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Literature / Change War
aka: The Big Time

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The Change War series by Fritz Leiber consists of a novel, The Big Time, and a number of short stories.
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The Change War is a war of time travellers between two factions known as "the Spiders" and "the Snakes", with soldiers recruited from throughout history. The two sides span galaxies and species as well as ages, and no one, at least no one the reader meets, knows what the war is about. Both sides are trying to redesign the history of the universe, but no one knows to what end, nor does the war appear to even have a history.

Each story tells an incident within the larger framework of the War, with no recurring characters or plot threads. The Big Time is set in a rest-and-recreation station outside of time, where soldiers from the War go to recuperate between missions.

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This series contains examples of:

  • Alternate History: Happens a lot, as the course of history is continually being altered by actions in the War.
  • Army of the Ages: The soldiers fighting for the Spiders and the Snakes are drawn from all periods of history, as well as periods of histories that never were or no longer exist.
  • Forever War: The Change War, a war of time travellers between "the Spiders" and "the Snakes." The two sides span galaxies and species as well as ages, and no one, at least no one the reader meets, knows what the war is about. Both sides are trying to redesign the history of the universe, but no one knows to what end, nor does the war appear to even have a history.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: In The Big Time, a piece of equipment, the "Major Maintainer", seemingly vanishes from the extra-temporal Place. The characters know that it couldn't have been removed from the room, since it is the very machine whose presence maintains the Place's continued existence, but it's nowhere to be found even after they ransack the entire room. It turns out that one of the characters had turned it inside-out, using one of the medical machines, and hid the resulting unrecognizable object among a gallery of equally abstract-looking alien art pieces.
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  • Intimate Psychotherapy: The Big Time is told from the viewpoint of an "entertainer" (the official euphemism) in an R&R station anchored outside the timestream, whose job it is to soothe and heal soldiers suffering from what would now be called PTSD.
  • Locked Room Mystery: A non-murder example in The Big Time; the trope is referred to practically by name, as chapter 9 is titled "A Locked Room" and includes a quote from the detective story The Purloined Letter. The mystery involves the disappearance of a device which maintains the life support within an inescapable hyperdimensional location; it must be inside, seeing as everyone are still alive and there was no possible way to remove it from the area, yet it's nowhere to be found, even when the place is searched top to bottom.
  • Nazi Protagonist: The Big Time has a sympathetic Nazi, though in a completely alien context. (It takes place in a background of Time Travel and changed timelines, in a recreation station between dimensions.)
  • Necro Non Sequitur: "Try and Change the Past", in which a Time Soldier tries to use his tools to prevent his own past death. (Time Soldiers are recruited just before the moment of their death, but, for handwaved reasons, remember dying.) He goes back and prevents himself from being shot, only to see his past self, with a look of despair, pick up the gun and shoot himself. So he goes back again and disables the gun, only to see his past self hit by a bullet-sized meteorite in exactly the same place the bullet struck in the previous two deaths. At which point he understandably gives up.
  • Ontological Inertia: Codified in the Change War series as the Law of Reality Conservation: "Anything in existence will continue to exist until a sufficient force acts against it."
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: The Big Time contains a sustained example (it begins "Woe to Spider! Woe to Cretan! Heavy is the news I bring you. Bear it bravely, like strong women."). The occasional swoops from one sort of vocabulary to another ("But I didn't die there, kiddos") are found to be funny by some readers, but in full context they fit the character and her background too exactly.

Alternative Title(s): The Big Time

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