Original language: English
Original title: The year of the quiet sun
Translation: Domingo Santos
Year of publication: 1970
I must begin by saying that Wilson Tucker was a complete stranger to me: although I pride myself on having a certain knowledge base of written science fiction, his name did not ring a bell. After a quick search on the Internet I found that he was the author of a very limited work, because he never became a professional writer.
In this novel, perhaps his most famous work, we are once again presented with the and if…? of time travel, with a couple of new features added. Set in very close 1978, eight years after its publication, the book presents us with a time machine for individual use that can travel to the past – only up to the moment of its manufacture – and to the future, with the inconvenience that the inaccuracy increases with the passing of the years: the longer the trip, the more imprecise the arrival will be.
The organization that created this machine, American of course, recruits three more or less volunteer “temponauts”: a futurologist specializing in ancient history (the only civilian of the three), a senior navy official and another very high-level soldier. – I forget the military ranks, it is something I have never paid attention to -.
The overall feeling of this novel is… wasted. Without going into detail, let me visualize it with an example: the futurologist discovers in some papyri several thousand years old a myth on which the biblical Armageddon would be based. He has written a book on the subject, he has shaken the most solid foundations of the Catholic religion, and, as far as we are concerned, he has created very strong friction with another of the crew members. Well, this theme that is hinted at in the novel is quickly left aside without going into any depth at all; Hence my rating is not higher, because the truth is that it is a well-written book.
As for the characters, a section to which I like to give special importance, we are a little weak: the only female character will be a beautiful and sensual link between the crew and the company, whose sexual attractiveness and her way of hiding it will be the only trait of personality he exhibits. She becomes the love interest of the protagonist (the futurologist), but she decides to pay more attention to the young navy commander. This brief note serves to illustrate another of the possibilities not addressed in the novel: on a trip to the future, our hero discovers a “personal” situation that he does not like: instead of delving into it, for example trying to reverse the future By changing his attitude in the present, the hero simply lets himself go and resigns himself without fighting. This, if treated differently, could have led to an interesting digression about determinism and free will; However, the thing remained there, a frustrated fantasy. A shame, both for him and for the readers.
Things like this are why I always say that science fiction is the realm of possibilities: many times they are there, right under our noses, we just have to take advantage of them.
Continuing with the characters, the three crew members already mentioned: a civilian who will play the protagonist, a navy commander who will act as a comic counterpoint and “hinge” between the other two, and the hieratic and fierce soldier with such conservative beliefs.
The truth is that throughout the novel there is hardly any interaction between them, so there is not much room for confrontation either. Let’s add as a fifth character, the director of the expedition: he does not fulfill any narrative function, but since he was given a name, let’s mention him too.
The novel, despite having a good initial approach, later dissolves into a dystopian, militarized, sad future, etc. which we have already seen too many times. As I say, the general feeling that it has left me is that of having some good ideas that have not been used to end up using something much more topical. I really wish Tucker had written more novels, he would be more than willing to read them.
As a final note and comical detail about the egocentrism of the Yankees, a button: in a discussion about what historical event to witness if we could travel to the past, the Crucifixion was chosen; If this was not possible, the second milestone that most interested them was the assassination of Kennedy. Chauvinism, how harmful it is.