The Instant is a medium of existence outside time, from which one can influence the past and the future - and hence, history itself. War dominates this strange abstract place - war among forces in contention for control of universal time and place.
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Richard Garfinkle's debut novel, Celestial Matters, won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel and earned its author two nominations for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Author--no surprise, because Celestial Matters is a terrific alternate history with appeal across nearly the entire imaginative-fiction spectrum, from hard SF to epic fantasy. Now Garfinkle returns to alternate history with a very different but equally idea-rich and even more ambitious second novel, All of an Instant.
Humans are trapped in time and space, cause and effect--until a brilliant scientist discovers the Instant, a paradoxical nonplace that is simultaneously all times and no time. Soon contending armies roam the Instant, stirring its waters as they struggle not only to conquer the world but also time itself. But every ripple in the Instant causes entire cultures and timelines to vanish. Even the first humans are threatened with destruction, though that would mean the end of humanity itself. Then Nir, War Chief of the first people, discovers an even greater threat. The waters of time, churned and changed by the ever-more-numerous armies and the ever-increasing time paradoxes, are solidifying--crystallizing into a shattered and toxic island that is spreading, threatening to freeze all time and end not only history but all life. --Cynthia WardFrom Publishers Weekly:
Garfinkle's second novel (his debut, Celestial Matters, won the Compton Crook Award for best first novel) launches its talented author into territory utterly unlike his firstAinto the fourth dimension, the "ocean of time" itself. A man named Dhiritirashta is the first to build a suit that allows him to swim in the seas of time, known as the Instant. From there he can swim in the three spatial dimensions, as well as in a fourth spatial dimension corresponding to Earthly time. When changes are made in the past, they flow forward, changing the future, and this flowing substance is the water of time. By manipulating these waters, Dhiritirashta attempts to dominate all of human history, but his changes inadvertently create thousands of histories from which humans can leap into the Instant, all battling to control time. Long into this unending war, a mysterious island of cracked solidity develops in the sea of time, the menace bringing together Nir, born near humanity's beginning; Quillith?, a far-sighted woman from the end of human history; and Kookatchi, a slave created with a memory only a minute long. While at first the narrative may appear to be a simple fantasy plot cloaked in space-time physics, it develops a sophisticated consideration of the nature of consciousness, of the continuity of selfhood across a lifetime, and of ethnic conflict. Should one try to make the future the image of one's own past? Should Nir, Kookatchi, and Quillith? try to save the chaos of the Instant or destroy it by freezing it into a single history? Garfinkle explores both questions with stunning imagination, thrilling the reader with adventure, philosophy, and topological wonders. (Nov.)
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