I have only read maybe half a dozen time travel books, but they have been memorable: the granddaddy of time travel – “The Time Machine” by HG Wells, “The Time Traveller’s Wife” by Audrey Niffnegger, “Timeline” by Michael Crichton and “Behold the Man” by Michael Moorcock. These are some of my all time favourite books, I also love the Dr Who TV series. “In Times Like These” wasn’t quite so memorable but it has a good story on a par with the film “Back to the Future“.
Five friends in their twenties at a softball game in St Petersburg, Florida are involuntarily transported back in time from 2009 to 1986, when there is an electrical storm. It takes them a while to realise what has happened, the first clue is a shiny new Ford Tempo, Ben, our protagonist and narrator wonders to himself “Who would restore a Tempo?” , then there is the fact they can’t get a signal on their phones and seeing girls with big hair… then they realise they have the dilemma of how to get back to 2009.
The author is clearly aware of other time travel tales, a Delorean is mentioned as early as page 2. Morlocks, “The Time Traveller’s Wife” and even Schrodinger’s Cat also get mentioned in the novel. Dr Who is quoted by one of the minor characters “Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey” but the reference is lost on the Americans: “Dr Who?” Francesca says. “Is he another scientist?” There will be no Delorean in this tale to ferry the time travellers about but they do manage to meet up with a time travelling authority. Just as Marty had eccentric scientist Dr Emmet “Doc” Brown, these fledgling time travellers have Dr Harold Quickly to teach them some basics. Each chapter begins with some wit or wisdom from Dr Quickly’s journal, for example:
If you meet experienced time travelers, you can usually trust that they are intelligent. The nature of this business rapidly weeds out the morons.
Time travel stories inevitably throw up paradoxes, like “Can you meet yourself (younger or older)?”, “Can you change history (by killing Hitler, for example)? ” and so on…
In this book the idea is that time is fractal and new timelines can be created if you interfere too much in the past, it is also possible to meet other yous (younger or older). There is a lot of technical detail about time travel, here the idea is that small sub atomic particles called “gravitites” can be employed to aid the process, along with anchors (objects related to different times like, for example a Rubik’s Cube) and such-like, which the travellers jump between using special wrist worn chronometers of Quickly’s own invention. Sometimes the description of the impossible science is a little tedious and really convoluted. Even Quickly doesn’t understand it all:
If there is one thing I can promise you about time travel theory. it is that it is a complex science and there are plenty of things that I don’t understand either.
The five friends are endearing, a sort of Breakfast Club mix, but with four guys and one girl. Blake had been hoping to propose to his girlfriend just before being thrown back in time and is anxious to get back to her. Robbie has the chance to meet and get to know his grandfather, who died when he was very young (on their original timeline). Francesca is concerned that the original jump seared a hole in her jeans. The friends and their friendship is very likeable. But they are not the only ones to have been thrown back into the past, there is a serial killer with a penchant for arson, one Elton Stenger, who has also gone back and he is not too happy about it, to give the tale a simmering threat.
The book is a mix of science fiction, action, camaraderie, humour, techno babble and crime thriller.
My rating : 4 out of 5
This is the third book I have read using the Kindle app on my phone, I downloaded the book free from Amazon (I currently have no means of making online payments).