The Meridian Series
is a now set of five linked volumes comprising a quintet of extraordinary novels in the popular time travel genre. It is the story of the first ever attempt to travel in time on a rainy Memorial Day weekend set in the very near future. The project team has acquired the recently demolished site of the venerable Bevatron complex at Lawrence Berkeley Labs, and quietly built their “Arch Complex” to test new physics principles in Quantum Mechanics that could possibly allow for time travel.
The series opener, Meridian, was written in the year 2001 and published a year later, just after the 9/11 attacks. It was entered in two annual
writing competitions that year and scored highly in both, garnering the Silver Medal for Science Fiction Book of the Year in ForeWord
Magazine’s prestigious annual competition, and rating a judges score of no less than 9.5 out of 10 in the similar Writer’s Digest competition for
new authors. Neither score was given lightly, and the book fully merits its laurels, chief of which was the spawning of another four novels in the
series, each one every bit as good as the award winning opener. Many readers have come to feel that the series
just gets better as it goes along, but that will be your happy call to make if you decide to read through all five novels. You will not be disappointed!
Without going into the physics too deeply, the author nonetheless describes a plausible and believable theory of
time travel unlike any other in prior versions of the genre. With this imaginative premise in hand, the team intends to test its theory by visiting the original first showing of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. (They choose this site to
effect a test that will not risk interfering with any other major event in the history.) The selection of that play and
opening discussion of its origins by the characters is your first tip off that this is not going to be typical vapid
Hollywood run and gun kind of story. Quite the contrary. Meridian is a highly intelligent discourse on the history
and the consequences involved should time travel ever become possible. The crisp opening dialogue that makes
up much of these novels is darkly underscored by a gathering storm outside, in more ways than one, as the background sets the undertone for the amazing events about to transpire.
The four main characters in the novels each have a unique discipline and contribution to make to the effort. Team
leader Paul Dorland is the Physicist who developed the theory behind the Arch facility. Dorland is a dreamer as
he tinkers with infinity. His mind ever on the physics, he often serves to explain elements of the intricate time
theory for the reader in a straightforward and believable way. He is ably assisted by computer and math wizard
Kelly Ramer, a down to earth and sometimes comical character who finds himself in severe jeopardy due to the
annihilating effects of Paradox, because his death was prevented as a means of enabling this first mission to
happen. The mission research is the province of Chief Historian Robert Nordhausen, an esoteric, eclectic, overly
curious professor who often spars with, and is held in check by, the analysis of Outcomes & Consequences led by the feisty and determined Maeve Lindford.
Characterization is largely achieved through dialogue here, and the people grow and grow as the story unfolds,
their personalities more finely tuned as they confront one challenge after another, taking on the enormous burden
of both judge and jury when it comes to making decisions about whether or not to intervene in the course of
events. The moral implications of having to assure someone’s death are not taken lightly, though the team seems
to bumble through their initial missions, slowly learning their art and craft of time travel, sometimes assisted with
clues they receive from allies in the future. As the “Founding Fathers” of the theory, they possess a unique and
powerful influence on the continuum, particularly because their Arch facility is the earliest possible point any
person can initiate a jump into the past. They must wield this power judiciously, and the implications of what they
must do weigh heavily on them in any number of ways. For each culture has its saints and demons. In banishing
the terrorism of radical Islam to preserve Western history, one must also accept the rise of men like Adolf Hitler
in the mix, or events like the incineration of hundreds of thousands of innocent souls in the bombing of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki. In just the same way that the author does not roundly condemn Islam here, neither is the Christian
West painted with a whitewash of benign and innocent civility. The choices are difficult to make, but the team struggles on.
The author uses dialogue in lieu of omniscient narration to get events rolling, and each character again has a
special utility when it comes to facilitating the plot. Professor Nordhausen often serves as a catalyst for new
missions and, being unfamiliar with the Physics, he raises many of the very same questions that are likely to arise
in the reader’s mind, giving the author a way to answer and overcome objections and gain that all important
“willing suspension of disbelief” when Physicist Paul Dorland explains things. Kelly Ramer has come up with some
unique computer technology applications that make it possible for the team to research and detect variations in
the history. And, last but not least, Maeve Lindford sets a hard and watchful eye on all the potential outcomes
and consequences, the keeper of all the “what ifs” involved in the interventions. Nothing escapes her steely logic,
incisive wit, or passionate dedication to preserving the history she knows every bit as well as the professor.
