Apparently, between the end of the last chapter and the beginning of this one, Ludger’s Very Special Flashback Sequence ended and he resumed exposition about the monkey that was their test subject. We don’t read about any of this, by the way.

Gu interjected with, “He’s too modest. We had one more experiment to carry out, and that was with a human—him.” (page 102)

Oh no. Don’t go telling me that any of Tor’s groupies are modest; they’re all part of the same circle-jerk yelling “PITY ME!” at the readers. As for Ludger being a human test subject, there are so many things wrong with this that I don’t know quite where to begin.

Quite simply, what were they thinking?! If anything went wrong like fictitious scientific experiments are wont to do, then Tor’s groupies could end up permanently effing up the timeline, Ludger could be dead, or worse, he could come back with superpowers. The last thing we need around here is a Stu with superpowers. There is a very good reason that real scientists do not test any inventions on fellow human beings before they are 100% sure that it’s safe.

Of course, Tor’s groupies ignore my apprehensions and send Ludger back in time one year. Again, this action did not create a parallel universe. So far, everything about this suggests that a time traveler in the Rummelverse cannot cause any changes to the past. Tor’s groupies are able to put Ludger in suspended animation, but for some reason he elects to stay fully conscious in a cramped capsule with no amenities for a full week. That should make anyone claustrophobic. Of course, since Rummel can’t have his Sues take any lasting damage, Ludger is recovered at the end of the year with all his faculties intact. I should remind you that Ludger must have been in his eighties or nineties by this point, since he had a paying job as a police officer during the Second World War.

In order for John to know that Ludger’s mind has not been addled from his confinement, he asks him whether Lincoln is dead. I don’t know about you, but if I were asked if President Lincoln is still alive, I would think that the other person has gone a little off his rocker. John, however, has no worries about Ludger’s sanity.

He does, however, question how there can be two Ludgers at the same time, when he is in suspended animation. This is the classic misunderstanding of science fiction; there is no logical reason why there cannot be two Ludgers, one from the future and one in the present, as long as both of them remember their meeting. Despite this, Gu says that if both Ludgers had met, there would have been a problem, though there is no reason this must be so.

John finally begins to distrust Tor’s groupies, as he thinks they might seal him in a capsule next. So close…

Also, we learn that Tor’s groupies have the technology to create a perfectly functional and safe time machine, with no constraints on energy, yet they have no plans to make this discovery public. I’m actually surprised that they have chosen to pass up this chance to make even more money.

It looks like Rummel will at last get to the plot:

Finally. What took them so long? (page 103)

You said it, John. You said it. I can’t believe I’m agreeing with him.

We get an utterly pointless description of Joy and of what might be going through her head (trust me, it’s unimportant) and then…

…a line break.

Tor’s groupies have apparently gone through the list of promoters of the democratic peace theory and have decided to recruit John to their cause, because he is speshul. We get to read about how awesome he is for a full paragraph. It also turns out that John’s parents are dead. Remember, he’s 26. Depending on when his parents died, he may have been struggling to pay his college tuition, but this is the last we hear about this.

One of the reasons they’ve chosen John for this project instead of somebody else is because “[t]here is nothing really keeping [him] in this universe”.1 Remember this, as it will be important later.

It is now that Joy, who has been shunted off to the side for the last five chapters, speaks up. She is supposed to be the deuteragonist, yet so far has only appeared in relation to John.

Apparently she has a “dynamite smile”. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.

And now we finally learn just what the heck is going on. Joy and John are both going to be sent back in time to the beginning of the twentieth century in order to steer history to Tor’s groupies’ liking, even though the rules of time travel seem to have established that this is impossible. John does not have a choice; if he refuses, he will lose his memory. And remember what I said about John being chosen because he has no ties to this world? Joy is going with him, and she has plenty of ties to the world. She was more or less raised by Tor and her groupies, and will be leaving them behind forever. And just so that we are sure she’s a Sue, it turns out that the only reason John is needed is for information on politics. Joy will do everything else.

…My Sue-dometer is beeping again, isn’t it?

It would be better to send a whole team of people to change history, as then they’d have a greater chance of success, but Joy handwaves this by saying that they lack the energy capacity to send more than two people. How convenient. This was not even hinted at earlier. It’s as if Rummel knew about all the plot holes in his novel as he wrote it, and just nailed some boards over the openings in order to shut up inquiring readers. Come on, put some effort into it, man!

John then gives us this gem:

I was being vamped. And I was entranced by every second of it. (page 104)



…I should have known better.

