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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Time and Again plus From Time to Time by Jack Finney

Time and Again (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1970. ISBN: 0-671-24295-4) and From Time to Time (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. ISBN: 0-671-89884-1) by Jack Finney.

Time travel is a perennial SciFi theme, dating back at least to The Time Machine (1895) by H.G. Wells. But Jack Finney's Time and Again, is probably THE VERY BEST time travel story ever written, at least in my opinion. Not only that, it is one of the most delightfully charming novels you'll ever read, regardless of genre.

Murder Ink, a New York bookstore specializing in mystery books, rare titles, and signed first editions, has listed it as one of the five best mysteries of all time, and until I read that on the cover, it never even occurred to me to think of it as a mystery. I suppose it is, though. And it's a historical novel, too. So there are already at least three genres it fits into, and whose readers should enjoy it.

How to describe its charm? Have you ever gone into a library and looked at REALLY OLD newspapers or magazines, like from the 1920's, or even better yet, from the 19th century? And allowed yourself, after a while, to become immersed in an earlier age, so enthralled by the details of an earlier time and place that you just keep turning the pages, and reading and looking at the illustrations and the advertisements, just for their own sake, regardless of the topic or quest that sent you there in the first place?

If you have, then you'll understand just a bit of the character of this book. It is obvious that Finney has not only had this experience once or twice, but many times, and has made it a big part of his career, basing entire books on it. His nonfiction title, almost equally engrossing, Forgotten News: The Crime of the Century and Other Stories (1983), is based on his historical explorations, and tells some of the wonderful stories he found lurking in old newspapers and magazines from the previous century.

What more is there to say? Only that Finney has to have thought up the simplest, yet most daring and provocative method of time travel yet. It's so intuitively obvious that you can almost believe in it. It ought to work, it should work, just maybe it could or WOULD work!

Like most sequels, From Time to Time is not quite as enthralling as the original, and lapses a bit more into more typically recursive time travel paradoxes. But if you read and loved the original, you'll probably want to read the sequel, written shortly before the author's death. Time and Again scores at least 15 points out of a possible 10, while I'd give From Time to Time about 7. But both are highly recommended, and most especially, Time and Again. This is an all-time classic, a book that everyone who thinks of him or herself as a reader, should read.


  • wow :) I found your post while was searching info how to buy first edition of Fineey's books. My favorite is "Time and Again".

    By Blogger LG, at 2:37 PM  

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