by Gregory Benford

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Winner of the 1980 Nebula Award, Timescape has since become a classic of the science fiction genre, combining hard science, bold speculation, and human drama—a challenging and triumphant tale told by a master storyteller. 

1998. Earth is falling apart, on the brink of ecological disaster. But in England a tachyon scientist is attempting to contact the past, to somehow warn them of the misery and death their actions and experiments have visited upon a ravaged planet. 

1962. JFK is still president, rock 'n' roll is king, and the Vietnam War hardly merits front-page news. A young assistant researcher at a California university, Gordon Bernstein, notices strange patterns of interference in a lab experiment. Against all odds, facing ridicule and opposition, Bernstein begins to uncover the incredible truth . . . a truth that will change his life and alter history . . . the truth behind time itself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553297096
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/01/1992
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 383,971
Product dimensions: 4.14(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.26(d)

About the Author

Gregory Benford (born January 30, 1941) is an American science fiction author and astrophysicist who is on the faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine. As a science fiction author, Benford is perhaps best known for the Galactic Center Saga novels, beginning with In the Ocean of Night. He is also the author of the Nebula Award-winning classic book Timescape — a combination of hard science, bold speculation, and human drama.

Read an Excerpt

SPRING, 1998
Remember to smile a lot, John Renfrew thought moodily. People seemed to like that. They never wondered why you kept on smiling, no matter what was said. It was a kind of general sign of good will, he supposed, one of the tricks he could never master.
“Daddy, look—”
“Damn, watch out!” Renfrew cried. “Get that paper out of my porridge, will you? Marjorie, why are the bloody dogs in the kitchen while we’re having breakfast?”
Three figures in suspended animation stared at him. Marjorie, turning from the stove with a spatula in her hand. Nicky, raising a spoon to a mouth which formed an O of surprise. Johnny beside him, holding out a school paper, his face beginning to fall. Renfrew knew what was going through his wife’s mind. John must be really upset. He never gets angry.
Right, he didn’t. It was another luxury they couldn’t afford.
The still photograph unfroze. Marjorie moved abruptly, shooing the yelping dogs out the back door. Nicky bowed her head to study her cooked cereal. Then Marjorie led Johnny back to his place at the table. Renfrew took a long, rustling breath and bit into his toast.
“Don’t bother Daddy today, Johnny. He’s got a very important meeting this morning.”
A meek nod. “I’m sorry, Daddy.”
Daddy. They all called him Daddy. Not Pop, as Renfrew’s father had wanted to be called. That was a name for fathers with rough hands, who worked with caps on.
Renfrew looked moodily round the table. Sometimes he felt out of place here, in his own kitchen. That was his son sitting there in a Perse school uniform blazer, speaking in that clear upper-class voice. Renfrew remembered the confusing mixture of contempt and envy he had felt towards such boys when he was Johnny’s age. At times he would glance casually at Johnny and the memory of those times would come back. Renfrew would brace himself for that familiar well-bred indifference in his son’s face—and be moved to find admiration there instead.
“I’m the one should be sorry, lad. I didn’t mean to shout at you like that. It’s as your mother said, I’m a bit bothered today. So what’s this paper you wanted to show me, eh?”
“Well, they’re having this competition for the best paper—” Johnny began shyly “—on how school kids can help clean up the environment and everything and save energy and things. I wanted you to see it before I give it in.”
Renfrew bit his lip. “I haven’t got time today, Johnny. When does it have to be in? I’ll try and read it through tonight if I can. Okay?”
“Okay. Thanks, Daddy. I’ll leave it here. I know you’re doing frightfully important work. The English master said so.”
“Oh, did he? What did he say?”
“Well, actually …” The boy hesitated. “He said the scientists got us into this beastly mess in the first place and they’re the only ones who can get us out of it now, if anyone can.”
“He’s not the first one to say that, Johnny. That’s a truism.”
“Truism? What’s a truism, Daddy?”
“My form mistress says just the opposite,” Nicky came in suddenly. “She says the scientists have caused enough trouble already. She says God is the only one who can get us out of it and He probably won’t.”
“Oh, lor’, another prophet of doom. Well, I suppose that’s better than the primmies and their back-to-the-stone-age rubbish. Except that the prophets of doom stay around and depress us all.”
“Miss Crenshaw says the primmies won’t escape God’s judgment either, however far they run,” Nicky said definitively.
“Marjorie, what’s going on in that school? I don’t want her filling Nicky’s head with ideas like that. The woman sounds unbalanced. Speak to the headmistress about her.”
“I doubt that it would do much good,” Marjorie replied equably. “There are far more ‘prophets of doom,’ as you call them, around than anyone else these days.”
“Miss Crenshaw says we should all just pray,” Nicky went on obstinately. “Miss Crenshaw says it’s a judgment. And probably the end of the world.”