How are John and Joy expected to change history to ensure a more democratic world? Simply murder anyone opposed to democracy, of course! The people tasked with changing history have no lines which they will not cross; this won’t end badly at all!2

John actually brings up some legitimate points about whether or not it’s moral to kill people for crimes they will commit in the future, only for his objections to be shot down by Joy. The problem here is that, if their goal is to change the past, then nothing is certain and they have no way of knowing that their changes to the past will prevent the mass murders of history even if the perpetrators remain alive. Worse, preemptively executing people opens up a slippery slope, which could easily be coopted by actual authoritarians in order to justify the killing of innocents. Would that really be worth it? I think not.

So all in all, John is made into a strawman pacifist for this chapter only, even though the Strawman Has A Point. He also undergoes Easy Evangelism to their cause, since he does not object to the killing once it actually happens. (But that won’t be for several more chapters.)

Then, Gu says that she and the rest of Tor’s groupies will send John and Joy back with plenty of supplies, including billions of counterfeit American dollars. Now we can add counterfeiting to Tor’s groupies’ list of crimes. Moreover, did they not realize the economic consequences of creating two billion dollars out of nowhere? I suppose we should also add “cause massive inflation” to the list as well.

Among their non-monetary supplies are two Macintosh computers. Apparently, The Web Always Existed, and can be accessed in the early twentieth century without any connection towers. The fail here is so thick, it can practically be cut with a knife.

Now that their Infodump is finished, Tor’s groupies put on a small demonstration of their time machine for John’s benefit, sending his wallet back in time fifteen seconds, and under his chair. After some Technobabble, John finds his wallet exactly where Tor’s groupies said it would be. This is the third time that the time machine has failed to change history, so why are Tor’s groupies so sure their plan will work?

John, as a surrogate for the readers, asks why they cannot send back several teams in several trips, in order to increase their chances of success and get around the contrived energy restriction. An unknown member of Tor’s groupies (Rummel is not even courteous enough to provide the name) says they can’t do that for security reasons. Why can’t they just send themselves back in time if they’re that paranoid about security? Or are Tor’s groupies unwilling to give up the modern conveniences that would not yet be invented in the early twentieth century?

Ed Wilson (remember him? The guy who’s only in Tor’s groupies ‘cause of nepotism?) says that they will destroy the time machine once John and Joy go back, in order to prevent dictators such as Saddam Hussein from getting it. And so, Rummel inadvertently makes his novel dated. However, Rummel inadvertently brings up a salient point: once one group of time travelers set out to change history, there is nothing to prevent another group of time travelers from trying to undo the first group’s changes. Even an author as ideological as Orson Scott Card pointed this out. This is why the whole idea of Tor’s groupies unnerves me, and in fact somebody commented on an earlier part of this spork, saying that Tor’s groupies are more like a select few oligarchs deciding the course of human history. And since power corrupts…


This does not worry John very much. Instead, he is only worried about how he and Joy will return to the twenty-first century once the time machine is destroyed. Didn’t he realize they would be in for the long haul? He can’t possibly think that preventing every atrocity of the twentieth century would be easy!

Tor then angsts about how she will “lose [her] loving daughter.”3 Unfortunately for Rummel, the text shows that Joy is anything but loving. She is a conniving and sadistic bitch.

“If you agree, you will undergo three months of intensive training in martial arts, emergency medical aid, proper use of our weapons and equipment, and business management. That is all the time we dare risk before we destroy the time machine and all that goes with it.” (pages 108-109)

Pfft, like anyone could become an expert in all these things in a mere three months. Are you f*cking kidding me, Rummel?

My Sue-dometer has just gone wild.

Well, at least we learn what their cover is going to be in the past. John and Joy will pose as businesspeople running an “import and export company”. It is at this point that I mention that Joy is Asian and that society was highly racist in their target time period.

John decides to discuss the matter with Joy. It should be pointed out that he is on a strict time limit, before he loses all recollection of these events. Somehow, he remains lucid through the remainder of the chapter. And so, he promptly wastes time by letting Joy tell him how much she is attracted to him. Yes, really. Apparently Joy was attracted to John after only a few days of being in his class. It looks like Rummel is yet another author who has equated lust with love. Naturally, the following paragraphs are just John gushing about Joy without the narration even trying to avoid a purplish tint.

To make a long story short, John agrees to become the Society’s dupe, and his transformation to self-righteous asshole is complete. After some cryptic statements, the chapter ends.

…Holy crap, we managed to go a whole chapter without enduring a Very Special Flashback Sequence! They’ve appeared consistently for the last six chapters, and for the most part, have served as nothing but padding. This is not a good way to write a story, to say the least.


