Philip Jose Farmer (1918-2009) is one of those authors that I like a few books of his. He liked to write about fictional characters that inspired him. He wrote more about Tarzan and his world than any other classic character.
For years, Time’s Last Gift was on the read one day list. It was also a book hard to find used in decent condition. I had read A Feast Unknown and Lord of the Trees. A Feast Unknown is memorable because it is so grotesque in spots. He dialed it back for Lord of the Trees and The Mad Goblin.
I am a big fan of Farmer’s two Opar books. Classic example how things improve when you get away from pastiche and into inspiration or homage.
Time’s Last Gift is referred to in the introduction to the Chronology of Khokarsa in Hadon of Ancient Opar. Famer mentions the time traveler Sahhindar and makes it plain without mentioning the name that it is Tarzan.
Time’s Last Gift was first published by Ballantine in 1972 with a typically bad cover that science fiction books generally had at the time.
The Del Rey imprint of Ballantine reprinted the novel with house artist Darrell K. Sweet in 1977. That cover fails to capture the feel of the novel also. In fact, all the covers for Time’s Last Gift are pretty lame.
The book is short by today’s standards, 185 pages which probably translates to around 70,000-75,000 words. I knocked this book off in one day.
Four time travelers go back to Europe at 12,000 B.C in a time machine. One of them, John Gribardsun is described as
“He was six-foot-three. He looked as if he were thirty. He had long, straight, very black hair, dark gray eyes, and a handsome, slightly hawkish face. The sheer single-piece tunic revealed a body like Apollo’s.”
You know who it is. Gribardsun is ecstatic over all the animals in Pleistocene France– reindeer, Mammoth, cave bears, huge wolves etc.
The team has five years to study the period and peoples before returning to 2070 A.D. They contact a group of nomadic hunters. Gribardsun goes native in short order wearing animal skins.
Farmer spends some time with the landscape and the herds of animals. He reminds me of J. H. Rosny and his cave man novels in this respect. In fact, Farmer translated Rosny’s Ironcastle from French for D.A.W. Books in the 1970s.
There is some conflict with other tribes. The team travel down to Spain and into North Africa up to Italy crossing a land bridge to central Europe and the southern edge of the glacial sheet.
The novel ends with Gibardsun staying. Since he is Tarzan, he is immortal from the elixir given in Tarzan’s Quest. There is some discussion into time paradoxes as will Gibardsun disappear the moment he was born in 1872?
This was a different novel. Earth does not hang in the balance. Farmer has fun with the prehistoric landscape that you see with few writers.
Titan Books last reprinted Time’s Last Gift in 2012 as a trade paperback. I need to reread those two Opar novels.