The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 7 March 2003

Time and Again

by Jack Finney

This book, more or less, falls into the realm of science fiction. It is a fantasy of time travel in which the hero, Si Morley, can drift into another time (January, 1882 to be precise) through a complex process of hypnosis that takes fully a hundred pages of the book to describe and execute. When he gets there, finally, Si becomes the classic protagonist of the stranger in a strange land. New York City is transformed from the chaotic urban jungle of the late 1960s into a somewhat more elegant, less urban, more urbane, but still chaotic city of the late 19th century. Finney is in love with the topic, and spends vast sections of the book in excruciatingly detailed descriptions of life in that time and place. Along the way (our hero is an illustrator) there are numerous drawings and photographs that Finney has taken from the public domain to illustrate the story. This is somewhat interesting in a novel, but really doesn't do much to improve upon the story being told. Morley, at first explores the landscape of the city. To his credit, Finney does do a very good job describing the time, and describing the affect it has on a modern time traveler. He has less success with the reverse, and the time travel method, and thus this story, has many tremendous plot holes. Long passages of description become a little tiresome, and might have been better given a better writer. There is a youthfulness and a vernacular childishness to the writing here, though the overall story is inventive and has much potential (which, I guess, Finney exploits in later books). The climax of the story is in the longest chapter, and is drawn out quite a bit more than seems necessary. Yet it has haunting echoes to New York's catastrophic events on Sept. 11th, 2001 (the book was published in 1970) and the much anticipated denoument and personal punchline of the story has much to recommend it in relevance to today's world. So, as an entertainment, the story is a bit weak and needs some editing. But as a story, it is certainly interesting and inventive. (Rumor has it that a movie will soon be made based on this novel.)

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See Also: [Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson]

[Other Science Fiction and Fantasy books]