Have you ever wondered what would happen if Philip K. Dick wrote an episode of CSI: Vegas? Well, neither had I, until I read Porters by Patrick Clark.
The year is 2069, the Earth is mid-Environmental Apocalypse, and Steve Wilson is a detective in the New York Police Department’s NTSI. The Non-Linear Time Stream Investigation Unit was formed because in 2029 a wealthy humanitarian physicist named Jacob Isaacs developed the first Porter: a machine capable of sending things precisely four decades into the future.
Emphasis on “things” – though the possibilities offered by the Porter fire the public imagination immediately, the human brain cannot withstand the porting process. Though this glitch means that time travel per se is out, local criminals, ever inventive, soon realize that 2069 is the perfect place to hide the (literal) bodies. This means that the gruff-but-honest Wilson and his partner must solve murders using 40-year-old clues and send the evidence back to their 2029 counterparts. Wilson, a veteran detective, has become discouraged in his new role since NTSI 2069 never really learns the final results of their investigations. Until, that is, he uncovers the work of a serial killer who may be working both sides of the timeline – and then it gets personal.
It’s an interesting premise, and Clark springs a couple of surprising narrative twists. He’s crafted a believable film noir atmosphere, but – perhaps because he writes so visually – there is a distracting amount of physical description. Consider the following:
Wilson closed the windows on his computer, hit the lights and left the office.
“What do we have?” Wilson asked as he walked through the door of the forensic lab.
“Sawdust,” replied David as he stood up from his desk.
“Sawdust?” asked Wilson, a little underwhelmed.
Such over-description is particularly irksome in a mystery story; Chekhov’s Guns positively litter the landscape. Too, Clark seems to be stumbling around a bit tentatively in his own transtemporal landscape – the denizens of Earth 2069 may be a bit hazy on how, exactly, time-streams work, but the author should be consistent with his own rulebook.
Though Porters is Clark’s debut novel, he excels at establishing the relationships between characters with a few deft lines. He has a positive gift for creating suspense. His imagination is ambitious, and I look forward to seeing what he can produce as his technique evolves to match it.
October 6, 2021