“Well, that’s just silly, dear,” Marjorie said. “Where would we be if we all just sat about and prayed? You have to get on with things. Speaking of which, you children had better get a move on or you’ll be late to school.”
“Miss Crenshaw says, ‘Consider the lilies of the field,’ ” Nicky muttered as she left the room.
“Well, I’m no bloody lily,” Renfrew said, pushing back his chair and rising, “so I’d better go off and toil for another day.”
“Leaving me to spin?” Marjorie smiled. “It’s the only way, isn’t it? Here’s your lunch. No meat again this week, but I got a bit of cheese at the farm and I pulled some early carrots. I think we may have some potatoes this year. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” She reached up and kissed him. “I do hope the interview goes well.”
“Thanks, luv.” He felt the old familiar tightening begin. He had to get that funding. He’d put vast sums of time and thought into this project. He must have the equipment. It had to be tried.
Renfrew left the house and mounted his bicycle. Already he was sloughing off the family man, his thoughts reaching ahead to the lab, the day’s instructions to the technicians, the coming interview with Peterson.
He pumped along, leaving Grantchester and skirting round Cambridge. It had rained during the night. A slight mist hung low over the ploughed fields, softening the light. Drops clung to the new green leaves on the trees. Moisture glittered on the carpet of bluebells covering the ground in the clearings. The lane here ran alongside a little stream lined by low alder bushes and nettles. On the surface of the stream he could see ripples forming as the bugs called water boatmen jerked themselves along on their oarlike legs. Kingcups were blooming in a sheet of gold along the banks and big soft furry catkins were coming out on the willows. It was a fresh April morning, the kind he had loved as a boy in Yorkshire, watching the mist rise off the moors in the pale morning sun and the hares scurry off at his approach. The lane he was cycling along had sunk deep over the years and his head was nearly level with the tree roots on either side. A smell of damp earth and rain-washed grass came to him, mixed with an acrid tang of coal smoke.
A man and a woman eyed him blankly as he pedaled by. They leaned idly against a sagging wood fence. Renfrew grimaced. Each month more squatters drifted into the area, thinking Cambridge was a rich town. Off to the right was the shambles of an old farmhouse. In the last week the yawning black windows had been blocked in with newspaper, boards, and rags. It was surprising squatters hadn’t smelled out the place before.
The last bit of cycling, nipping through the outskirts of Cambridge, was the worst. The streets were difficult to negotiate, with cars parked every which way, abandoned. There had been a national program to recycle them, but all Renfrew had seen come of it was a lot of talk on television. He threaded among the cars, which sat there like eyeless, legless beetles, stripped of all their removable parts. Students were living in some of them. Drowsy faces turned to watch him wobble by.
In front of the Cavendish he locked his bicycle into the rack. One car in the lot, he noticed. Surely that bugger Peterson wasn’t here this early? It wasn’t yet 8:30. He trotted up the steps and across the entrance hall.
To Renfrew the present complex of three buildings was anonymous. The original Cav, where Rutherford had discovered the nucleus, was an old brick building in the center of Cambridge, a museum. From the Madingley Road two hundred meters away this place could easily be taken for an insurance center or a factory or any business place. When it had opened in the early ‘70s the “new Cav” had been immaculate, with harmonized color schemes, carpets in the library, and well-stocked shelves. Now the corridors were poorly lit and many laboratories yawned empty, stripped of equipment. Renfrew made his way to his own lab in the Mott building.
“Good morning, Dr. Renfrew.”
“Oh, morning, Jason. Has anyone been in?”
“Well, George came in to start the roughing pumps, but—”
“No, no, I mean a visitor. I’m expecting a fellow from London. Peterson’s his name.”
“Oh, no. No one like that. You want me to get started here, then?”
“Yes, go ahead. How’s the apparatus?”
“Fairly good. The vacuum is coming down. We’re at ten microns now. We’ve got a fresh charge of liquid nitrogen and we’ve checked out the electronics. Looks as if one of the amplifiers is going. We’re doing some calibrations and the equipment should be checked out in about an hour.”
“Okay. Look here, Jason, this fellow Peterson is coming down from the World Council. He’s considering increasing funding. We’ll have a run for him, put the apparatus through its paces in a few hours. Try to look lively and spruce the place up a bit, will you?”
“Right. I’ll get her running.”
Renfrew went down the catwalk to the floor of the laboratory and stepped nimbly over the wires and cables. The room was of bare concrete, outfitted with old-fashioned electrical connections and rather newer cables strewn through the aisles of apparatus. Renfrew greeted each of the technicians as he came to them, asked questions about the running of the ion focusers, and gave his instructions. He knew this warren of equipment well now, had painfully gathered the pieces and designed it himself. The liquid nitrogen went tick and burbled in its flask. Powered units hummed in spots where there was a slight voltage mismatch. The oscilloscopes’ green faces danced and rippled with smooth yellow curves. He felt at home.


