Experts claim that time travel into the past defies the universal laws of physics. But there’s no reason to allow pesky reality to interfere with good fiction.
So fictional travel back in time occurs rather frequently. And whether transported by a machine, magic objects, reincarnation or dream, characters find themselves back in time. Some times, the travel results in a ground hog day-like scenario, an awakening back to the early days of the character’s life. And this sort of backward time travel makes a great story because almost everybody can relate to the question: What if I had only…?
In Ken Grimwood’s novel, Replay, Jeff Winston wakes from a soured marriage, a mediocre career, and fatal heart attack to find himself in his eighteen-year-old body. Grimwood beautifully describes the confusion, melancholy and excitement a life reboot would evoke. And Jeff Winston’s tactics, as he faces the future with knowledge of what that future holds, feel realistic. After all, there’s a certain predictability to the answer to the question: how would a person live if they had a second chance? So the reader is along for the ride as Jeff loses himself in avarice, power, hedonism, saving the world, and love. Continue reading Replay by Ken Grimwood, a Review.
Humorous and philosophical species-jumping time-travel.
Cubical dwelling everyman, Tom Robinson, has a problem. He’s been hit by a bus, but fortunately a crystal shop purveyor has just provided him with the secret to remembering past lives. Now Tom will wake into a new life with the memory of his old life intact. Sounds great! Doesn’t it?
Problem is Tom immediately messes up because, like most of us, he’s morally average: a bit cowardly, an occasional liar and self-interested. He spends several lives popping back and forth in time, sampling different animal species and genders, while trying to game karma into reuniting him with an unrequited love. Naturally, Tom runs afoul of the reincarnation system and his fellow “reincarnation remembers” and various unfortunate events ensue.
This book raises many of the classic time travel questions, such “should one kill Hitler?” While addressing classic karma issues, such as “is being a vegetarian that necessary, especially when one has been reincarnated as a tiger?” And the answers to these questions are interspersed with nuggets of humour and wisdom. But sadly Tom never quite learns to stop meddling and go with the flow. In fact, Tom seems to be at his best as a tree.
The writing is excellent throughout, and I appreciated the exceptional proof-reading. The Reincarnation of Tom appears to be the second book from a talented, young self-publisher. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.
Time travel fiction encompasses many subcategories, and Them Bones by Howard Waldrop fits into a couple. The novel has an anthropological survival angle and an archaeological subplot, but also falls into the hail-Mary-backward-pass-last-ditch attempt to fix an untenable present.
The author presents three story threads; the most fleshed out relays the tale of Madison Yazoo Leake who hails from a “bombed-out time in which everybody would eventually die from radiation, from disease, from chemicals.” Continue reading Them Bones by Howard Waldrop, a Review
A successful character reads like a complete person with particular thought patterns and reactions, habits and tics. The best characters are consistent and believable, a person one might encounter in real life, for better or worse. How does an author fashion the mental world of diverse but credible characters? Continue reading Sensors and Intuitives in Neal Stephenson’s Novel, Anathem
Pros: Clever set up, interesting characters, timely topics Possible Cons: Video game style climax and villain-tells-all scene. Roving point of view and a fair bit of “tell.”
The Echo Chamber is in part a tale of tech-corporate malfeasance, involving a rogue AI, a blender and ruthless Silicon Valley executives who build a social media “echo chamber.” This hypnotic virtual reality seduces most of the world’s population, trapping people in their own memories or with a personalized preconceived-worldview-comfort-zone. This shadow world is a paradise for pundits who spew, to put it politely, “non-evidence-based ideas about people and the environment.” The company dodges moral responsibility, citing freedom of access, acceptance and inclusion. Moral blinders allow massive corporate expansion with “no constraints, no thought of consequences.” Continue reading A Review of The Echo Chamber by Rhett J. Evans