This is a perfect story.
A fascist government takes over America and a group of revolutionaries are punished by being sent back a billion years. A desolate time devoid of land life. Hawksbill Station is a one way time machine. The revolutionaries are sent back as they are tried and sentenced and no one in the present day even knows if any of them survived the trip. New arrivals are few between and then one day (as the back cover says) a stranger came.
The story follows one Jim Barrett, leader of Hawksbill Station, and former head revolutionary. Switching back and forth between Barrett’s present time a billion years in the past and his past life as a present day revolutionary, the two narratives form a seamless thematic progression that expertly resolves in the last couple of pages. Barrett’s story as a Precambrian time prisoner starts 20 years after his arrival at Hawksbill station. His story as present day revolutionary starts at the tender age of 17, unmotivated and uninterested in the larger world around him, when his friend talks him into attending a revolutionary meeting. The end of Barrett’s two stories finish in thematic union. It is a tale of despair, hope, and entropy – spiritual entropy.
And that, Ladies and Gentleman, is about as much as I can say about a book and still keep to my rule about not giving away the story.
One of the finest crafted novels I’ve read. Simply flawless.
Hat Tip (again) to Mr. Boaz’s site SCIENCE FICTION AND OTHER SUSPECT RUMINATIONS. I’ve read 6 of his 5/5 and 4.5/5 reviews with only one disappointment (and one that he rated a 4.5 that I feel should be a 5/5) the rest being some of the finest science fiction I’ve read. I think I will next try some Malzberg as I have not yet had the pleasure.