time within the locus of its own momentary present, orientated at an oblique angle to the straight line along which Earth's time-fronts are moving.
Barry Bayley is a man of ideas. His inventiveness is perhaps unparallelled in contemporary SF. We pride ourselves in being involved with a literature of ideas and infinite possibilities, but attendant upon this pride is a failure of the imagination, for we sometimes forget how deep the ruts of sf's self-inflicted cliches really are, and how very rarely we manage to peep out over the ridges to view territory still unexplored. There are a bare handful of writers who seem able to move across those ruts easily and naturally, who can still invent consistently and imaginatively. Barry Bayley is one - his stories are always fresh and always fascinating.
Bayley's manner of dealing with ideas is cavalier and melodramatic. He has little time for rapt contemplation of the eternal mysteries - he writes with verve and vigour, often playfully and never tediously. In the present work (which was first published in the USA in 1973 [as Collision Course]) he is a little below his beat - he has written three novels since this one (The Fall of Chronopolis, The Soul of the Robot, The Garments of Caean) and he is still improving. Collision with Chronos suffers slightly from the manner in which it arbitrarily switches from one lead character to another in relentless pursuit of its fascinating notions. Personally, I am quite happy to be switched about in such a good cause, but the more recent work has better organization and greater coherence. I am told that Allison & Busby intend issuing a lot more of Bayley's books over the next couple of years, and this represents a publishing event of major importance. The fact that such an interesting and readable author has for so long been neglected in his own country is a tragedy. Look out for all these books - take pains to seek them out. You will find it a rewarding experience.
- Brian Stableford, 1977