New Canute: by Martin I. Ricketts

Tucked like a stoic castaway inside 1974's New Writings in SF 24 is this rather engaging time travel story by Martin I. Ricketts. The planet Cirene has at some point in its life acquired an extragalactic wanderer as a moon. This moon has gathered a pocket of "unreality" during its travels and the subsequent gravitational anomaly has a marked effect on Cirene's oceans and tides - they become pools of past time through which it is possible to travel. Cirene's only business is time-travel, in an unsatisfactory and dangerous form, and its only customers are those desperate enough to take a chance on plunging into its oceans to revisit some person or moment.

Boat-master Paul Vernon is hired by aristocrat Charles Bamfield-Taylor to help him to revisit a very specific moment in time, just two months past. As the journey proceeds, Vernon becomes increasingly uneasy about Bamford-Taylor's motives, largely because the aristocrat's behaviour is eerily reminiscent of his own when he arrived on Cirene some fifteen years previously - that of withdrawn and silent grief, supplemented by the determined smile of the desperate. Vernon recognises his own lost love in Bamford-Taylor's contradictions, but also that there is a difference between inhabiting the past and attempting to turn it back.

If it is true that time has a deep end, Ricketts succeeds in drawing the reader gently into its depths by the poetry of his conceit and the confidence in his prose. This is an accomplished story which falters only at its denouement; and even then perhaps only for those readers whose past is a drowning pool anyway.

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