The novel “Collision with Chronos”, also known as “Collision Course”, by Barrington J. Bayley was published for the first time in 1973.
For archaeologist Rond Heske, being summoned by the authorities is a great concern because Titan laws are strict. The relief that comes from being asked for his professional advice doesn’t last long because he’s shown photos of some ruins dating back to the times of one of the wars fought against invading aliens that seem to rejuvenate over time. As if that weren’t enough, he’s revealed that an enemy time machine has been found and he must participate in a time exploration.
The shocks for Heske aren’t over as his most trusted collaborator turns out to be part of the Panhumanic League, the organization that leads the resistance to the Titans and preaches equality for all humans, even the ones considered deviants by the regime. Heske ends up involved in a mission that must shed light on an invasion attempt from the future and comes into contact with another civilization whose citizens live in two timelines that are out of phase.
John William Dunne was a pioneer in aeronautics but also became famous for some philosophical essays in which he describes multiple time dimensions, that is, the idea that there’s more than one time dimension. Barrington J. Bayley developed this concept in a novel that deals with the subject of time travel in a way that is different from almost any work on the subject.
“Collision with Chronos” is mostly set in a society that is basically a Nazi regime. The Titans and their cult of the True Man have racist and xenophobic rhetoric described by changing only a few names and words from the Third Reich’s. Even the distortions of scientific concepts that are intended to support the Titans’ ideology are very reminiscent of the Nazis.
The paranoia of the Titans is aimed not only at deviants, that is, all human beings who don’t match the characteristics of the True Man but also of the aliens. Rond Heske studies ancient ruins dating back to times when the Titans believe the Earth was invaded by aliens and ends up involved in a mission that goes far beyond archeology.
The development of ideas connected to multiple time dimensions and the ramifications linked to the possibility of moving within them represents the strength of “Collision with Chronos”. The collision of the title is central to the novel but there are other ideas that are used in various ways and are important in the plot.
From other points of view, “Collision with Chronos” is a case in which a greater length could have offered a better development of other elements of the novel. In particular, the characters tend to be underdeveloped and generally functional to the plot. That’s even more true for the very few women in the story.
The societies presented in “Collision with Chronos” have a greater development than the individual characters but are still without great insights. The subplot concerning the Panhumanic League’s resistance ends up a bit lost in the midst of everything else. Barrington J. Bayley included some interesting ideas, especially about the civilization that is out of phase in two timelines but the potential of the political and social elements is only partially developed.
In my opinion, there’s too much for a novel that wasn’t long even by 1970s standards with less than 200 pages. The underlying concepts connected to time and its connection with life are interesting, especially for readers who appreciate ideas that are more philosophical than scientific. The portrait of humanity painted by Barrington J. Bayley is not positive, especially due to the centrality of the Titans’ civilization. However, I believe that the interesting food for thought offered by the author in “Collision with Chronos” is greater than the novel’s limits, so if you’re interested in the themes covered, I recommend reading it.