Monday, May 11, 2015

Luca Rossi: "The Branches of Time" (Volume I): what if time were like the other dimensions available to us from string theory?

Title: “The Branches of Time” (First Volume)
Author: Luca Rossi
Publication: Self (apparently, no company listed), ISBN 978-149743868-2, 151 pages, paper, 46 short chapters (Chapter 40 is the shortest book chapter of all time).
Amazon link:  Also available on Kindle.  Author site (Italian) is here
I typically don’t respond too well to authors or filmmakers “pushing” their work directly to me on social media, but I did take this author up this time and ordered the fantasy novel from Amazon.

The author, apparently born in Italy, seems to live and write in Los Angeles today, and be near Tinseltown. He has a collection of short stories called “Galactic Energies” set in another universe with different laws of physics.  And this novel appears to be the first of series. The author appears to be interested in developing fantasy or science fiction series for cable channels.
In my own mind, there are differences between fantasy and science fiction, and gradations within science fiction where the writer proposes a scenario that just could happen, if some day we have some new epiphany on the way cosmology really works.  A novel or movie, for example, could propose what it would be like if aliens really landed publicly and if life (including our political and religious cultures, and economic systems) really could keep going on as usual.  That would take some of the sensationalism out of a film like “Independence Day” (1996).  That’s why I like television series like NBC’s “The Event” or ABC’s “Flash Forward”.
J.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” (I do have a hardbound copy) is fantasy, but Clive Barker’s “Imajica” is science fiction by this characterization, as the latter imagines Earth’s suddenly (or more gradually) coming into direct contact with four other planets (one of which houses “Heaven”).
In fantasy, we live in a parallel world, with no contact with Earth, but with beings similar to us.  Maybe it’s another solar system, or maybe it’s in another universe – and I’ve talked about “multiverse” here before (March 7). 

In Mr. Rossi’s novel, we do seem to be in a parallel universe, with different laws of physics, at least slightly.  It’s possible to imagine a universe without the “weak force” (called “weakless”) with the consequence that there could be no heavy radioactive elements.  It might be peaceful.  But in Rossi’s universe, time behaves more like a spatial dimension (our of string theory); it is sometimes possible to go backwards and change things.
Mr. Rossi seems concerned about the moral consequences of such an idea. The novel starts with an apocalypse. Most of the people on an island state of Turios (on a planet that seems to have a mild, Mediterranean climate) have suddenly been killed and their corpses are disappearing. The three main survivors are a knight Bashinor, his wife Lil, and a priestess Miril.  The entire kingdom, Isk, is ruled by an evil King Beanor whose values sound more or less like those of ISIS today.  There are wizards and magicians who control some of the military capacities.
Bashinor feels his own manhood is threatened – and the book makes a lot of how important the possibility of permanent lineage is for many men for marital sex to work reliably.  In that sense, the book reflects, in a curious way, the culture war debate about marriage here on Earth.  (Do other planets have traditional marriage?) Priestesses don’t sleep with husbands, or even former spouses.  It’s possible to be born as a priest or priestess, or to go through some cleansing ritual to become one.  (I have to recall a friend in NYC back in the 1970s who called one of his cats “The High Priestess”, who really liked me.)
Later, though, the big picture emerges.  The magicians have the ability to rewind time, and remove people from past existence (which equates to a kind of permanent existence in Stephen Hawking’s concept of space-time).  This means that the people who loved you may never have existed, in this alternate universe.  Toward the end, Bashinor has to contemplate the relationship between Lil and Miril, which seems lesbian.  Yet, he can prove that his manhood survives, as will his progeny.
The ending of the book is curious, but probably only because there is a sequel.
The intimate scenes are explicit in spots (rather like that of an “R” movie), and the descriptive technique and metaphors reminding one of Clive Barker. 

A list of all the characters would help, as would a drawing of the island and the geography of the island and the entire kingdom.

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