The Lord of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa
I was curious about the new Viz line of scifi books, Haikasoru. I tend to enjoy books about time wars because I like the complexity found in the idea that a battle in the past can change the future of time traveling soldiers. In The Lord of the Sands of Time, humans in the future have engineered soldiers called messengers to fight a war across time against insect-like alien invaders. Since the aliens can travel through time, war is fought in multiple time streams and the messengers are aided in the necessary temporal battle logistics and planning by an almost all-knowing artificial intelligence program.
A messenger with strong feeling about the need to protect humanity finds himself in ancient Japan, and he meets the priestess Miyo. Messenger O starts to prepare Miyo’s people to fight the enemy. Japan may be the battleground for humanity’s last stand throughout time. Ogawa takes full advantage of time traveling in the way he structured the book. Flash backs and flash forwards abound as the novel switches back and forth from Messenger O and Miyo’s points of view. There is a bit too much exposition front-loaded into the first couple chapters, which I found a bit difficult to get into. But once I’d read the first 35 or so pages I felt I had the background information about the characters I needed to proceed.
O has already been profoundly affected by the human Sakaya, who instilled in O the value “Devotion to humanity.” Miyo sees O as someone who can help her not only with the alien bugs, but someone who may be an ally in the shifting political machinations of the ruling court that she serves as a figurehead. Her exposure to battle causes her to see many of the nameless people that serve her as human for the first time, and her admiration for O turns into affection. O finds a few brief moments of respite from battle in Miyo’s company. I’d say that Miyo is more changed by O than he is by her, but he has a perspective that has been shaped by centuries of battle across time.
I found the details about the society of the messengers very interesting since they look human and have relationships with humans, but are always set apart. The shifting time lines cause people and relationships from their past to simply disappear when the messengers fail in battle. These lost connections only exist in the memories of the messengers that are left behind to fight again as they travel through time.
At only 250 pages, The Lord of the Sands of Time is a brisk read and definitely worth checking out if you enjoy time travel stories. When I finished the book I wished it had been a bit longer because I was enjoying the intricate plot and developing relationships between the characters.
Review copy provided by the publisher.