Sailing Time's Ocean
Terence M. Green
Originally Published as Children of the Rainbow © 1992
The year 2072 finds a rising Inca civilization, whose spiritual leader has discovered how to send people through time. Fletcher Christian IV, a direct descendent of his Bounty mutineer namesake, is given the opportunity to travel in time to Pitcairn Island of 1972. During the transition an unexpected disturbance in the space-time continuum causes Fletcher to switch places with a prisoner of the Norfolk Island penal colony in 1835. The prisoner, Bran Michael Dalton, is suddenly transplanted to Fletcher’s intended destination. An unexpectedly free man, Dalton attempts to cope with the strange workings of 1972, while Christian is forced to endure unbelievable torture and humiliation as a prisoner on Norfolk Island.
REVIEW & ANALYSIS
What sounds like a fairly standard premise of being lost in time and trying to find your way home becomes transformed into something more in the hands of author Terrence Green. An incredibly detailed and well-researched novel, not since Papillion by Henri “Papillion” Charriere have the horrors of penal colonies been so vividly portrayed.
In addition to the well drawn fictional characters of Fletcher Christian IV and Bran Dalton, Green skilfully incorporates real life person David McTaggart into the mix. McTaggart’s historical stand against French nuclear tests in the South Pacific play a pivotal role in the novel and set in motion the events that displace both Bran Dalton and Fletcher Christian in time.
On the surface Sailing Time’s Ocean is about time travel and penal colonies but what makes it a gripping read is the complex characters and their personal relationships that form the heart of the novel. Norfolk Island’s commandant, Major Anderson, is not simply portrayed as a strict disciplinarian, but rather we are shown a father and a husband who lives for his work, but still cares deeply for his family. Similarly Christian’s relationship with his wife Liana, and later his dealings with his fellow prisoners and Major Anderson serve to humanize him and help the reader connect with him and ultimately the story. While the story may have science fiction elements to it, it’s the human drama and Green’s elegant prose that carry the day.
As a time travel novel Sailing Time’s Ocean avoids hitting the proverbial reset button or taking the easy way out with a ‘Hollywood ending’. Instead Green holds the course and acknowledges that interfering with the space-time continuum is a messy business and that there are no easy outs or quick fixes.
Sailing Time’s Ocean is a reprint of Terence Green’s novel – Children of the Rainbow, which was previously published in 1992 by McClelland and Stewart. At that time the publisher had ambitious plans for an in house Science Fiction line. Unfortunately the experiment was mishandled and Children of the Rainbow vanished, never receiving the audience it should have. I initially encountered the story under its original title on a remainder table at a McClelland and Stewart clearance sale in the mid 1990s and eagerly devoured it. I had encountered Green’s earlier SF work – Barking Dogs (1987) shortly after moving to Toronto and was completely taken by his characters and style. Thankfully Robert J. Sawyer and his new imprint rescued Children of the Rainbow and gave it a second life. A long time friend of Terry's, Rob Sawyer provided a blurb for the original publication which read - “If H.G. Wells could have hand-picked a successor to use time travel as a literary device he’d have chosen Terence M. Green”. I couldn't agree more with this sentiment. In this novel and several of his later works Terry's use of time travel as a literary device remains fresh and always serves to support the story and never steals the spotlight.
©2007 A. Taylor
R E L A T E D L I N K S
Terence Green's personal website complete with bio, bibliography and links to reviews and details of his various books. Good place to order autographed copies of Terry's work or to catch up on what he's been up to.
Robert J. Sawyers new science fiction imprint from Red Deer Books of Calgary. Website contains information on Sailing Time's Ocean as well as other recent releases from the imprint.
My review of Terence Green's novel Witness to Life (1999) which uses time travel as a literary device.