Reviews of Marooned in Realtime (1986)
Review by clong (2005-02-04)
I really enjoyed Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky, so I was eager to pick up some of his earlier work. I found this book to be a little bit of a disappointment.
Marooned in Realtime certainly starts with a a great concept: a group of people pop out of stasis fields to discover that humanity has vanished from the earth pretty much without a trace. This leaves them in a bit of a predicament. They continue to use these stasis bubbles to make discreet jumps forward in time, but a clever killer manages to trap Marta, one of their leaders, outside the bubble, leaving her to live and ultimately die in solitude while every other surviving human lives on into the future inside the stasis field. The next time the group pops out into "realtime," they discover what has happened and set Brierson, a surviving lawman, to figure out what happened. I'd describe the book as a mystery that is more effective as science fiction than as a mystery.
The only character I developed much empathy for was Marta, who had forty years of solitude to figure out who had killed her, and to leave clues for those who would come later to investigate, knowing that the killer would be there to try to prevent any message from getting through. Marooned in Realtime is entertaining and suspenseful, but the ultimate resolution (especially the message from Brierson's long dead wife) left me only partially satisfied.
Review by KC7WUE (2003-03-09)
This is a mystery story that continues to develop the implication of "bobbles" - a way to freeze time for a limited section of space. Humans can go forward in time but not back. When a mixed group of people from different times converge on a point in the future they find that one of their members has been murdered and the murderer is still with them. How did the missing person, marooned in time, possibly under observation from her killer, leave clues that can last for centuries? Why was she murdered?
In addition to the mystery story Vinge makes a number of observations on technology and humans. I can't say more without giving away the ending. Definitely worth reading especially if you are interested in technology and how humans use it.