Pilot X by Tom Merritt
|Book Name:||Pilot X|
|Release Date:||March 14, 2017|
What if a time traveller lived in a world where disrupting the timeline could destroy everything in the universe-except himself?
Pilot X is the Ambassador of the Alendans, a race with the ability to move through space and time as guardians of the timeline. Though his people have been locked in ongoing conflict with the Sensaurians, who make up an organic hive mind, send their thoughts throughout time, and the Progons, a machine race who can communicate backward in time, Pilot X finally manages to create a peace among the three races.
But when Pilot X discovers that secret dimensional war fought in the hidden parts of space time threatens the fabric of the universe itself, he is faced with the ultimate choice: erase the existence of all three races, including his own people, or let the universe be destroyed.
Now this was really fun.
Pilot X by Tom Merritt is not just mind bending but mind breaking. The author has the most magnificent grasp of time travel and all its complexities and comes up with copious amounts of high concept ideas in order to demonstrate them to the reader. The narrative unfolds at a quick pace and the stakes are raised at every turn. We learn just enough about the world to want to live in it without ever feeling bogged down in overly long descriptions and endless permutations of possible futures. All this combines to make a brilliant heart racing sci-fi adventure.
Pilot X himself is a fantastic character because in this intensely alien world he is relatable. He often deals with uncomfortable situations with sarcasm and would rather be flying his awesome ship, Verity, because she is pretty sassy herself and he gets to do what he loves. I felt like he had a bit of a Speed Racer vibe in terms of his name representing him perfectly, capturing the energy and passions with which he approaches flying and travelling through time and being really cool.
The huge responsibility that is thrust upon him very much robs him of his freedom to play outside the rules. But our protagonist shows he can work every loophole and find every dodgy opportunity within the rules, which is even more fun to read about. At times my brain could simply not keep up before it all suddenly coalesced and Pilot X’s clever strategy for dealing with the situation became clear.
Merritt uses Pilox X’s advantage in time travel comprehension and its nuances subtly lauding it over the reader several times.
“You’re here,” the man sighed.
“Right, well, I suppose that’s always true wherever I am. I can always say I’m here. Can’t rightly say I’m there. Well as a matter of fact, that’s not true. In fact recently I could say I was both there and there at the same time. But that’s neither here nor there.” The old man winced at this but Ambassador X carried on. “Because I’ll always be here, no matter whether I’m also there. Time travel. Holy hell on your logic”.
There were a number of moments where I felt like that old man.
Whilst Wesley Chu’s recent Time Salvager tackled, in my opinion, a fairly banal element of time travel by limiting it to going to the past to dead timelines and getting in an out without affecting the future. Merritt goes light years beyond that by giving time travel ability to almost sentient ships and including a race with a hive mind, which means any changes to the past could give them ultimate and instant knowledge of the future. He creates a world in which one’s superiors may have travelled forward, assessed his career and then travelled back not to witness but to either hinder or help it along, and where messengers from the future can show up at the wrong date in time and accidently reveal a person’s future station by addressing them with an alternate title. The list goes on and on and the conflict of interests and the possible consequences for each decision are just epic. Thankfully Merritt keeps it all grounded in a very believable universe despite the threat of a sub-dimensional war that threatens to unravel existence itself.
Speaking of sub-dimensional a favourite concept of mine was the inclusion of a small singularity tied to his ship that contains potentially infinite storage space. It also has a pool, a garden, rolling hills if he wants it too. As a gamer I really appreciated the fact that Pilot X would never be too overloaded to run if you know what I mean.
Pilot X takes on a number of side quests as he helps individuals and communities with their problems. A particularly interesting one takes place on a planet of hermits and outsiders who have recently had battle wreckage from all three races raining down on them despite the complete lack of any warfare over their heads. This leads X to his most important mission to date and one that will see him at the very centre of, and possibly decide the future of the entire universe. It is brilliant and heart racing stuff.
Pilot X is a real sci-fi success and a fantastic debut for Tom Merritt. The writing is clever and eloquent but the narrative maintains a raw element that is a joy to read and experience. This one is an absolute playground for lovers of time travel.