The Gone World – Tom Sweterlitsch
The setup for this book might be a bit convoluted, but I will try to explain it. The year is 1990 and the US (of course) has the ability to travel forward in time. This is used for solving particular hard crimes and is taken care of by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, an agency where our protagonist Shannon Moss is a detective. In the prologue we get to follow her on a training mission in 2199, where things goes wrong and she finds herself lost in a dead and cold forest, and in the sky is two suns. In the forest she sees people crucified upside-down, on of them a women, herself. Scared she’s starts to scramble to get to the extraction point but is not finding her way back to extraction. After a while she sees a beacon and people coming to rescue her. The problem is, they rescue the crucified women, not the Shannon through who’s eyes we see this play out. Back in the ship, the rescued Shannon is also sure that they have the wrong person and tries to convince the team that they should go back, but they don’t.
Shannon gets briefed that what she has experienced in that dead forest is what’s called The Terminus and it’s the end of earth in every timeline that the NCIS has ever been to. What’s worse is that The Terminus is slowly moving closer to the present in every timeline.
Cut back to 1997 and Shannon gets a call from the FBI about part of a family having been murdered, and the father and daughter gone missing. Shannon is put on the case, visiting the house of the family being briefed on the case, and here we learn that the house where the family lives is also the former house of Shannons best childhood friend, a house that she has spent much time in. We also learn that the friend got murdered when they were teenagers.
It’s hard to explain the story in more depth without giving too much away, but from here the story is in bits very much a crime-story, although Shannon is sent forward in time to gather clues about the homicide/missing-person case. As the investigation goes on, ties to the NCIS and other missions to the future is being discovered, as well as ties to The Terminus.
The book starts out pretty clear-cut but ramps up the time-travel themes as the story progresses. It can at times seem a bit convoluted to follow, but the author establishes clear rules and does a good job not breaking them throughout the story, being consistent with how it works. Here there is one point in time that’s called Terra Firma, and future timelines reached through wormholes are just one of several possible timelines. These possible timelines also ceases to exist as soon as the time-traveler goes back to Terra Firma.
Shannon, the female protagonist, is easy to feel for, you can understand why she gets so personally invested in the case and it also explains some rash decisions being made in the investigation. As a side-note, she’s also physically handicapped, having been forces to amputate a leg due to the circumstances described in the prologue, something that she has learned to live with in a good way and doesn’t want any pity from.
It can be hard to stick the landing when it comes to time-travel, especially when combining it with a murder-mystery and an world-ending event, but the author manages to bring the threads together in a good way. It’s impressive as the story goes from a relatively small scale homicide case to something far bigger. You can never really guess what is going to happen and there are some unexpected twists and turns throughout.
A great book for people interested in crime but want to mix it up with some science-fiction themes, especially time-travel ones (not many aliens here).