Time Salvager: a fast-paced time travel adventure from Wesley Chu, the John W. Campbell award-winning author of The Lives of Tao.
In a future when Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humanity has spread into the outer solar system to survive, the tightly controlled use of time travel holds the key maintaining a fragile existence among the other planets and their moons. James Griffin-Mars is a chronman--a convicted criminal recruited for his unique psychological makeup to undertake the most dangerous job there is: missions into Earth's past to recover resources and treasure without altering the timeline. Most chronmen never reach old age, and James is reaching his breaking point.
On a final mission that is to secure his retirement, James meets an intriguing woman from a previous century, scientist Elise Kim, who is fated to die during the destruction of an oceanic rig. Against his training and his common sense, James brings her back to the future with him, saving her life, but turning them both into fugitives. Remaining free means losing themselves in the wild and poisonous wastes of Earth, and discovering what hope may yet remain for humanity's home world.
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James Griffin-Mars, a highly trained "chronman," travels from 26th-century Earth to past eras on numerous planets, salvaging coveted relics and materials to maintain humanity's power supply without breaking Time Laws (for instance, bringing someone back from the past) or affecting the time line. An apparently unstoppable plague has made Earth one of the least desirable places to live; fortunately, advanced technology lets James communicate by thought, provides powerful armor, and shields him from environmental discomforts. Haunted by people he has left to die in the past (his sister; a Nazi soldier; "the legendary Grace Priestly") and wishing only to complete his contract, James accepts a dangerous mission from menacing private corporation Valta, leading to life-changing choices. Like James, intriguing secondary characters such as High Auditor Levin and James's handler, Smitt, wrestle with increasingly complex ethical dilemmas; meanwhile, 21st-century scientist Elise, for whom James breaks the first Time Law, becomes his moral conscience and romantic interest, as well as a source of hope for a dying planet. Chu (The Lives of Tao) creates a fascinating world, strange and familiar, infused with humor, sorrow, courage, greed, and sacrifice. This page-turner is a riveting, gratifying read.