Friday, June 14, 2024

Henry Kuttner’s The Time Trap

Henry Kuttner’s novel The Time Trap was published in Marvel Science Stories in November 1938.

Henry Kuttner (1915-1958) was an American science fiction/fantasy writer who was married to C.L. Moore (one of my favourite weird fiction/science fiction writers).

As the title suggests The Time Trap is a time travel tale. A young archaeologist named Kent Mason discovers two strange metal monoliths in the ruins of an ancient city, Al Bekr. He is transported back into time, to a time when that city was no ruin but was something much stranger. It was the centre of an incredibly advanced civilisation. Impossibly advanced. Such technology could not have existed five or six thousand years ago.

The ultra-advanced technology in the city is from the distant future. This is the work of the Greddar Klon (known as the Master), a time traveller who seeks unlimited power. At some date in the distant future he built a time ship.

Mason makes a friend, a Sumerian named Erech. He battles robots. And he encounters a woman. Nirvor is astonishingly beautiful. Especially when she is naked, and she is indeed naked. Nirvor wants something very badly. She wants a man. Mason was more than happy to oblige, until he noticed something very disturbing about her eyes. There is also something disturbing about the eyes of her two pet leopards. Towards the end of the story both Mason and the reader will find out the secret of those eyes. And the secret of the leopards.

Mason encounters another woman, Alasa. She is a queen and she is encased, unconscious but alive, in a transparent capsule. The Master has stolen her city.

There is another time ship, built by someone other than the Master, or there will be if Mason can help Murdach to build it. Mason and his friends (including the beautiful queen Alasa, now revived) will have countless adventures in various time periods. They will come up against giant bugs, zombies and intelligent plants. They will come close to all kinds of horrifying fates. They will find themselves in a world of endless illusions. They will battle impossible odds.

And Mason will find out Nirvor’s secret.

The pacing doesn’t let up. There’s always some new danger just around the corner. Kuttner displays plenty of skill in providing weird and fairly original dangers for his protagonists to overcome. Each new time period is in effect a different world, briefly sketched but always interesting.

Mason is a pretty stock-standard hero although he’s a man with brains as well as brawn. Alasa is an appealing heroine. Greddar Klon is an effective villain whose motivations are just mysterious enough to make him interesting. Nirvor is dangerous and sexy.

The female characters spend most of the story naked, with Kuttner contriving plenty of reasonably plausible excuses to have them shed their clothes. This is a novel that aims to be lurid, and it is lurid although it’s mostly a tease. Every time Mason and one of the women are about to get to know each other really well some new crisis intervenes.

The action scenes are quite satisfactory.

The plot is nicely put together.

The book doesn’t get into time paradoxes in any substantial way. It’s just a wild romp through time with plenty of exciting adventure. I enjoyed it immensely. Highly recommended.

Armchair Fiction have paired this one with Hal Clement's The Lunar Lichen in a two-novel paperback edition. 

I reviewed another Henry Kuttner novel, Crypt-City of the Deathless One, a while back. It’s thoroughly entertaining as well. Henry Kuttner is a writer I’m starting to like more and more.

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