Time Wars series (12 books, starting with "The Ivanhoe Gambit" and ending with "The Six-Gun Solution")

Reviewer: Naomi Hinchen

Author: Simon Hawke

Published: 1983-1991

Reviewed: 2008-04-16

Publisher: Ace Science Fiction

Simon Hawke is ruining my grades. I have missed more than one problem
set because I was reading a "Time Wars" book. Admittedly, they're
very short, but they're also very hard to put down, and they're like
potato chips: you can't take just one.

The "Time Wars" books are set simultaneously in the future and the
past. The premise of the series is that in the 27th century, there
are no wars in the present; international disputes are settled by
sending soldiers into the past to fight in wars that have already
happened. To preserve the timestream, whenever a time traveler does
something that disrupts a significant historical event, an adjustment
mission has to be performed to set things right. The protagonists
belong to an elite squad of "time commandos," whose job is to carry
out these adjustments. Their jobs get increasingly complicated as
they deal with time-traveling terrorists, bioengineered monsters, and
temporal agents from a parallel universe, as well as the consequences
of their own interference with the timestream.

Several of the books are connected to a famous work of literature,
such as "Ivanhoe" or "The Scarlet Pimpernel." In the "Time Wars"
universe, these novels were factual historical accounts, and the
protagonists have to make sure that the events in the novels happen
the way they're supposed to. It's quite possible to read the "Time
Wars" books without having read the associated classic novels, since
most of the major characters and events are explained. For the most
part, Hawke hits only the major events of the work each book is based
on; after all, not only is he condensing each one down to about 200
pages, he's also adding the behind-the-scenes actions of his own main
characters. The only case in which I had read the associated novel
was "The Zenda Vendetta," which is based on "The Prisoner of Zenda."
I can't say it made much difference one way or the other to my
enjoyment of the series, but fans of the works Hawke was inspired by
might be interested to see his interpretation.

Though the books are, as I've said, addictive, they have some serious
weak points. Every now and then, especially in the later books, the
story comes screeching to a halt for a page or two of exposition. The
historical background is sometimes entertaining, but the reminders of
what happened in previous books quickly become tiresome, and when the
characters lapse into time-travel technobabble it's best to just
accept their conclusions and go on with the plot. Hawke also makes a
few attempts at romantic subplots, but with one or two exceptions, the
romances are unconvincing and underdeveloped, especially when they're
only peripheral to the plot.

The books are at their best when Hawke sticks to his strengths: action
sequences and intricate spy games. Fortunately, once the plot gets
going, both are available in abundance. For anyone who's interested
in history, time travel, or just likes seeing characters kick ass,
this series is a great way to while away some time. Just don't pick
it up when you have problem sets due.