Time travel in sci-fi has been done so much that it’s become something of a risk for most authors to attempt. This story gets my four stars because it adheres to one of the guidelines for good science fiction: there have to be limits even when a concept can potentially be limitless. Extant is more restrained than other takes I’ve seen on time travel in this way. Rigorous rules are imposed on the people in this story who can change time, and there are serious and lasting consequences, both emotionally and physically.
It’s the emotional core that really makes this story. Hard to describe what I mean without spoilers, but my suggestion is just read it for yourself. It’s a quick read after all, around 40 minutes to an hour. I read it in one sitting. It uses a ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ structure that works well here (and indeed is a neat little mirror of how time changes on more than one level – the reader is moved back and forward via the narrative while the characters have this happen to them literally.)
The smart one-liners that I’ve come to expect from Vicino’s style are all here again. I mentioned in my Time Heist review that some similes are clever but perhaps a little out of place, and the same thing happens in Extant, but I’m starting to think the slightly off-the-wall descriptions are perhaps this author’s trademark. I won’t quote any and spoil them, even though it’s tempting.
What stuck in my mind after reading this story is that its ideas are nicely condensed down, but they also have potential for a two hour movie. Personally, I’d rather read this story than see it on the screen, but it does have a cinematic quality to it that’s always nice to see in short fiction. It reaches a satisfying ending and I recommend it to anyone looking for a quick speculative snack.