April 10, 2009

The Good Old Days Are Now: Review of Time and Again

Jennie recently reread Time and Again, which we both read as a part of our high school history class to get a sense of the Victorian Era (I think), and she suggested that I reread it as well (I barely remembered anything that happened in the book). Here's the basic gist of what happens (note: spoiler alert):

Si Morley is a graphic artist living in NY in 1970, and he joins with a government/academic/military joint venture that seeks to do time travel through some phlebotenum-y explanation of the structure of space-time and self-hypnosis. Si signs up for the program and decides to shoot for Victorian-era New York to solve a the mystery of a puzzling letter in the posession of his girlfriend. He has some initial successes and eventually goes on to fall in love, has an exciting and death-defying adventure in the process of solving his mystery, and returns to the present time as a success story for the program. Up to this point I enjoyed the book, but the ending really ruined it for me. The powers that be in the present time want to use time travel to alter the past, and the leader of the project (understandably) freaks out at the possible moral reprucussions it may have. Si is sent on a mission to alter the past (and essentially eliminate the possibility of Castro coming into power - I've never understood the 60s/70s obsession with Cuba). Instead, with the tacit agreement of the project leader, he ensures that the project leader's parents never meet, ensuring that the program he was in never gets started. He then travels back to the 1880s to live out his life with his 'new' love.

All this I would be happy with, except for the justification for returning to the 1880s. Si very clearly is not looking to rock the boat as far as changing the past goes, and if he had hinged his decision to return on his love for Julia, I would be happy with this ending. Instead, the book slathers on the 'the past was a simpler time' and 'people were happier' whitewash of the Good Old Days, which just drives me crazy. As far as I'm concerned, the Good Old Days are Now. Instead of being happy for Si, I spitefully want him to die horribly of cholera or something 6 weeks after the book ends.


doviejay said...

I wasn't necessarily wishing cholera on Si, but yeah, I'm feeling pretty much the same way. The Good Old Days are now.