I am a huge fan of novels with a time travel theme. Two of my favorite books are Replay by Ken Grimwood and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. So when I heard that Time and Again by Jack Finney was a time travel classic, I knew I needed to read it. My husband gave t to me for Christmas last year, and I finally got to it this month. As expected, I loved this novel!
Simon Morley is a 30-year old single guy living in New York City in 1970. Though he wishes he had the talent to make a living as a painter, he instead works as a commercial artist at an ad agency. Si has a new girlfriend and is reasonably happy with his life, though he does feel as if there must be something more meaningful out there. One day, a stranger shows up at his office and introduces himself as Ruben Prien. Ruben takes Si out for lunch and tells him he is part of a secret government project that wants to recruit Si to join them. Ruben entices Si with all sorts of promises but won’t tell him more about the project unless he joins.
Si does join the project, and it lives up to all of Ruben’s promises. Dr. Danziger, the elderly head of the project, has developed a way to go back in time, and Si seems to meet all the criteria of the perfect candidate to try it out. The goal is for Si to go back to New York City in 1882. Not only is Si successful, but his experiences exceed all of their expectations. Complications ensue, however, when certain members of the project want to take it further and intentionally change history.
And therein lies the main reason I so enjoy time travel plots – the considerations of how minor changes in the past might possibly affect the future are fascinating. I know people who won’t read any time travel stories because they claim not to like science fiction, but – like my two favorite time travel novels mentioned above – Time and Again is so much more than what people generally think of as science fiction. It is a historical novel and a romance and an in-depth character study and a mystery/suspense novel, all wrapped up into one amazing package. Real photos and drawings from 1882 add even more depth to this story.
Most of all, I love the thought-provoking quality of time travel stories, and this one is no exception. How can one man’s careful actions in 1882 affect life in 1970? What are the moral implications of someone with future knowledge living in the past? It is all thoughtful and fascinating, and I enjoyed every moment of it. In addition, Finney’s attention to detail adds layers of interest to the engaging plot. Like any good novel, I came to know and care about the characters. I was fully immersed in their lives – in both 1970 and 1882 – and never wanted the book to end. And that is the ultimate measure of a great novel in my mind.
399 pages, Scribner Paperback Fiction