Time's Eye (novel)
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (October 2011)|
|Author||Arthur C. Clarke
|Series||A Time Odyssey|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|3 March 2003|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
Time's Eye is a 2003 science fiction novel co-written by Arthur C. Clarke (author of 2001: A Space Odyssey) and Stephen Baxter. It is the first book in the A Time Odyssey series. The next book in the series is Sunstorm.
The story opens with two hominids, probably Homo erectus, known as 'Seeker', a mother, and her infant daughter 'Grasper'. As they walked on the tranquil Earth two million years ago, they were suddenly captured by some blood-red beings, who turn out to be nineteenth-century British redcoat soldiers.
In the year 2037, the still-turbulent North West Frontier province of Pakistan near Afghanistan is being patrolled by U.N. peace-keepers. A helicopter, known as Little Bird, crewed by an American pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Casey Othic, a British observer, Lieutenant Bisesa Dutt, and back-up pilot Chief Warrant Officer Abdikadir Omar, an blond, blue-eyed Afghan who claims descent from the Macedonians who conquered the area in ancient times, is badly damaged by an RPG-wielding villager. Forced to ditch, the crew are met by soldiers based at nearby Jamrud fortress, which houses a garrison of British troops from northern India, part of the British Empire. The soldiers believe the year is 1885.
Casey is injured but Bisesa and Abdikadir are relatively uninjured and all three survivors are escorted to the fort to meet the commander, Captain Grove. Bisesa and Abdikadir explain to an initially unbelieving Grove what happened to them. Both parties eventually realise and accept the fact that they are from different periods. Both parties lost all communications before the crash and they hypothesise that it coincided with the "time-slip".
Many strange metal orbs, known as the Eyes, are seen floating in the sky and they defy all attempts to examine them, even using advanced equipment scavenged from Little Bird. They then see the two hominids Seeker and Grasper, who are kept in a net draped on one of the floating Eyes.
Simultaneously, Musa and Kolya, two Russian cosmonauts, and Sable, a U.S. astronaut, are returning to Earth from the International Space Station. They have also lost contact with ground control, but they manage to establish contact with Abdikadir, who is using equipment from Little Bird. The cosmonauts orbit Earth and take photographs. Abdikadir suggests that the Earth now comprises a conglomerate of different time periods from two million years ago, up to 2037, but have no clue as to why or who/what caused it.
The cosmonauts decide to reenter Earth's atmosphere unaided and land near some camp-fires spotted in central Asia, in the hope that the humans there will help them.
Upon exiting the craft, Musa is decapitated by a Mongolian warrior, while Sable and Kolya are loaded onto a cart heading east. They have arrived in Central Asia when the Mongols were at the height of their power. The Cosmonauts are eventually taken to meet Genghis Khan, with whom they are able to communicate in the Mongolian language. The Khan keeps them alive as he believes they have been sent from heaven. Yeh-lu – an astrologer and advisor to The Khan – and Kolya work together to plan what they should do with the Mongol army. They decide that the Khan should lead his army into China to rebuild the trading posts and towns that were lost in the Discontinuity/time slip. Sable disagrees and convinces the Khan to take the army to Babylon as this is the only place on Earth (other than Abdikadir's radio) that is broadcasting a radio signal of any sort. Sable believes this is where the power of this new world – which they name Mir (Russian for both "world" and "peace") – lies. Eventually, the Khan (who was hunting Ice age-era beasts and a family of ancient hominids at that time) was saved by Sable's pistol when he was locked in combat with a Sabre-toothed cat. Although at first, Kolya thought that Sable will get herself killed for having disrupted the Khan's hunt, it turns out she had gained the Khan's favor (as proved when Genghis takes her to his bed and rapes her).
Meanwhile, in Northern India, Bisesa encounters the army of Alexander the Great, who by that time, has just recovered from his fatal arrow wound during his Mallian campaign. Using a factor (Englishman Cecil de Morgan) who speaks some Greek as an interpreter, the British forces and the Macedonians form an alliance and look toward Babylon. Alexander intends to establish a new capital there. Like Sable, Bisesa wants to examine the source of the radio signal.
Alexander's army arrives at Babylon before the Khan and has time to explore it. They discover that the western side of the city has been destroyed by an unknown disaster while the eastern side is filled with temples and ziggurats. As it runs out, Babylon was a combination of how it was at its zenith (during the time of Nebuchadnezzar) and its ruins from a later time. An orb at least three times larger than those previously seen is discovered in the Temple of Marduk and is found to be the source of the radio signals (and possibly the cause of Babylon to be half-obliterated and transported to the Discontinuity).
