EDWARD M. LERNER “Time Out.” Novella. First published in Analog SF, January-February 2013. Collected in revised and retitled form as the title story of A Time Foreclosed (FoxAcre Press, trade paperback, June 2013). Included in The Time Travel Megapack: 26 Modern and Classic Science Fiction Stories, edited by John Gregory Betancourt (Wildside Press, ebook, 2013).

   As it so happens, I might not have posted this review here if not for one fact, and I couldn’t help but tell you about it. This is the first story I’ve read on my new Kindle. Well, it’s not exactly new, being as it is a hand-me-up from my daughter who’s gotten herself a newer, more up to date model. We had some problems getting it registered to me, but once logged in, I’ve managed to get around well enough to chalk up a Number One.

   And the only thing better than a locked room mystery would have been a time-travel science fiction story, which obviously this is, and it’s a good one. When an out-of-work bank official, now an ex-convict due to one flaw — being too trusting — gets a job as a handyman to a not quite a mad scientist (he himself says he’s only peeved), he has no idea what it is that he’s getting into.

   As our hero gains more and more of his new boss’s confidence, he’s allowed to know more or more about what he’s helping to build. Two guesses, and the second one doesn’t count. In some detail, small incremental steps at a time, they’re building a means to change the world for the better.

   If, of course, they don’t wipe out their world’s entire timeline in the process. The time paradoxes they encounter had my head spinning, such as getting the money to finance their project by being sent financial tips from the future. Until, that is, some of tips turn out to be wrong.

   You can tell that Lerner really had to work hard to make sure this story as coherent as it is, and I still don’t think he did. On the other had, nobody could. The whole tale is impossible to have happened. Unless, of course, it already has. Who would know?