The Wolochs are unknowable. Monolithic slabs of stone, yet with a central guiding intelligence and a mission to spread a malign force throughout the universe. They had been restricted to influence at a distance from their lair within the Great Void, but since The Order of the Stones the Wolochs have emerged to to take more direct and destructive action. It’s all rather a distraction for Valerian and Laureline, whose purpose has been to restore Earth, which has been lost since their earlier tampering with the mechanics of the universe.

This isn’t the book with which to start reading Valerian and Laureline. Pierre Christin certainly assumes no-one will, and includes pretty well everyone of note from previous stories, seeing no need to reintroduce them, nor define their capabilities. It’s not that The Time Opener is incomprehensible, but it offers a far richer experience to people who have followed the series. For those who haven’t there’s a successfully cultivated atmosphere of forces gathering for a desperate last stand, and the wonder for new readers will be the fantastic people and devices Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières have introduced in the past. This everything including the kitchen sink approach reveals the richness of their imaginations, and also their competence as a creators, because everyone has a natural part to play, and their valedictory presence doesn’t ever crowd Valerian and Laureline out of their own story.

Key to dealing with Wolochs and restoring Earth is the time opener of the title. No-one’s sure exactly how it works, but in a typically novel piece of plotting, what they are sure of is that it takes the pure of heart to operate it. Of course, given the entire tone of Valerian and Laureline, that they’re pure of heart and will succeed is never in doubt, but it’s the consequences of that success that keep the suspense at high levels.

However, this isn’t a book without problems. Too much concentration on the cast has left pretty big holes in the plot, with some aspects never explained. They just happen, and that’s always unsatisfying. And then there’s the ending, which Christin had apparently planned for some while. To give him credit, it’s unexpected, not without sentimental charm, and fits the more avant garde aspects of the series. On the other hand, it’s far from a universal crowd pleaser. As it’s an epilogue to the great adventure that precedes it, most people should enjoy The Time Opener, but more as a reflection of what Christin and Mézières have achieved over the entire series than as one of its best albums.

Memories From the Futures follows revisiting Valerian and Laureline’s earliest adventures.