Taken together, these four people seem very real, well drawn, and they complement each other’s personalities
wonderfully. It is no surprise, because the author hints in the brief dedication that the characters all have roots in a cadre of his very close friends!
The Structure & Basic Plot
Now to the action and plot, for after the team sifts through the history to find variations and uncover tampering,
they must then determine what to do about it. All the Meridian Series novels really shine here, as they follow a
well crafted structure of exactly 30 chapters arranged in ten segments of three chapters each. The author has
mastered the Dan Brown like art of hooking each chapter triad to the next in a way that will keep you turning
pages, and the well managed plot has many surprising twists and turns. Things that seem obvious in one segment
are overturned as the team uncovers one layer of the historical mystery after another, like peeling an onion.
You will love the result! The stories are captivating, witty at times, highly intelligent, and founded on first rate
research of the history that each novel focuses on, particularly in identifying where and how to intervene to set
things right again. These “interventions” are achieved by physically shifting one or more of the characters into the
past, or sometimes by simply sending information back to Prime Movers, the historical figures the team identifies
as largely responsible for major changes. Yet there is a new twist here. While the “Primes” are important, the
Dorland theory holds that the real hidden levers on events are small, inconsequential things, like that last grain of sand that sets off an avalanche in the pile.
These hidden triggers are called “Pushpoints” in the lexicon of terminology governing the time theory here, and
they become the focal points of the team research. After reading these stories it is amazing to consider just how
these small, virtually unknown events really did figure so prominently in shaping the course of history. The
Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, for example, was pure happenstance. His driver simply made a wrong turn
which took him past the assassin. Had he made the correct turn this spark may not have set off WWI as it did.
In like manner, these simple mistakes, accidents, little slips, errors of omission, misjudgment, brief delays,
serendipity, or even things like a loose shoestring, lost key, or a stumble in the desert have enormous implications
when they trigger larger events. Researching and finding these “Pushpoints” is half the fun in these novels. When
the team thinks they have found one of these needles in the haystack of time, they then interact with the history
and attempt to make subtle changes. Results are monitored by means of a unique device, in both a technical and
literary sense. The team has stored a complete record of the history as it was known in their day, the “Prime
Meridian,” in a massive computer RAM bank that becomes their “Touchstone” database. They then sample
information from the Internet with a super cloud of thousands of remote computers running a small free program
called a “Golem” that the team distributed all across the world. These Golems can be ordered to conduct specific
searches, but their main efficacy is that they run in the background, constantly sampling the data stream, and when
they detect something that is out of sync with the information in the Touchstone database, they issue a variation alert so the project team can analyze and react to the threat.
One of the key concepts in the time theory is that of the “Nexus Point,” which is the title of Book II in the series.
Each potential time line, or Meridian, can intersect at a Nexus Point, and every occasion where the team spins up
its equipment at the Arch facility to operate, a Nexus Point is created wherein they are immune to the effects of
alterations in the time line. Like the eye in a hurricane or a bubble in the stream of time, the Nexus is a safe spot
that allows the team to operate and intervene without having to suffer the effects of Paradox, which also gets a
unique new treatment in the theory. Paradox is not merely a thorny and confounding problem or endless loop, but
an annihilating force that time uses to correct errors and resolve conflicts. Being exposed to Paradox can therefore be lethal, and only in a Nexus Point can one find absolute safety.
The plot often alternates between chapters in the Berkeley Arch facility and the past history where other
characters are operating. By the end of the second book the team comes to realize that the theory of time travel they initiated as “Founding Fathers” has now also propagated forward in time as well, and two opposing factions
in the future are using the technology and theory to conduct a “Time War.”
Written just after the 9/11 terror incident, the conflict inherent between the Islamic and Western cultures is evident
here, as the novels are all about major crisis points as these two cultures grind against one another over the
centuries. Thus we have time missions to the Arab rebellion during WWI with Lawrence of Arabia, to the time of
the Crusades, to Napoleon’s invasion of Muslim Egypt in 1799, and to the famous Battle of Tours where Charles
Martel supposedly stopped the Moors and saved Europe and Christendom from being overrun by Islam in the
8th Century. I say “supposedly” because you will have a whole new appreciation of the history after reading these
novels. The final volume is a fast paced naval saga in an alternate history retelling of the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck. The author informs as much as he delights, with excellent research into all these historical
The opening and closing volumes of the quintet both deal with the dread “Palma Event,” which frames the series
like bookends. Palma was a willful act carried out by radicalized Islamic terrorists, the opening salvo in the
ongoing Time War, which will end with a sixteen inch gun broadside from a battleship in WWII. (More on that
later). While this basic conflict generates the back story in the novels, the author is not Muslim bashing here. Far
from it. His stories reveal much about the opposing world views of the two sides, their imperatives, motives and
outlook for the future they are trying to shape. And through his characters he airs both sides of the argument.