Excerpted from "Timescape"
by .
Copyright © 1992 Gregory Benford.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Timescape 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I should have read this book back in in the 1970s and 80s, when tachyons were the word of the day. I remember a comic i used to read about a doctor called Tachyon. Is a nice story and a possible one, even if they use some other particle, maybe quarks. :O) Also it feels like an action book, kind of like Action SF, good for the screen, i guess.
joeteo1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this story, Earth is undergoing an ecological holocaust and scientists attempt to send a message backwards in time to try and avoid the human actions that precipitated it. Overall it is a compelling story although it does get slow in places. Gregory Benford makes the error of using actual dates in the story so that the parts that take place in the "future" are occurring in 1996. (The movie 2001 is still great even though we have not yet visited Saturn or have a moon base however). The discussions on the physics of time travel and in depth as one would expect from a "hard" SF story and may not be for everyone. Gregory Benford was a professor in the physics department at UCSD and the descriptions of the experiences of the protagonist as an assistant professor are spot on.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This science-fiction classic is lauded for marrying hard physics-based sci fi with strong character stories, but the characters were precisely the reason I didn¿t like the book. The plot is intriguing: in a future (actually 1998) plagued by environmental catastrophes, a couple of physicists hatch a plan to send a message back in time, hoping that the scientists of the past can avert the catastrophe. But I couldn¿t get into the story because all of the characters were unlikeable, stereotyped or just plain flat.For example, in an early chapter, the wife of one of the physicists is approached by a squatter asking for some milk for her child. She refuses, saying she only has enough for her family. Okay, I can understand that reaction; food supplies are obviously running short. But then, a few days later, she hosts a lavish dinner party for her friends, where she serves three desserts! This brought to mind what I most dislike about humans and what is really at the root of a lot of our problems, including climate change: that we can rationalize that avoiding our own minor discomforts and deprivations is more important than helping to meet the basic needs of a fellow human being. I really couldn¿t like any of the characters after that scene, no matter how hard they tried to save the world.Abandoned before finishing.
clark.hallman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Timescape by Gregory Benford was first published in 1980. It won the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel that year. It is a work of ¿hard¿ science fiction, i.e., it is based upon science instead of social science. The story emphasizes physics (mostly theoretical physics), and I found it to be difficult to cope with all the scientific explanations. Surprisingly, that beginning physics course that I completed in college 43 years ago did not help me understand the seemingly endless physics lesson that I plodded though in this book! It is true that Benford also included much character development, considerable relationship experiences for the many characters, and much flavor of the times (1963, 1998, and 1974) and settings (mostly La Jolla California in the US and Cambridge in England). Unfortunately, I did not particularly like the characters in this book and I found most glimpses of their lives provided by Benford to be boring. The basic story of the book is interesting, but not unique for a science fiction book. The characters in 1998 were experiencing an ecological disaster that was escalating to apocalyptic proportions. Their scientists attempted to contact scientists in 1963 to warn them about certain scientific/industrial processes that were leading to the ecological disaster. They hoped to change the future by changing the scientific/industrial processes of the past. They attempted to send a beam of tachyon particles (which travel through time) carrying a message to the 1963 scientists. That story line was interesting and the results brought some interesting paradoxes. However Benford¿s propensity to dwell on detailed theoretical physics and scientific processes required much more knowledge then this reader could bring to the book. That scientific content is what makes this book unique. If you are interested in details about scientific experimental processes, and you know a little about physics, you would probably get more out of this book and enjoy it. Unfortunately, I am not a physicist and I have never even played one on TV! I should have skipped this book.
