Why do I begin this review with the exploration of the origins of the mosaic novel as Bowes explains in the Afterword? The answer is because it took the Afterword to reveal to me what From the Files of the Time Rangers is – it is a celebration of speculative fiction, as well as the American Northeast that Bowes has known. While the pieces contained are dark, ominous, and rather pessimistic toward the human condition, the homage is one of love, hope, and remembrance.
The Time Rangers are international police force of a kind under the direction of the Gods, specifically Apollo, the God of reason. The Gods realize that through their own mismanagement and human kind’s self destructive nature the time of humans will end, and with it the Gods themselves. Through the endless parallel time streams the Gods and their proxies fight each other and other interests to keep the world from ending.
The pieces of the mosaic follow a small group of Time Rangers as they work to fulfill their mission of ensuring the success of the God’s chosen one. The setting is various times throughout the 20th century in the American northeast while Gods and myth flow through the back- and foreground of the stories.
The prose is powerful and dead on – if not always easy to read. The characters can be hard to follow through the often confusing web of time and space. The point of it all is elusive. However, when it all finally clicked in my head at the end, I was left with a sense of awe. From the Files of the Time Rangers is not an easy read, it is dark and disturbing and can be very confusing – clearly not a book for everyone. It’s not perfect, pieces were written at many different times and places, not necessarily with the others in mind, but the mosaic comes together and ultimately works (two of these pieces were finalists for the Nebula Award in 2002 and 2003). On my 10-point ranking scale, this mosaic homage scores 7.5 – in the end it was worth every bit of the effort.