This passage from Book III reveals a bit of the tension in this conflict, even between supposed allies as Maeve
Lindford spars with an agent from the future involved in the war:
“I can agree that we were wrong with our methods at times,” said LeGrand, “but Western culture was
simply too shining a force in the world to be contaminated and destroyed by these radicals. If that meant
war—unjust war, I’ll admit—then so be it. Yes, you will be quick to lecture me on imperialism, colonialism
and all the other evils that the spread of our culture engendered. But we soon came to the conclusion that empire had its benefits—benefits that outweighed the liabilities.”
“Oh, certainly,” said Maeve. “Empire is wonderful—when you’re a citizen; when you’re on the inside. It’s
not so lovely when you are on the receiving end of the bombs.”
“I’ll concede that. But what would you hand me in place of Hiroshima? Would you forgo the bomb if it
meant a billion people in Southeast Asia would live under the tyranny of Imperial Japan? And what would
you hand me in place of Dresden? Weren’t the concentration camps at Auschwitz enough? Cultures clash,
nations struggle with one another in the stream of history, and one side prevails. We’re offering social equities, free markets, capitalism, democracy—“
“Levy Silver,” said Maeve, her arms folded in opposition.
“I don’t understand,” said LeGrand.
“…and some of us were mostly brass under a thin film of gold,” said Maeve. “…A poem I read once.
Free markets? Capitalism? Haven’t you studied the history of the financial shenanigans that brought on the
second great depression? The problem with all the wonderful things that empire provides is that millions
have to die for them. Democracy? Equity? The West is guilty of a thousand felonies on that count, monsieur LeGrand.”
“Yes, yes—we went through all this before, didn’t we? But look at the time!” His eyes flashed up at the
clock, laden with anxiety and emotion. “We can’t sit here and quibble over the morality of our
culture—it’s dying! Yes, that means the poetry you’re so very fond of, my dear, Shakespeare, Milton,
Chaucer and all the rest. They don’t exactly resonate with the edicts of Sharia and the Koran!”
That passage fairly well illustrates some of the dilemma faced by the characters. The consequences of their
actions all have a moral cost, yet they are often compelled to act, in spite of their reluctance to tamper with the
history, because their adversaries are operating and conducting interventions as well. There are some eerily
chilling moments in the novels when the consequences of these interventions are considered. One such moment comes in Touchstone when the project team tries to tune in radio stations outside the safe Nexus of their Arch
facility to see what may be happening. The result is frightening and ominous, to say the least.
The Series Novels
The Meridian Series
is a classic case of “a tale that grew in the telling,” beginning with Meridian, which won the Silver Medal for Science Fiction Book of the Year in ForeWord Magazine’s
prestigious annual competition for new authors. This opening volume finds the last member of the project team arriving late with the news of a catastrophic
event on the Island of Palma. The Cumbre Vieja volcano has collapsed, and upon learning that this was a willful event caused by the detonation of an atomic “suitcase
bomb” the team cancels its appointment with Shakespeare and sets out to find some way to prevent the event from happening. If they fail, the whole eastern seaboard of
the United States will be devastated by the massive tsunami generated by the “Palma Event.”
One can find much talk in the doom circles of the Internet on this possibility now, and
there is even an episode of the documentary science show Discover concerning the threat from Palma. Yet Meridian was first penned over ten years ago, and as such was somewhat prophetic in fingering this possibility
using the research of Dr. Simon Day and the Hazard Research Center well before it was generally known or
commented upon in any mainstream media. Given the event happens at the outset of this novel, the team has 6 to
8 hours to research and plan their mission before the first wave sets migrate across the Atlantic and come
crashing ashore. The research leads them to the Jordanian desert during WWI and the fabled adventurer Lawrence of Arabia.