librisissimo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Substance: Scientists living on the fatally polluted earth of 1998 seek desperately to stave off disaster by sending a message to scientists in the past, using tachyons pulsed in Morse code. Excellent scientific info and worthwhile story. Interesting characters, very individual.Style: The shifts between past and present are handled well, as are the shifts from English to American settings and characters.NOTES:p. 87: important; p. 89: chlorinated flurocarbons in fertilizer are the culprit (one of the US scientists in 1963 discovers why);p. 90-103: time and tachyons;p. 112: AGW side effects & ethanol;p. 119: mercury is a poison, what is it doing loose in the sewers and gathered by unshielded children?p. 131-132: clues, but not enough info;p. 136: rapping on the elderly and Social Security;p. 144: independent somethings;p. 159: 1950s nostalgia;p. 199: ah yes!p. 203: signal overlays - slow on the uptake here!p. 207-212: paradoxes;p. 283: PC science;p. 349: forecasting and why it doesn't work;p. 356: test of new development;p. 363: paradox as a probability wave;p. 473ff: splitting universes;p. 480: ho ho ho.
orderflow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Captures the feel of an experimental physics lab very well. Not that every day is this exciting of course :-)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was the first and last I will read by this author. To sum up in one word it was boring. 2/3Rds of the book was about office politics, how one scientist tyres to out maneuver another and another tyres to back stab a fellow colleague. Who wants to read this manure? Oh, yes there is Some history in there if you can stand to get through the BS. BTW, WEAR YOUR BOOTS!
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martymcflyMD More than 1 year ago
I've been reading SF for many, many years.....this book by Benford is excellent....I have re-read and re-read....and I usually Never re-read.....it's not a fast read...but very, very cleverly done.......
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Michael_the_Writer More than 1 year ago
I remember reading this book when I was a kid and I couldn't wait to download it onto my nook. This was the first book I actually paid for, since I typically download free content, and I have over 350 epubs I sideloaded onto the device. I am writing this review to complain though. I have noticed more typos than I've seen in any of the free books I downloaded from Feedbooks. Really, shame on the Random House Publishing Group for charging $5.57 for an ebook that they didn't even check for typing errors in their release of a book that has been around for 30 years! One other thing that irritates me about the electronic version of this excellent book is: my nook doesn't know who wrote it! It says "Unknown Author"! Are you kidding me? Gregory Benford wrote it. Now, to be fair, when I was downloading it, it was listed under Random House, so I wasn't convinced it would indicate the author properly anyway, but it doesn't even show up that way on my nook! Okay, I had to vent a little because I want someone to know and possibly correct the text. I don't think publishers should treat ebook buyers as lesser consumers. I had this book, long ago. I had bought it brand new. I didn't think twice about buying it again. I love the book! I enjoy the science, even if some of the technical details have become dated. That doesn't matter to me. Science continues to advance and that's a good thing. The story is what really interests me and that's why, despite my complaints about the ebook formatting and nook idiosyncrasies, I still gave Timescape a high rating, just not a perfect one!
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