Time's Last Gift has been my introduction to Philip Jose Farmer. I had heard of the author prior to reading the book, just not had the opportunity to read his books previously. The book was, for me, a nice surprise.
The story's team (a group of four scientists with multiple disciplines apiece go back in time to 12,000 B.C. from the year 2070 in order to observe the Earth as it once was) prove to be an interesting cast of characters. John Gribardsun is a naturalist, a medical doctor, and the team leader. Rachel Silverstein has doctorates in genetics and zoology as well as being trained in botany and eteorology. Drummond Silverstein is Rachel's husband, is trained in geology, as well as being a physicist and astronomer. He also has the distinction of being a virtuoso on the violin and an expert on preliterate and civilized musicology. The last member of the team - Robert von Billman - is a linguist looking for the root of Indo-Hittite speech, a cultural anthropologist, a specialist in art, and holds the equivalent of Master of Science degree in chemistry.
The way in which the characters interact - prior to going back in time and during their stay there - are as much a part of the story as the story itself. John Gribardsun always seems to be apart from the rest of the group. He always seems to know more (or at least know an "else") than the rest without imparting the information (not in whole) to the rest of the group. Rachel has growing feelings for John as the group's time in the past progresses and the constraints of the soicety they have known lessen somewhat. Drummond's jealousy - imagined or not - grows and his (and the others') focus shifts from their purpose somewhat. Robert also has other things on his mind and is a bit of an odd man out.
The ebb and flow of the story and between the characters sets a nice pace in the book. Time's Last Gift is, first and foremost, a science fiction novel and that is interconnected seamlessly with the rest of the story. The characters went back in time to observe a world untouched by modernity. Yet they made contact. So, how much of an impact even that limited contact has on the development of those people? Is that impact good or bad?
Because of those questions and other things, Time's Last Gift makes for interesting reading.
Three men and a woman onboard a timeship travel from 2070 AD to 12,000 BC - a journey that could never be repeated. For the passengers, all anthropologists, it was a once-in-a-million-lifetimes expedition... a chance to study primitive man as modern man never could. But none of them was prepared for what they would discover - or for the impact of their travels in a time that had yet to come...
A novel in the Wold Newton universe, in which characters such as Sherlock Holmes, Flash Gordon, Doc Savage, James Bond and Jack the Ripper are all mysteriously connected.