Book II in the series, entitled Nexus Point, begins some days after
the conclusion of Meridian. The inimitable Professor Nordhausen, whose energy and wanton curiosity often sets the novels in motion, has planned a jaunt back to the Jordanian desert where he
discovered a perfectly preserved ammonite fossil in book I. While trying to lift the fossil out by helicopter, they are approached by a Royal Jordanian Air Force patrol
and, not wanting to be prosecuted for removing the fossil illegally, they make a hasty, unscheduled landing at Wadi Rumm. Here the professor and physics guru Paul
Dorland discover something unusual in a cave where they sought refuge from the heat and sun, and a careless stumble then launches the story into its historical milieu—the time of the Crusades and the famous battle of the Horns of Hattin in 1187 that was
featured in the movie Kingdom of Heaven, though again, this novel was written a full two years before that film was ever released.
In Nexus Point the two opposing sides in the time war are uncovered by the team. The Assassin cult operating
from their hidden castles in the highlands of Lebanon and Syria are plotting secret missions to try and overthrow
the Christian West, and they are opposed by another future group known only as “the Order.” In effect, it is
order versus chaos here, as the interventions run by the Assassin cult throughout the series are aimed at
introducing chaos and catastrophe in the history of the West, and assuring the supremacy of Islam in the distant
future. The end of this volume sees the project team making a pledge to defend the history that is best put in the words of the character Maeve Lindford:
“…I’ll say this: if we don’t shut this thing down, and I don’t see how we can with this war business, then
we weigh in on the side of Mother Time…We know how things are now. It’s the world we believe to be
our own—at least I do. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I need something to hold onto each day;
something I can use to make sense of the world. There’s enough uncertainty out there as it is. If we get
involved, it must be to preserve the past as we know it now—to put a stop to this time war by foiling their
efforts, if we can…only we do it with more sense and direction. We keep watch, and we plan, and we get it all right. Understand?”
Her proposition is echoed by project founder and leader Paul Dorland: “…we’ve got our Arch, and Kelly’s
Golems, and the RAM bank idea gives us a good touchstone on the history. Now we stand the watch.”
This conflict accelerates in Book III, Touchstone, when Professor
Nordhausen is again the catalyst for a new mission. After encountering an operative of the Assassin cult in Wadi Rumm in Book II, the professor discovers a curious papyrus scroll in the
man’s backpack that appears to be a rubbing from Egyptian hieroglyphics. He writes them down from memory and later sees that they correspond to no known surviving
sample of the ancient writing, so if they were indeed a rubbing, where was the original stone? To find out he makes a secret time jump to the British Museum in old London
where the first artifacts were stored after their discovery. Perhaps something was lost, or overlooked, he wonders. After seeing a play and kibitzing with Oscar Wilde, the
professor learns that something is terribly wrong with the famous Rosetta Stone. He is able to read and understand the Hieroglyphics, but apparently no one else is, because
the stone has been strangely damaged.
Returning with this news he first faces the wrath of Maeve Lindford for his unauthorized time jump, then manages
to convince the project team that the Assassin cult must have deliberately damaged the Rosetta Stone so they can
use the ancient language as a code, and only Nordhausen can now read and understand the language. The
resulting time mission sends the professor and Maeve Lindford off to the year 1799, as Napoleon’s invasion of
Egypt is just underway. They want to have a look at the Rosetta Stone at the exact moment of its discovery,
where they encounter agents from each opposing side in the time war. The dialogue here is particularly riveting
when Robert and Maeve engage these characters, yet all sides are amazed at what is actually unearthed at
Rosetta. This sets off another dangerous shift, some 10,000 years into the past to an ancient, and heretofore
unknown site in the Egyptian desert, and the team’s math and computer genius, Kelly Ramer is compromised in a
very cryptic ending that seems to finish the trilogy with an odd loop that ties it back to the very opening of the story in book I. But the series is far from over.
