October First is Too Late by Fred Hoyle

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A few weeks back I read Simularcron – 3 and Darwinia which both involve a sort of alternate reality, more so Darwinia, but anyways. While I was doing some research on these novels I found that October First Is Too Late was actually one of the first novels to use the theme of an alternate reality. Naturally I was intrigued and knew that I had to check it out. I think this them makes for a fascinating read because the possibilities of where the story could go are literally endless.

Fred Hoyle was a famous British astronomer most famous for his stellar nucleosynthesis (that is a mouth full) theory as well as promoting the idea of Panspermia. He is also famous or infamous for the rejection of the Big Bang theory which I find very surprising. He seems to have made a name for himself going against the grain on some very popular scientific theories at the time like the Big Bang theory. What is also interesting is that he was also a science fiction writer which I find very fascinating. He seems to have had  a very interesting career, but sadly he passed away in 2001. He was 86.

This one starts out in a mostly normal setting where a musician and main character, Dick, is traveling. Soon he meets up with a friend and they go camping in England. While camping a strange occurrence happens where Dick’s friend, John, disappears for a long period of time. After many hours Dick finally returns to the campsite hungry and seemingly unaware that he was gone for such a long period of time. While getting ready for bed Dick notices that his friend’s birth mark is gone. After the trip the duo flies to Los Angles where they spend a few days then on to Hawaii. While in Hawaii something strange takes place, the island has lost contact with the mainland. They are not receiving any radio transmission or any response. Dick, John, and an Australian pilot set out to see if they can figure out what is going on. What they discover is that some sort of time slip has occurred, where America 1700’s, Europe 1912, Greece 500 BC, a future civilization thousands of years ahead of ours, and England 1966 all exist simultaneously on the same Earth. Searching for answers they are certainly posed with many more questions.

I like the ideas that were presented in this one and I think the alternate reality or where multiple times exist all at once is a very neat concept. However, this one was just okay in my opinion. The main reason for my somewhat lackluster review is that it was so incredibly ssssslllloooooowwwwwww to start, I mean painfully slow. I would say that there were about 50 page of story that were mostly insignificant to that plot in every way. The book is only about 200 pages so that is about a quarter of the book, which means that a quarter of the time reading is near pointless. I get that the writer was trying to build the story but literally these beginning pages had very little to do with the plot in any way and I would argue did even less to move the story forward. So it was hard to keep my interest early on in the book, but I prevailed nonetheless.

img_3247Something else that I thought was strange was all the musical references in the story. Hoyle was a famous astronomer but I would imagine that he also had some very deep interests in classical music. There were also pages upon pages of the story where the main character Dick, composed a great symphony and went into detail about the melody and what have you. This again made for some difficult reading and I again would argue did little to advance the plot. I would like to say that this was interesting, but I am not schooled in the art of classical music nor do I have any musical talent, so it was honestly kind of boring. But if you are into this you may find it more interesting, I just felt there was a lot of time and words wasted on this aspect of the story as again really added nothing to the plot.

In the first pages of most books there is usually a forward, an authors note, or a dedication page. What I thought was a little strange was that the authors note in the one stated that the story was obviously fiction, but chapter 14 Hoyle says that he took pride in because he believes in the ideas put forward, or something to that extent. I thought this was odd yet interesting as it got me thinking, what is in chapter 14 that is so important. That is what was the most interesting about the book, chapter 14, and it was just strange that the author basically came out and said that before the reader started reading.

**Spoilers, skip to the next paragraph**

I don’t want to ruin the ending, but despite the slow start and the in-depth talk about classical music there were some very interesting points that the book made. In the story the characters travel to all the different time zones and eventually come to one that is in the far future. What is interesting is when the civilization shows them a film about what has happened to humanity during the last few thousand years. Basically each civilization has advanced and grown only to be destroyed by war or what have you. The men watch the film as this happens over and over again throughout history. The current civilization has decided that rather than continue pushing forward they are just going to be content with themselves, basically just wait there till they all eventually die. There will be no more society advancing as history has shown that time and time again it ends in disaster and near extinction of the human species. The other interesting aspect is that now John and Dick must decide if they are to go back to their time, 1966 England, or stay in the future time. The future civilization has explained to them that whatever is going on is about to end and their future is the real time and the others will simply cease to exist. So going back to England will result in their deaths or them ceasing to exist anymore. This was a very interesting addition to the plot as I found myself struggling to decide what decision I would make if I were in that position. Would you knowingly choose to go to your demise or live out the rest of your life in a strange and unfamiliar land, a person out of time? That is a tough question.

All in all this book was just okay. For me there is too much stuff in the story that really has nothing to do with the story or simply does not move the plot forward. However, I did like the ending and the ideas that were presented, but the slow start and slow plot really drug down the whole story. So while I think the ending is certainly interesting, I would say that you may want to skip this one and check out something else. If you really want to read something along these lines I say read Darwinia as it has similar themes and is better in almost every way.

Manik

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