Skip to main content

Top mysteries challenge review: Time and Again by Jack Finney

Year of publication: 1970
Genre: Speculative fiction, sci-fi, thriller
Type of investigator: Amateur, time traveller
Setting & time: New York, USA; 1882 and 1969

Illustrator Simon Morley is recruited to take part in a top-secret project to travel back in time. Once he is back in the 19th century, he is only supposed to observe and not meddle in anything, but when he discovers that a young woman he meets in the past and cares for has become entangled with a dangerous man, he knows he has to do something. That something leads them to become involved in a horrific event that puts them both in mortal danger.

I suppose that technically Time and Again is science fiction, although giving it that classification might give readers the idea that it’s full of science, aliens and strange technology. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is, for example, no time machine, the time travel being achieved by self-hypnosis, although only after extensive training that includes acquiring intimate knowledge of New York in the 1880’s and learning to evade questions that might reveal that he is not of the time he is visiting.

This is a very detailed, well told and lovingly written story about the possibility of time travel, and the effect it might have on both the past and the future, as well as on the time traveller. It is enriched by photographs and drawings from the era Morley travels back to, presented as if they were Morley’s work, and making the story more realistic. The characters are entirely believable, the detail stunning, the historical detail rich and Morley’s reactions to the past are entirely believable. The descriptions of New York, both in 1969 and in 1882, are beautifully written, so as to make the reader feel she is really there, and the description of the disaster that takes place in the last third of the story is terrifyingly realistic.

All of the detail might seem superfluous to the central story, but in reality it is not. It serves a very definite purpose, which is to make the story seem more real than if it had been written as a straight thriller with less detail, to make it sound like the account of real events (as indeed the disaster is), and transport the reader back to 1882 with the narrator. It does mean that readers looking to find a fast-moving narrative with chills and thrills will probably give up after a couple of chapters, disgusted with all the detail, but readers who enjoy slow reads and who love to read themselves into books will be amply rewarded for opening this one.

Having said all this, I must also add that the story is not without flaws. The romance is not very convincing, and for much of the story it seems as if Morley is not really in love but only trying to prevent the match between the girl and the villain because he dislikes the villain. He is also not a very likeable character himself, being arrogant, reckless and rather immoral. The story is also a bit too pat at times, with things falling too easily into place. I am therefore only giving it 3+ stars.

Books left in challenge: 80

Place on the list(s): MWA #99
Awards and nominations: None I know of

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Reading report for January 2014

Here it is, finally: the reading report for January. (February‘s report is in the works: I have it entered into Excel and I just need to transfer it into Word, edit the layout and write the preface. It will either take a couple of days or a couple of months).

I finished 26 books in January, although admittedly a number of them were novellas. As I mentioned in my previous post, I delved into a new(ish) type of genre: gay (or M/M) romance. I found everything from genuinely sweet romance to hardcore BDSM, in sub-genres like fantasy, suspense and mystery and even a quartet of entertaining (and unlikely) rock star romances. Other books I read in January include the highly enjoyable memoir of cooking doyenne Julia Child, two straight romances, and Jennifer Worth‘s trilogy of memoirs about her experiences as a midwife in a London slum in the 1950s. I also watched the first season of the TV series based on these books and may (I say 'may') write something about this when I have finis…

How to make a simple origami bookmark

Here are some instructions on how to make a simple origami (paper folding) bookmark:

Take a square of paper. It can be patterned origami paper, gift paper or even office paper, just as long as it’s easy to fold. The square should not be much bigger than 10 cm/4 inches across, unless you intend to use the mark for a big book. The images show what the paper should look like after you follow each step of the instructions. The two sides of the paper are shown in different colours to make things easier, and the edges and fold lines are shown as black lines.


Fold the paper in half diagonally (corner to corner), and then unfold. Repeat with the other two corners. This is to find the middle and to make the rest of the folding easier. If the paper is thick or stiff it can help to reverse the folds.



Fold three of the corners in so that they meet in the middle. You now have a piece of paper resembling an open envelope. For the next two steps, ignore the flap.



Fold the square diagonally in two. You…

List love: A growing list of recommended books with elderly protagonists or significant elderly characters

I think it's about time I posted this, as I have been working on it for a couple of months.
I feel there isn’t enough fiction written about the elderly, or at least about the elderly as protagonists. The elderly in fiction tend to be supporting characters, often wise elders (such as  Dumbledore in the Harry Potter books) or cranky old neighbour types (e.g. the faculty of Unseen University in the Discworld series) or helpless oldsters (any number of books, especially children’s books) for the protagonist to either help or abuse (depending on whether they’re a hero or not).
Terry Pratchett has written several of my favourite elderly protagonists and they always kick ass in one way or another, so you will see several of his books on this list, either as listed items or ‘also’ mentions.
Without further ado: Here is a list of books with elderly protagonists or significant, important elderly characters. I leave it up to you to decide if you’re interested or not, but I certainly enjoyed…