Time-travel romances often take their characters into the past or bring them to the present, but the future seldom seems to be the destination of choice. While most futuristics seem to involve aliens, space travel and other worlds, I’ve always had a soft spot for SF tales of the future right here on planet earth, whether they be post-apocalyptic nightmare visions or cautionary tales of oppressive utopias. (Basically all the ways people have managed to screw up the earth.) Sam’s World is a nice little book that helps fill this void in the romance landscape, as Ann Williams takes her heroine, and the reader, four hundred years into the future.
In 2393, Earth is under the rule of a dictator who, thanks to longevity and mind-control drugs, has been in power for centuries. Having conquered the future, he decides to go into the past and “free” the people there from the burden of their free will. Assigned to the project of developing a time-travel device, a scientist named Sammell is secretly undermining the project and working on a prototype on his own. Having weaned himself off the mind-control drugs, Sammell intends to go into the past and stop the man from ever coming into power.
His first test-run has some unexpected results, though, and brings a 20th-century woman into his world. In a time when everyone has been genetically engineered to look a certain way, Marina Ross is like nothing he’s ever seen. She also inspires some unexpected feelings in a man programmed to expect an arranged marriage and for whom love is a foreign concept.
Sam’s World is an old favorite, and like so many old favorites, a few flaws became more apparent on the second read. The romance becomes less fulfilling in its second half, largely due to Sam’s stubborn insistence that Marina must return to the past after she’s already decided she wants to stay and they both love each other. Marina is a decent heroine, but often has little to do but react to what is happening around her. The time travel rules and the ending are somewhat suspect, though not in a terribly offputting way.
Sam’s World is still a good mix of SF (rather than fantasy) and romance, with a relationship that tentatively develops between a modern day woman and a man unaccustomed to the emotions she causes him to feel. Williams manages a good balance, delivering her fictional future and a story where the fate of all of mankind is at stake while keeping the focus for the most part on the hero and heroine. Her world is believable, not too different from other stories like this, but well-described and vivid enough to come to life.
If you’ve ever been more interested in stepping into the future than the past, living Logan’s Run instead of Gone With the Wind, Sam’s World is a good little quick fix.