Study Guide

Timescape Man and the Natural World

By Gregory Benford

Man and the Natural World

For many of us, we go through our lives not paying nature much mind, since thanks to science, we generally have nature under our control. Thing is, though, this sense of control is totally an illusion—it takes nothing more than a hurricane to make that crystal clear—and Timescape is here to remind us of this fact, no natural disaster required. In this book, science isn't a force controlled by people, but a way in which people interact with nature—and those interactions can have serious consequences. So serious, in fact, that they inspire pretty much the entire plot.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Do you see any parallels between our world's ecology and the future timeline of 1998? What are the differences? Based on this, would you say that this novel's ecological message remains relevant today? Why or why not?
  2. Which character would you say is the most affected by the ecological disasters? Which one would you say is least affected? What does this suggest to you about this theme in the novel?
  3. Would you say this theme has any importance in the 1960s timeline? If yes, what is it? If not, then why not?

Chew on This

Although the novel mentions several ecological dangers such as the algae blooms and diebacks, they all ultimately hit humans where it hurts most: their food.

Although Gordon manages to change the future, the novel provides no guarantee that another ecological disaster won't occur. In fact, the imagery at the Washington, D.C. zoo suggests it is almost inevitable.