S. Curtis' science fiction novel Catenae centers on Danny Nolan, a young doctor from out time, who gets caught in a whirl of time-travel complications when he meets Tamara, a strange woman who enters his emergency room. She's being hunted by someone who wants to kill her, and Danny summons up the courage and leaves the hospital to protect her. But he eventually finds himself in a new reality where time travelers can change history without being affected themselves by paradoxes, where sentient machines conquer the Moon, and where colonies of humans modified by eugenics and nanotechnology fight each other for supremacy a thousand years in the future.
The inciting incident kick-starts Danny's fast-paced time-travel adventure. Tamara is his damsel in distress from a planet 120 lightyears from the present time, and she belongs in an organization who wants to preserve the Natus timeline. Danny instantly falls for her, clinging to her presence as if he hasn't been laid in centuries. He described her as the most amazing woman he had met It's coincidental how the killer somehow finds Danny.
Curtis has created a surreal concept of time: It's defined as a field, and there are deep physics involved. He clarifies the concept of paradox that a lot of time-travel stories disregard, and its rules and limitations keep possibliities at bay yet somehow still feels boundless. The time travel aspects make Danny's experience feel like a game. Even the concept of the future is mind-bending. A cryptic prophecy inolving a character asking Danny to betray kept me wondering. Then, the plot becomes more interesting when a class of machines known as the Alphans get involved.
There are some interesting tech like the transient field generator, a device that could trigger a six-second jump back in time when it detects a cessation of life signs. It functions ot give the target a chance to react before a mortal wound is sustained. The concepts are mind-bending. I wondered, "How could you possibly repair a timeline?"
But Tamara asks the more intriguing question: "Is time worth defending?". I particularly like how Curtis personfies Time itself as a response to that thought:
Your talents, your energy all wasted in a useless effort to defend Time. Time does not need defending, and Time communicates no appreciation for your labors
It's amusing how the characters could easily access any time and space as well as meet beings from alternate universes, but the details of environments are scarce that the novel often leaves you wondering where the characters actually are. Even the City of Asiola, an exotic setting meant to be signficant, seems obfuscated.
Danny's experiences revolve around the theme that love is timeless. "Love is a distraction. It is not a principle. I love her. Both of her". (It's a crazy thought once you figure out what the lusty bachelor meant). Love motivates despite the psychological distress of being caught in the complications of time. If you dig surreal time-travel stories with a dash of romance, you might enjoy Catenae.