The Bad Twin • 1988 • Time Travel novelette by Walter Jon Williams

★★★★☆

Synopsis: The narrator is part of a time travel police. His current mission is to protect the Aegean Sea island Santorini from time thefts. The island is about to explode in a vulcanic eruption in ancient Greece, leading to the collapse of the Minoan civilization on nearby Crete.

As he fights one especially dangerous thief, he exploits multiple interleaving time loops, creating several versions of himself. He ends up going rogue and arresting his time clone.

Review: Williams made an effort to throw his twin protagonists into as many paradoxons as he could imagine. Most of the fun while reading this story is to figure out the complicated patterns and draw an imaginary time graph. Time jumps are not only used once or twice like in so many other time travel stories, but dozens of times, creating ever more interesting fight sequences and logic puzzles.

My past self, who I’ll call I-Alpha, would then take position behind the olive tree and set his own chronometer for 15:22:05. He would then jump downStream and become me, in accordance with the laws of temporal conservation, and kill Scorsese all over again.

The Greek setting and mythology shines through at every corner, and it is obvious that the author knows his stuff.

For a long time, this novelette has only been published in one collection, and it is good that it sees the light of the day again.

Highly recommended for readers of time travel stories who like to puzzle.

Meta: isfdb. I’ve read it it in the collection Best of Walter Jon Williams published by Subterranean.

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3 Responses to The Bad Twin • 1988 • Time Travel novelette by Walter Jon Williams

  1. pdtillman says:

    I just read this last night! I wonder if I’d missed it? Just as WJW said in his afterword, he put in all the TT cliche’s he could find! From my upcoming GR review:

    Amazingly twisty time-travel story, set in ancient Crete, shortly before Thera/Santorini is scheduled to blow itself to hell-and-gone. A lone Time Corpsman has been left to defend the archaeological treasures against looters. One appears, and dealing with him is FAR from straightforward. Fine, twisty tale: 4+ stars!

    Liked by 1 person

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