Echoes in Time
by Andre Norton and Sherwood Smith
Tor, 1999, ISBN 0-312-85921-X
A book review by Elisabeth Carey
This is new Time Traders book. Nowhere is it acknowledged that this is not, in fact, the first Time Trader novel in thirty-six years, and the 1994 Time Traders collaboration with P.M. Griffin, Firehand, is not listed in the front under "Time Traders", but rather in the generic list "Tor Books by Andre Norton." Nevertheless, the events of that book are incorporated into the backstory of this one, including the fact that Ross Murdoch is now married to a fellow agent, Eveleen Riorden.
The Soviet Union has fallen, the Cold War is over, and the Russians aren't the enemy anymore. The US and Russian time-and-space exploration projects are engaging in some cautious cooperation. And the Russians have a major problem on their hands--one of their teams has disappeared, in the past of the first alien world the salvaged Baldy ships took the time agents to. Ross and Eveleen are now partners, and Gordon Ashe gets a new partner, an Ethiopian woman who is linguist and ethnomusicologist, and who appears to have been the model for some very old carvings found in the ruined alien city. A joint Russian-American team, which includes, perhaps unwisely, a former lover of one member of the vanished Russian team, travels back to a hundred years after the time from which the Russians disappeared, and starts assimilating into the multispecies local society and looking for evidence of what happened to the team.
As soon as they make contact with the locals, Gordon's Ethiopian partner, Saba Mariam, is whisked off to something that may be a library, or a university, or a temple. She can't leave, no one else from the team can enter, and they're afraid to use their radios for more than the quickest and least complex signaling until they have some idea whether they're being detected and whether anyone who might be listening understands English or Russian. Meanwhile, the rest of the team starts learning some puzzling things. At least one of the species participating in the society is definitely not trying to integrate fully; they routinely defy the local standards. The local culture seems to be just barely able to maintain a lot of its technology, and unable to replicate or replace it; the team members find evidence of decay and technology loss as soon as they become familiar enough with their surroundings to recognize it.
And then there's the humanoid flyers, whom the original Russian team had expected to find was the dominant local species, but which was at that time nowhere in evidence, and now, a hundred years later, seem to be present in small numbers, staying well away from the major local city, and venturing out mainly at dawn and dusk, or in overcast weather.
It's an entertaining Time Traders adventure, even if the final explanation of what's really going on isn't totally satisfying.