L. Sprague de Camp

Rivers of Time

Simon and Schuster, New York 1993
ISBN 0-671-72195-X

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Reginald Rivers runs an unusual travel agency. He owns a time machine and offers his customers a special service: travels to the past. Those who can afford it take hunting trips to the Cretaceous and Jurassic period when the biggest land animals ever roamed this planet. The heads of the big predators are especially sought after as trophies, but not only big game hunters are among the time travelers but also some rather eccentric fellows who make sure that Reggie Rivers and his companion, the Raja, never get bored.

He gets lots of bad publicity when once more an imprudent guest ends up on the dinner table of some primeval beast, like the clergyman who made the journey with his colleagues to prove that evolution is one big hoax and Earth actually is 6000 years old, just as Bishop Ussher once claimed to have found out. Just as bad was the trip with the two scientists eager to witness the impact of the meteorite that ended the Age of Dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Apart from that Reggie always has to make sure that no period of time is visited twice in order not to cause a paradox. A change in history with consequences for the present would catapult the travelers back to their own times immediately and leave only shreds of them.

RIVERS OF TIME is a great read for everybody who dreams of visiting our distant past and seeing prehistoric animals in flesh and blood. It’s fun to see what can happen when so-called civilized people collide with an "uncivilized" world. The book is a collection of short stories about the adventures of a troubled travel agent of the future with his sometimes very eccentric customers. Reasons to make a journey to the past are manifold: love of adventure, curiosity, the conviction that the animals meant to be their prey are already extinct and therefore the hunters aren’t pestered by conservationists when they shoot as many as their hearts desire. The descriptions of the fauna are vivid and fire the imagination, but the best thing about the book is the author’s eccentric sense of humor. In spite of all their high tech gadgets the "Pride of Creation" has a hard time surviving in the wilderness. Some people just don’t want to see that it’s not enough to have a big brain if you don’t know how to use it.

Good science fiction doesn’t always need strange planets and alien civilizations. This book is proof that our good old Earth serves just as well.

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