1 page 103

2 And if you believe that, there is a bridge in Brooklyn which I am willing to sell you.

3 page 108

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  1. Pryotra on 13 December 2012, 22:36 said:

    …He’s broken a hundred pages and they haven’t gone back in time yet? I know that sometimes you have to wait for things, but if you’re going to write something, you have to assume that your readers want to read about the thing that you’re promising them.

    Also, we’re not going to meet these people again right? As this entire timeline is going to be wiped out by the Sues to make their little democratic Mary Suetopia, these people would be a. completely different or b. never even born. Why are their flashbacks or characters even important? If he wanted to infodump, couldn’t he have had a conversation or something?

    Finally, this whole idea wouldn’t work. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the dollar was different, and billions in counterfeit bills (even if the authorities didn’t notice rather quickly that someone who has no record or anything just showed up and started spending money) would destroy the economy. There’s a reason counterfeiting is bad. Next, even if they didn’t stay in a time, they would have to blend in. An Asian woman like her would have stuck out like a sore thumb. Particularly in the company of (what I presume is) a white man.

    This plan wasn’t really well thought out.

    And since power corrupts…

    They don’t need to wait for ‘power’. They’re already corrupt.

  2. swenson on 13 December 2012, 23:21 said:

    Apparently she has a “dynamite smile”.

    It means we all want to explode when we think about her.

    Moreover, did they not realize the economic consequences of creating two billion dollars out of nowhere?

    To be fair, in the modern economy, it might affect less than you think. There is a LOT of money in the world, about 1 trillion American bills in circulation in 2011 (according to the Federal Reserve), and that’s not counting every other country’s currency.

    However, it would certainly have a significant effect in 1930s America, if that’s where they’re going. The problem was not too much worthless money (as in, say, Zimbabwe or Great Depression-era Germany), but rather that there simply wasn’t very much money. People had placed enormous amounts of trust in credit on the stock market, which meant that when it and all the banks collapsed, their money literally disappeared. We didn’t have inflation in this time, we had deflation, where money became more valuable. So yes, two billion dollars would’ve been HUGE in the 1930s! (equivalent to 27 billion today) Or even the 1920s. (23 billion) I don’t remember which time period they’re traveling to.

    two Macintosh computers

    I was going to complain about how on earth they were going to power these things, but I did a little research, and surprisingly enough, we haven’t changed the voltage/frequency we use, so they actually would likely be able to plug them in, if they cut the ground pin (the third one on the bottom) off the power cord. Three-pronged outlets were only patented in the late 1920s, so I doubt they’d be too common. And yeah, without the Internet, what good is a computer? Are they planning on making Powerpoints? Then again, this was back in the day when offline research programs did exist, like non-Wikipedia encyclopedias. I suppose perhaps that makes some sense, then. But it makes my brain hurt to try to make it make sense.

    Re: destroying the time machine:

    It’s not going to work. When will people realize this? If something has been created, it can be created again. Take Einstein’s theory of relativity. There were plenty of other people who were close to the discovery. Or the atomic bomb. If it hadn’t been the Manhattan Project, it would’ve perhaps been Germany who developed it (they tried for awhile). And so on. Once science gets to a point where X is possible, then sooner or later someone else will be able to work out X as well. Laws of science are open for everyone to see. You can’t just keep them secret! Maybe they can keep the time machine secret for a few years, maybe for a hundred, maybe for a thousand. But it’s a time machine. It’s pointless to try to keep it secret forever because IT’S A TIME MACHINE. Whenever someone figures it out, they can just GO BACK IN TIME AND MESS WITH STUFF ANYWAY which is exactly what the Groupies are doing…

  3. Lone Wolf on 14 December 2012, 03:24 said:

    “Dynamite smile”? Rummel sometimes does remind me of Tesch with her “Maradonia dynamite”.

  4. Epke on 14 December 2012, 06:55 said:

    You’re just a puppet, John, and you can see the strings.

    I’ll be honest: I am kind of interested in how this will go from now on, now that time travel has been established and we (and John) knows he’ll be playing chrononaut with Joy. I don’t think there will be a lot of moral dilemmas to come (say, they find Stalin and discover that he only did what he did to strengthen the Soviet against an imminent American attack, but said attack was discouraged because the Soviet was too strong under Stalin’s rule – so he did it for the greater good), but it’s nice to pretend before Rummel takes a dump on us.

    Apparently she has a “dynamite smile”. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.

    I think it’s like when a Loony Tune gets an Acme dynamite stick in his mouth, smiles and then explodes. Makes sense to me.