I am not sure how or when I came across this one. But it has been on my list of books to read for a while. It has gotten some great reviews on Amazon, and as you know that is basically how I make my reading selections. Also, and certainly a favorite topic of mine, this book is about time travel, so there was no way I was going to pass this one up.
Jack Finney was born and live in Milwaukee Wisconsin, and later attended Knox College in Illinois. He is most well-known for this novel, Time and Again, and The body Snatchers which was made and remade into the famous movie. Finney has had quite a long career but these are definitely his most famous works. I can remember watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers and it scared the hell out of me and was also super weird but still cool. It is also worth mentioning that in 1995 Finney wrote a sequel to Time and Again called From Time to Time, which I read some of the plot and that book seems so much more interesting. I am not sure I have ever said this but you may want to read the sequel rather than the original. Sadly Finney died in 1995 shortly after the completion of From Time to Time.
This one takes place in the 1980’s with an artist name Simon Morley, who goes by Si. He used to be in the military and because of this he still has some friends and connections in the service. One day one of these old acquaintances shows up and offers Si a job. The catch is that this man does not tell Si anything about the job only that he has to qualify for it and that he may not. Being overly curious Si agrees to go with Ruben Prien and see the facility in New York. During his meetings and interviews Si realizes that this secret agency is doing experiments on time travel. From there the agency explains how the process works and what their goals are. Si eventually convinces them to let him go to a time period of his choosing, 1880’s New York to see what happened to one of his girlfriends relatives. As the story progresses Si literally gets to see history unfold before his eyes. But the hard part is staying out of trouble and out of history for that matter.
There are quite a few mixed feelings that come to the surface with this one. First I will start with the good. I thought the premise for this one was truly awesome. It was a super cool idea that I had thought about one more than one occasion, what I mean by that is not in a story or novel sense but just in a true physical sense. Can consciousness time travel, that is the whole notion of the book. I don’t want to get too off course but if, and there are some theories that suggest this is true, every point in time exists the same, meaning that past and future are just as real as the present, then they should be accessible. If that is the case then we should be able to see them. What is cool about the idea of your consciousness doing the traveling, is that I do not think it violates any of the physical laws in our universe. You can see how this topic and the compounding ideas that go along with it can manifest. So that is an aspect that I truly enjoyed in the book, however they did not dwell on these ideas very much. They were mostly glossed over so as not to bore the reader with facts, figures, and theories.
With that being said there was quite a bit not to like about this one. For all of its glory mentioned above I feel that Finney wasted his opportunity to create something really awesome and cool. I felt he wasted his premise on a guy seeing what happened to his girlfriend’s relatives. I mean really, that is what you would choose to do if you could time travel? That was hard for me to get over in terms of the story. From a story perspective I think it was wasted, but if I am truly trying to put myself in Si’s shoes, where would you really go if you could time travel? I mean everyone always has these big ideas and points in history but I think that mostly has to do with the fact that deep down they know they cannot go there. I am somewhat of the mindset that if you were told that you really and truly could time travel that that would change peoples choices on when and where they would choose to go. Instead of seeing the signing of the Declaration of Independence you might choose to go back and see your great grand parents that died before you were born. I think that if time travel were real most would choose personal events over events that are historically important. So while I think Finney did waste his opportunity I think it is also somewhat more real when you think about it. Still, from a story perspective I think it would have been better and more exciting had Si done something cool or witnessed a big event that changed history.
Another strike against this book is the length, my gosh it was long! It is about 470 pages filled with loads and loads and loads of detail. I mean there are almost full pages upon pages of description. Which when Si is actually in 1888 it was neat to read and then visualize what it must have been like back then. I did find it somewhat interesting, but it quickly became too much and added an extraordinary amount of length to the story. Not to mention that this tremendously slowed down the pace of the story. The story almost came to a complete stop while Finney spent pages describing scenes. As you are well aware I am not a big fan of over description so this made the book extremely painful for me to read not to mention finish. I mean there were many nights where I literally would dread reading because the story was going nowhere. But through shear perseverance and dedication I finally finished it, someone should give me a small parade.
There was a small twist for the ending, but for me the juice was not worth the squeeze. While it was interesting I still don’t think it was really worth it. As I have hammered this point home, I just feel that the awesome deep premise of this story was wasted on the silly plot. I would love to read a story with a similar premise that really does a great job of creating an interesting story. So for anyone who reads this blog, all two of you, feel free to let me know of another story like this one.
Another thing that made this book longer was the fact that it had little to no dialogue compared to the description. For me I like more dialogue mainly because it is usually easier to read and I feel it moves the story along better than loads and loads of description. Plus for some reason I think I read faster when reading dialogue, maybe it is just a psychological thing but who knows.
I know I have been a little less than kind in this review, but honestly this was not a bad book, it was just a little too long and overly descriptive for me. So if those things to not bother you then you will enjoy this one certainly more than I did. Again the overall premise of the story is great, I just felt perhaps the execution was a little off for my taste. Although, I have to say that this book was very well written, extremely well written in fact. I just did not like the style, but again that is just a personal opinion. Given the overall success and popularity of the book I think I am in the minority. So just know what you are getting into before you check this one out. You have been warned.