They had fought a life-crushing 21st century dictatorship. Now they were political prisoners, exiled to an Earth before the dawn of life. Sentenced to the past, sealed forever behind a billion-year-high wall of time, they had to make their home by the grey slab shorelines of a barren planet. A lifeless world was their prison, eons away from cities and civilizations and trips to the stars—and there was no way back.
Then one day the stranger came...
An expanded version of the novella of the same name.
The time-travel aspect of the book holds up pretty well: What if time travel worked, but only one way – backward? Other aspects of the story seem dated, definitely grounded in the late 60s. It's not only the Cold War elements of it, but (in contrast to, say To Live Again) the technology aside from the time travel seems primitive, especially in the computer area. But who knew?
The characterization also works well, and the plotting is solid (though I could see the ending coming halfway through). I especially like the way the main character Barrett is handled: you like him and sympathize with him even though he's sometimes a bit of a jerk. (His attitudes toward women are the prime dating factor in the story, as a matter of fact.)
It's a shame that the novel-length version of the story is more readily available than the shorter novella, which Silverberg (and I) regard as a better work.
Nominated (in shorter form) for Nebula Award for best novella, 1967.
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