Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Book Review: From Time to Time - Jack Finney

"It was glorious, all black dark and flowering color, marching leather shuffling on cobbles, drums banging, cymbals smashing. Only a political parade, the election weeks ahead, but fun. Another band moving past now, this one in tall flat-topped shakos with plumes and tiny peaks, the snares rattling, lots of powerful horn and trumpet and that bell-like thing that tops it all off. Splendid blaring sound, very close, and once again that night I felt the actual chill right up the spine, and the slightly embarrassing eye sting, of easy emotion about nothing." p34

A group of seemingly regular people meet after hours in the basement of a university to discuss matters otherworldly. One has a photo from a Clark Gable movie that doesn't exist; one has a campaign button from Kennedy's second term; one has a recording from a man who saw the Titanic pull into New York. They are the remnants of "The Project", a former secret government organization dedicated to traveling back in time with supposed ulterior motives.

This sequel to "Time and Again" has our protagonist Simon Morley living happily in 1880s New York, having ensured that "The Project", never comes into existence. Someone travels back though to put the original timeline back in place. Through a series of events Morley travels forward in time only to find himself confronted with the same group he tried to disband. He is then convinced that he could help to avert World War I and travels back to New York in 1912. He is set to find an agent due to travel to Europe who has important papers that will quell any ideas of warmongering among the governments of the day. Simon does his best to track down the mysterious "Z" and eventually finds himself aboard the RMS Titanic, knowing full well what her fate entails.

There are some beautiful descriptions in this book as well as historic photos, ads and drawings that help to give a sense of the atmosphere and attitude of the time. They show a people dressed to the nines and a world opening up with the advent of aviation.
Simon also happens to run into some well known personages such as Al Jolson, Teddy Roosevelt. We see history through his eyes when he meets aviator Frank Coffyn and wonders when Charles Lindburgh is going to show up.

I'm a fan of speculative fiction and loved the little details that Finney inserts, having obviously done quite a bit of research on the period for Simon to have so many cultural experiences in 1912. We get a sense of how he travels back in time but much is left to the imagination when delving deeper into the how and why.

The problem with the book is Finney seems to get wrapped up in his historic figures and photos. The details are wonderful and the reader feels they're being safely led down one path when suddenly the book ends. Finney's conclusion leaves much to be desired as well as room for another book, in which the whole mess of Simon's time traveling experiences might have been explained.

Rating: 3/5

1 comment:

celi.a said...

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