Book IV, the Anvil of Fate, immediately explains the strange ending of Touchstone and moves seamlessly forward into one of the most
ingenious and intricate time jaunts of the entire series. The project team now discovers that the Palma Event was merely a foreshock to
mask and prepare for another major intervention in time by the Assassin cult--this time involving the outcome of the Battle of Tours in the year 732. If the Frankish lord
Charles “Martel” does not prevail, all of Europe will be overrun by the Moors the following year and the Umayyad empire, already covering half the known world at
that time, will reign supreme. Christendom itself will be largely wiped out. There will be no “Renconquista” of Spain, no Renaissance, no discovery of the New World by a
man named Columbus, and no city named “San Francisco” where the project team holds forth in their Bay Area facilities. The change to the continuum is so catastrophic
that the team struggles through three daunting time shifts to try and assure that Charles “The Hammer” Martel is
not destroyed on the Anvil of Fate. A nifty title, this is the only book in the series that does not derive its handle
from one of Paul Dorland’s time theory terms in the convenient lexicon appended to each volume.
Finally we get to Book V, entitled Golem 7. In the course of these
events, the Assassins have again managed to reverse the team’s earlier intervention aimed at preventing the Palma Event, and the
team runs out of time and fuel before they can tackle that problem again. Now they struggle in the post Palma world, where the West coast of the US is
still barely holding itself together after the disaster that wiped out much of the eastern seaboard. Professor Nordhausen again identifies the man responsible for the plot, and
the terrorist’s genealogy leads the team right smack dab into the middle of WWII. While seeming an odd link at first, the premise is clearly explained and we are soon
launched into the midst of the great naval chase that became the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck. The title Golem 7 refers to an industrious grouping of Kelly
Ramer’s search Golem programs, who seem to be well ahead of the others in uncovering alarming variations in the history. By some means the Bismarck was not sunk on its maiden voyage,
and now the team must sleuth the course of events in that campaign to find out how and why, and try to put the
ship back in its watery grave before its fifteen inch guns wreak havoc on British convoys, and the time continuum as well!
This volume presents a new approach in the telling of the story first pioneered in book IV. The same crisp and
informative dialogue is used here to set the parameters of the history and mission, but the main weapon used by the project team this time is information. After identifying the key Pushpoints involved, the author then launches
into a convincing and exciting alternate history retelling of the campaign, where all the little details in the history are
keenly elucidated and one comes to feel that the history itself rested on the most precarious stack of small,
inconsequential events. These live history scenes alternate in groups with the more familiar chapters set in the
Berkeley Lawrence Lab facility, as the author shows us results on a live stage peopled by the real historical
figures instead of having his team members just talk about it in the lab. In those scenes, the team tries to
understand how their interventions have affected the history we have just witnessed on stage, and try again with
another intervention until they get the change they are hoping for. As it turns out, the Bismarck is one slippery fish
to reel in! In fact, after reading this you will come to feel that it was sheer luck that the British managed to sink the German ship at all, and wonder if someone actually was operating in time to control these odd events--a
possibility darkly hinted at by the conclusion of the novel. The details here, some ferreted out of individual ship
logs and eyewitness reports, are astounding. If you like naval sagas, as the author clearly does, you will love Golem 7. The treatment of the live history scenes, while unique, reads much like a C.S. Forester novel, and that
is a compliment, to be sure.
At the end of this novel the author has also clearly laid the groundwork for the possibility of more Meridian Series
novels when the team leader makes a discovery that is staggering in its implications. After reading the epilogue you may have an inkling of what H.G. Wells meant in the quote that leads it in: “The past is but the beginning
of a beginning, and all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn.” The author has the hook in
very deep when you finish, and the stage is clearly set for Book VI and beyond.
To Sum Up
All in all the series novels achieve a synthesis of plausible and imaginative time travel theory, interesting and
believable characters, solid historical research, intricate and well managed plot with more than a dash of suspense
and none of the old Hollywood props and standbys. As I said at the outset, there are no mandatory teenagers
and cute child characters here; no gunplay or swooning romance unless you want to count the vivid exchange of
broadsides in the final Atlantic naval saga, or the slowly emerging love relationship between two of the project
team members, which is handled in a quietly tender way, unfettered by typical Hollywood bare chested syrup.
The time war is waged as much in the mind as anything else, and you will not regret letting these well crafted stories slip into your head either. As one reader reviewer put it so well: “All I can say is if you're a time travel
fan you have to read these books. They are well written, backed by good solid scientific thought and tell a great story.”
And the best part of it all is that you can get all five series novels as eBooks for less than the price of one typical
hard bound book these days. Each volume in the series now sells exclusively on Amazon.com at just $4.99 each,
or the whole quintet for less than 25 bucks. Considering the hours and hours of informative entertainment here, this is a real bargain that you won’t want to miss!
- T.E. Shaw