There’s No Time Like The Present Issue 13
by Paul Rainey
“If you’re new here …. then you’re really going to be confused.” Those are Paul Rainey’s opening words in his editorial for issue 13 – the final part of his time travelling, dimensional warping, head spinning sci-fi soap opera odyssey after nearly six years of work.
There’s always the worry with a series that starts out complicated and then throws more and more twists and turns into the mix that the finale will never live up to the buildup, but I honestly think Rainey’s finished it off perfectly, resolving everything, squaring each character’s circle. There’s No Time Like The Present’s final issue provides a most satisfying finale to what has been an excellent series over the years.
The problem with trying to review issue 13 of course is that there’s almost no point at this late stage in covering this final issue – after all, who honestly reviews the final chapter of a book or the last 15 minutes of a movie? But it’s worth taking a look back at the series and seeing it as a whole now that the end has come and gone. And if you feel the need, there’s the previous reviews to go back to for more insight and plot points along the way (reviews of issues 1-8, 9, 10, 11, 12).
The whole work is practically a trilogy of stories – starting with Cliff and his sci-fi obsessive 30 something friends…..
“We join the story with Cliff; a 30 something sci-fi obsessive who lives as a lodger with Kelly…. hates her job, is desperate to leave and fears she’s never going to manage it. Cliff’s best friend is another 30 something sci-fi collector called Barry, who’s just not that nice a person….”
“…..it starts as a slice of life look at a group of mates with an unhealthy interest in Science Fiction shows and a collectors mentality …. But very early on Rainey throws a curveball into the story with the fact that one of the gang is getting future episodes of movies and TV shows from the Ultraweb. Such a simple thing, thrown into the plot without fanfare, but it’s to prove the backbone of the story.”
“Slice of life meets a bit of time travel and future knowledge. Cliff and his mates living their lives against a backdrop of ennui and a general worldwide feeling of what’s the point? … Each episode is played out with a realistic, naturalistic tone, as each character’s life slowly and rather painfully develops in front of us.”
It then shifts 50 years into the future and Cliff, Barry and their elderly friends are in the day care centre, reflecting on their lives and all the incredible science fiction going on around them outside their door – all the time travelling, the Ultraweb, future Junction worlds, whilst they spend their time watching old, familiar episodes of Dr Who on the TV.
“From here you expect Rainey to jump to and fro, visiting Cliff et al in present and future, young and old. Except he doesn’t – that would be too easy, too obvious. Instead we’re with the old guys all the way, learning little bits about their lives through conversations in between episodes of crappy sci-fi. … But even with all of this time travel and jumps between timeframes, Rainey always grounds the work solidly with his characters. The amazing things occur off panel, affecting our cast tangentially.”
And finally, as the cast slowly succumbs to the inevitable result of old age and the funerals start mounting up we’re propelled forwards again, to rejoin someone who disappeared early on in the series and listen in as she recounts her life story to another old friend, 250,000 years out of time on a strange, new planet.
This is the best thing about Rainey’s work – the sense of amazing advancement is always secondary to the real lives of his characters. The final few issues see us take a near guided tour through the worlds of the future, full of time travelling coasters, trans-pods, personal chronometers, alien species and so much more. But far more important to Rainey, and to me as a reader is the emotional development of the storyteller, this woman out of time, coming to terms with a future she never dreamt of.
This final issue could have simply been Rainey desperately trying to tie up every loose end in his series, throwing things at us just to get it finished. But despite there being an awful lot of information on every page, it never overwhelms the true story, that of the characters we’ve followed through time and space. And then it ends with a remarkably affecting low key ending playing on all the ideas of ageing and acceptance of one’s life that we’ve touched on throughout the series – that was quite lovely and a perfect way to finish.
As I was looking through that final issue, looking for images to share with you it became clear that most of them were going to give away important stuff, but on reading it all again, these two panels struck me as a beautiful way to sum up TNTLTP, of the journeys each character has gone on, through time and space, young and old, the amazing thing isn’t the sci-fi world around them – it’s themselves and what they’ve done. Plus, I think that one close up panel really shows you how good an artist Rainey can be….
Rainey’s There’s No Time Like The Present really does deserve reading in one go, I guarantee that all 13 parts will have you enthralled and intrigued, and more than that, when read together this way, Rainey’s intricately plotted story genuinely shines. Now all it needs is to be collected. Publishers?