Wednesday, June 22

Bronze New World (The Bronze Saga #6, 2006)

By Mark Eidemiller. Available as a free download here.

In this sixth offering in the fan-fiction epic “Christian Adventures of Doc Savage,” the action gets a bit more fantastic. That Eidemiller envisions Doc, or “Clark Dent,” as sharing a world with other figures from pulp and adventure fiction has been apparent from the very beginning, when Lamont Cranston, a.k.a. The Shadow, appeared albeit somewhat ambiguously in the “pages” of Bronze Refined as Silver. In the fourth adventure one of the literary prototypes for Superman appeared as an integral part of the story – Hugo Danner from Philip Wylie's Gladiator. (Doc Savage himself is, of course, another inspiration for the Last Son of Krypton.) Now 1960s sci-fi television gets into the act, providing the very springboard for this adventure – Irwin Allen's The Time Tunnel. I must admit that I have only the haziest of memories of this show. I was just too young to get into it, and I never encountered it in later years in afternoon reruns where I saw both Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Nevertheless, a little research on the internet gave me the gist – two scientists lost in time, bouncing from year to year in past and future, able to be observed from the present but unable to be retrieved to their own time – enough to be able to envision the characters and appreciate the story.

Doug Phillips, Ann McGregor, and Tony Newman
A quick overview of the plot of Bronze New World: Taking up very quickly from The Bronze Battlefield, we are guests first at Clark and Bonnie's wedding then aboard a yacht where the wedding party accompanies the newlyweds on a cruise to the Mediterranean. Suddenly a man falls out of the sky – Doug Phillips, who had been lost in time along with fellow scientist Tony Newman ever since the 1960s. In an effort to rescue Newman, who remains stuck in the past, Clark and his new companions track down the retired Dr. Ann McGregor and assemble a new team to infiltrate and reactivate Project Tic-Toc, which had been shut down in 1975. But a miscalculation in retrieving Newman results in a change in the time-line – and Clark and Perry Liston find themselves in a world where Doc Savage is President of the USA and Perry Liston is a hunted terrorist. And that's only the beginning of the differences.... Their efforts to get back to the Time Tunnel and home allow Eidemiller to explore this “Bronze New World” that resulted from Doc Savage not being trapped in suspended animation for fifty years, with some consideration given to philosophical questions surrounding the nature of God, multiple time-lines, and so forth. It makes for an interesting story and I don't want to go much more depth into the details so as not to spoil it.

I do want to make a few comments, however. Eidemiller is not shy about including some unexpected plot elements. Key to the plot and the way history had developed in his alernate timeline is the impact of Christian terrorism. Now, for all that the political left feigns as much fear of “religious extremism” on the part of Christians as of Muslims (e.g., just this past week) in total contravention to observed reality, the fact is that under different circumstances the darker side of humanity could well be provoked and unleashed among Christians. It is part of the fallen human condition. Facing that fact head-on is, in my opinion, a brave choice for a writer of Christian fiction.

Similarly (and I'm going to be intentionally vague so as to avoid a spoiler here), I thought his depiction of his Christian characters nonetheless giving thought to suicide at one point, given the circumstances that they faced, was quite realistic. It's easy to idealistically state that suicide is “wrong in the eyes of God” (Clark's words) – in traditional parlance a “mortal sin” – but to give it serious consideration when facing the horrific kind of death that at that point in the story seemed certain would be only human.

I thought about getting into a discussion of time travel, the possibility of multiple time-lines, etc., as to how those relate to God, His omniscience vs. His omnipotence, predestination vs. free will, and so forth, but frankly it all gives me a pounding headache. Without going into any depth or justification, let me just baldly state that while I have a pretty well-developed ability to suspend my disbelief for a good story, even seeing a lot of value in speculative fiction and “what-if” scenarios, nevertheless just as I don't really believe there are any extraterrestrial intelligences out there, nor do I believe that there are any such things as time travel or alternate time-lines. I readily admit I could be absolutely wrong about any or all of that – but that's my opinion for a variety of reasons. Specifically with regard to alternate time-lines, my position would be that taking the extreme proposition that some do, that each decision point in history (of which there would be an infinite number) gives birth to an alternate time-line (therefore an infinite number), and accepting that all things work according to God's plan, would that not mean that God has an infinite number of plans for the universe (multiverse? Infiniverse?), which effectively would mean that He has no plan. If all things are, without distinction, then what is? So the angel's (yes, for the second time in this series there is an angelic character) answer to Perry's (the “real” Perry's) question, “[W]hich is the real timeline to God?” that “They all are …. Remember, God is unlimited,” seems to me to be effectively meaningless. Reword it as “Which timeline is in accordance with God's plan? … They all are ….” What then is a “plan”? (<The Prof reaches for the Tylenol again.>)

Whatever – it's just a story, and it is a good story. Sure, radical conversion seems to come just a bit too readily to be realistic, but that's to be expected in this genre, I guess. I am left with one final question, however, that seems to go unaddressed – How does the final resolution at the end of this story itself change the history that seems to stand at the beginning?

One point I can't let pass: Pope Archibald XIV? Sure, Eidemiller's not Catholic, but simple reference to an encyclopedia would seem to have been warranted here, especially when positing a Papal name with such an advanced number! If the point of departure between the “Bronze Saga-universe” and the “Bronze New World-universe” is only 55 years in the past, that's hardly time for there to have been thirteen prior Pope Archibalds. Perhaps the “Bronze Saga-universe” itself is more radically different in that respect from our own world – because although there was a medieval Scottish bishop of that name, there's never been a Pope Archibald.

Next up in “The Bronze Saga” … “Up, up, and away!...”


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