Meanwhile, the Khan enters nineteenth-century Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. He then has his army do an all-out massacre when one of the members of the Golden family was shot by one of the inhabitants. Later, Kolya and Sable, accompanied by Yeh-Lu and Mongol scouts, come upon a Buddhist temple with only an old monk and a young boy in it. To their shock, the moderns realize that the man and the boy are one and the same, united by the Discontinuity.
Casey receives a radio transmission from Kolya warning him that the Mongolians are heading to Babylon. Casey immediately informs Alexander, who prepares his army for the battle. Sable catches Kolya's treachery, and The Khan grants him 'a merciful release' by pouring molten silver into his eyes and ears and burying him alive beneath the throne.
Alexander then sends out some emissaries to open up peace to the Mongols, among them are some British redcoats and his friend and general Ptolemy. The emissaries return, reduced in number, the survivors having been brutally mutilated by the Mongols, with Ptolemy himself beheaded. Later, the Macedonians were given an orientation by the moderns to guns (which they have no trouble comprehending because of how similar they are to bows) and grenades (which definitely struck them as something new). They were also thought about how to run medical issues.
By noon the next day, the Mongols meet the Macedonian army and the British soldiers (who combined tactics) on the battlefield. Despite the tactical skill and bravery of the Greeks and the firearms of the Britons, the Mongols seem to negate it all with sheer numbers. Abdikadir, who joins the British to fight for Islam, his religion having suffered the most due to the Mongol conquest gets his fingers get broken in the melee, and eventually, he gets shot (though not fatally) by Sable.
Meanwhile, Kolya, who is barely alive, still under the throne of the Mongol ruler, sets off a bomb he had concealed with him the moment the Khan sits on the throne, killing both of them. In the confusion, the Mongols, having lost their brilliant leader, slowly retreat, succumbing to the advances of Alexander, with his cavalry behind him. The very few Mongols who remain, overwhelmed by the tide of the battle, cover up Sable, who manages to reach the Temple of Marduk. Ruddy attempts to stop her and is shot fatally at the thigh. Bisesa then confronts Sable and manages to incapacitate her. She then tells the dying Ruddy of the future that was taken away from him by the Discontinuity.
Alexander has prevailed over an enemy a millennium more advanced, but he learns, to his dismay, that his eromenos has died in the battle. Knowing very well that the next events (predicted by the moderns) were to follow, Alexander avoids all of these (getting blind drunk and going mad). With the Mongol threat gone and the traitors (Sable and Cecil de Morgan) executed, he then sees Babylon is now his to shape as he sees fit. The Macedonian, British, and modern humans spend the next five years rebuilding the city. Casey decides to introduce steam and probably even electric power to the Greeks, while Bisesa devotes her time to studying the Marduk orb. Casey and Abdikadir are worried for her and lead her on an expedition exploring a now-deserted Greece and Rome, the ruins of an Egyptian shrine dedicated to Amon-Ra, and the Mediterranean Sea, with Alexander considering of reaching America the first chance he gets.
Upon returning to Babylon, Bisesa recalls everything about the eye. She assumes that there are sentient beings controlling both the Eyes (which seem to help the hominids Seeker and Grasper learn the next skills in order to evolve) and the Discontinuity (proven by the fact that Alexander and Genghis Khan, the greatest of the world's generals, were matched for the sole purpose of bashing one another's brains out). She also reveals that she has established some manner of communication with the Orb and that it has agreed to take her home to her own time. Josh requests that she take him along and she agrees. The orb takes them to a large nuclear blast crater, where an eclipse occurs. Another orb arrives and takes her back to her apartment where her daughter Myra is waiting for her. The orb intended to leave Josh in the crater but, at Bisesa's request, it returned him to the Marduk orb. The hominids Seeker and Grasper, after having been raped by the British and 'experimented upon' by the Eyes for the five years in which the whole story took place, were finally released. Both mother and daughter then go out having 'evolved' in their actions significantly (due to the Eyes), ready to live once more.
Bisesa returned to June 9, 2037, the day after the chopper crash, in her home, back with Myra. To her horror, she discovers an eye flying above the city.
The penultimate chapter of the novel implies that the entities that created the orbs and the Discontinuity are similar or perhaps identical to those entities mentioned in Clarke's earlier book 2001: A Space Odyssey, explaining that, as humans began to eat up the energy of the universe with their wars, the entities finally plan to have them all surveyed and exterminated.
- Time's Eye title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database