John Brunner has written some books I like a lot: Interstellar Empire, Secret Agent of Terra, The Repairmen of Cyclops, The Traveller in Black etc. I have had Time Without Number on my shelf for longer than I should admit. It was time to read it.
I have the 1969 paperback edition. It is made up of three novellas that originally appeared in Science Fiction Adventures:
Spoils of Yesterday Science Fiction Adventures, March 1962
The Word Not Written Science Fiction Adventures, May 1962
The Fullness of Time Science Fiction Adventures, July 1962
The three stories with minor alterations were collected together as a fix-up novel published by Ace Books in 1962 as Times Without Number. Brunner went back and rewrote and expanded the stories for the 1969 edition.
The premise of the book is the Spanish Armada won in 1588 and conquered England. Spain had consolidated the Netherlands and absorbed France during their wars of relgion. Spain was left open and the Moors retook Spain for a Caliphate. The setting is 1988 featuring Don Miguel Navarro, an agent of the Society of Time. Time travel was discovered at the end of the previous century. The Society of Time’s job is to prevent meddling with the past.
“The Spoils of Yesterday” is a kind of mystery story as Don Miguel discoveres an Aztec mask that was illegally brought into the present. Navarro has to figure out who is behind it and return the mask moments after it was originally stolen.
“The Word Not Written” has an attack by Amazons from an alternate time line that wipes out the royal family on New Year’s Eve. Navarro and Father Ramon of the Jesuits use a special Mass to contact Father Ramon just before the massacre.
“The Fullness of Time” has Don Miguel discovering an illegal operation back in time in California to get gold. It gets worse with a conspiracy by American Indians to prevent the Mohawk takeover of North America that happened with Empire help. Don Miguel travels in time to Cadiz, 1588 just before the Spanish Armada sets sale. It turns out the Duke of Parma is not leading the Armada as in that timeline but Medina Sidonia. The head of the conspiracy, Two Dogs, has killed the Earl of Barton, an illegitimate offspring of the Stuart king of Scotland. Barton was a military genius who led Spanish armies to victory in England over Queen Elizabeth. I won’t spoil the ending.
The stories are mysteries with a time element. The book is well written as expected of John Brunner. These stories appeared before Keith Roberts stories that became Pavane which also has a world where the Spanish Armada won. My guess is Roberts thought it was a great idea. I prefer Poul Anderson’s “Time Patrol” stories but Brunner’s book has obviously been influential. I have some more un-read Brunner in the form of Ace Doubles to read. He has always been dependable. If you want some classic space opera, by all means get Interstellar Empire and read it. You can thank me later.