Blake Walker, now a wardsman with the agency that oversees crosstime travel, is assigned by his superior, Com Varlt (whom he’d known as Mark Kittson) to travel to a particular alternate Earth, to check on the status of Marfy Rogan and her twin sister Marva, daughters of the powerful Erc Rogan.
The book actually opens on Marfy, who has lost telepathic contact with her sister and is convinced she has somehow traveled by clandestine means to another “level” of alternate Earths. She puts in the call to Com Varlt, who sends Walker.
Walker’s ostensible mission is to deliver supplies to the project the twins had been visiting, one attempting to seed life on a sterile alternate Earth. He assumes it’ll be a routine job that’ll take a few hours, but his “early warning system” goes off almost as soon as he arrives.
He also realizes, once he meets Marfy Rogan and learns of her telepathic bond with her sister, that she could be right in her claim that a device purportedly broadcasting Marva Rogan’s vitals and indicating all is well can’t be trusted.
He decides to take her to see Com Varlt in person.
But someone didn’t want them to make that trip and Walker and Rogan find themselves stranded elsewhere. With their shuttle and their communications equipment sabotaged, they come under attack from spear-wielding lizards, apparently under the command of a giant turtle. Rogan tells him the lizards are telepathic, though on a low band she can barely read, and that they consider them an enemy they’ve been expecting.
Walker tries broadcasting an emergency signal, but without actual coordinates there’s slim chance it’ll be picked up and they’ll be rescued.
However, they are rescued and travel to the alternate Earth from which crosstime travel originates, and the one on which Walker now lives. It’s called Vroom.
Walker meets with Erc Rogan, who commissions him to find his missing daughter.
He also makes it clear that Marfy will be going along on the search because of her telepathic connection with her sister, and that he’ll be called to account for breaking this rule.
Yes. It seems that Vroom, for all its technological advances, is stuck somewhere in the 18th century (or earlier) because these “rules” keep women from engaging in crosstime exploration. Only certain supervised trips are allowed.
While stranded on the turtle world, Marfy Rogan told Walker that she and Marva both chafed at those rules and that Marva, who is less inclined to follow them, may have voluntarily traveled illegally to another world.
Both Erc and Marfy Rogan believe that Marva may have traveled to the alternate Earth known as E625, because the twins were interested in it. Marfy also says that because of the telepathic bond the sisters share, she’d be able to find Marva on that world, especially if someone has her hidden away.
Walker learns that E625’s history differs from the world on which he grew up (presumably our own) with Richard III defeating Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and retaining his throne. Richard’s support of trade led to the first fur trading station on the American continent (following up on Norse rumors) in 1505.
The other significant difference is that in the present day, a “cold war” exists between New Britain and the Toltec Empire in what we know as the United States. The Mississippi river acts as a natural border between the two empires.
Marva Rogan is believed to be somewhere within the Toltec empire. All Walker and his party have to do is successfully pose as British merchants on a world where all such merchants engaged in trade with the Toltec Empire are from the same few families and known by sight (and where all strangers are viewed with suspicion), discover exactly where Marva Rogan is and get her to safety.
No problem, right?
Well, a few. To start with, Walker is thrown off the boat crossing the river, shot at, and arrested as a spy by Toltec officers. Even if he manages to get out of that predicament, he still has to find a way to reunite with his compatriots.
And find and rescue Marva Rogan.
Amid all this, a storyline running through the book concerns A man named Saur To’Kekrops’, who heads the Limiter party. He is advocating that crosstime travel be kept under strict control — his own, according to Marfy Rogan. In fact, she suspects he might have something to do with her sister’s disappearance.
Quest Crosstime offers some degree of page turning thrills and excitement, but it’s also disappointing in a number of ways. Why did those telepathic lizards consider Walker and Rogan enemies? No clue. As I was reading the book, I thought it might tie in to the main plot. It doesn’t.
We also never learn anything more about Blake Walker’s background or why he has his mental shield and “Spider sense” we first learned about in The Crossroads of Time.
The ending is also a bit too abrupt and unsatisfying. Saur To’Kekrops’ appears to have gained the upper hand in his efforts to control Crosstime technology. He has the good guys on the run, yet his defeat comes a bit too easily.
Imagine watching The Empire Strikes Back and getting to the end. All seems lost. Han Solo has been taken by Bobba Fett to Jabba the Hutt, Luke Skywalker has lost his hand and received devastating news about his father and the Empire seems triumphant.
Now imagine Luke saying he knows a way to defeat Darth Vader. Ten minutes of screen time later, Vader is captured and Han has been rescued. And then the film ends. Be a bit of a letdown, wouldn’t it?
The book’s final page suggests there’s more to come in a future volume, but there never were any future adventures of Blake Walker, for whatever reason.
Quest Crosstime could easily have focused almost entirely on the events taking place on E625, with Walker and his compatriots having to navigate the dangerous waters of a cold war involving two empires about which they have almost no familiarity while seeking to find and rescue Marva Rogan. I would have liked to have spent more time on that particular alternate Earth.
If you enjoy books exploring alternate history, Quest Crosstime is worth a read. It just failed to realize its full potential.
Copyright 2019 Patrick Keating.