I'm a sucker for a good time travel story. Always have been. Always will be. So when I stumbled across a paperback copy of Robert Silverberg's PROJECT PENDULUM in a thrift store the other day, I couldn't resist buying it. After all the price was right. A buck.
I've read other books by Silverberg and I've enjoyed every one of them. He's one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time. In PROJECT PENDULUM, twin brothers Eric and Sean (one a physicist, the other a paleontologist) are chosen as the first test subjects of a time travel device. The mechanism, which is composed of a man-made, extremely small black hole set in opposition to an equal size, artificial "white hole", will send Eric into the future and then back into the past and then the future, and so on, at gradually increasing intervals of time from where the experiment begins at Time Zero in 2016.
Brother Sean will likewise travel through time on a swinging pendulum of shunts, first into the past, then the future, then the past, and on. When one brother is in the past, the other is in the future, each progressing farther and farther into both the past and the future on each respective swing. When both brothers reach Time Ultimate, the absolute outermost edges of time past and future, they began to move back to Time Zero in swings in the other direction with each twin now experiencing the various time periods and situations that his brother previously encountered.
It's a great idea, a terrific concept and it's extremely well executed. Silverberg never lets us get lost along the way of relating these parallel, separate trips through time. But the book is sorely lacking in any character development or suspense. Each chapter is short and things move along at a brisk pace. In fact, I finished reading this book (210 pages) in less than two hours. Each time period visited (past and future) made me want to read a longer story set in each year the brothers visit. In short, I wanted more, much more.
PROJECT PENDULUM isn't a bad book. But it's not an entirely satisfying one either. It's more a novella built around a really great concept. The bones of a great story are there but there's not much meat on them.