I enjoyed Footprints in the Future, a first novel by TG Winkfield from what I can find, but I did find myself wishing for a little more there.
First, the story. A pair of academics in the mid-seventies manage to invent time travel, although we never learn how or what is involved. They put together a team of other academics to oversee the project, and start recruiting young people to actually travel through time to observe history. The first try is something of a failure, since the young man who was assigned to observe da Vinci actually falls in love with him, and abandons the ‘present’ to stay with him, and there are hints that the timeline is tweaked as a result. After that they go for implants to track their travelers. As time goes on, there is hints of other time adjustments from the various expeditions, and that maybe there are other time travelers out there, working towards their own goals. As well, one of the academics pushes for trying to time travel to the future, where it turns out that a man-made disaster has caused widespread death and destruction.
The characters, unfortunately, are less interesting than the story ideas. There is little to differentiate them, so I kept getting characters confused (mostly the male characters, since there were only three real female characters, with two being mother and daughter, and the third having a very minor role). The author really needed to more clearly define them as individuals. All in all, the characters seemed to take a back seat to the ideas.
While I enjoyed the story, there were a few things that threw me out rather solidly. The biggest one was a massive anachronism that had me stop reading so that I could do some research (okay, I googled it). A female student is sent back in time to the late sixties (why so recent a past time? no one ever mentions), and she makes a comment about at least not having to worry about AIDS in the summer of love. Since she was sent back from 1978 or 79, that struck me as completely wrong. First of all, I didn’t hear about AIDS until the eighties, and it was still considered ‘the gay disease’. According to Wikipedia, the disease was not identified in a lab until 1981, and it wasn’t until late 1982 that it was actually referred to as AIDS (initially it was called GRID – ‘gay-related immune deficiency’). I tried to tell myself that a world with time travel would potentially have different timelines for things like diseases, but really, it felt like the author just goofed.
Also, when they identified the disaster that caused so much destruction in the next century, I was a little surprised that they were debating whether or not to try and stop it from happening? I would have thought that it would be a no-brainer, since they are not doing something that would wipe themselves out of existence. And they never really seem to come to a decision, other than sending people to the future to do more investigation.
And in the end, I felt like I was missing sections of the book, since there were definitely plot gaps, and a lack of a full resolution. Hopefully it’s only the first of a series, since it does need some more expansion.