January 6, 2012

Time and Again

Time and Again by Jack Finney
Science Fiction
1970 Simon & Schuster
Finished on 12/18/11
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

“Sleep. And when you awake everything you know of the twentieth century will be gone from your mind. Tonight is January 21, 1882. There are no such things as automobiles, no planes, computers, televisions. ‘Nuclear’ appears in no dictionary. You haven’t heard the name Richard Nixon.”

Did illustrator Si Morley really step out of his twentieth-century apartment one night—right into the winter of 1882? The U.S. Government believed it, especially when Si returned with a portfolio of brand-new sketches and tintype photos of a world that no longer existed—or did it?

Let Jack Finney make a believer of you as he takes you on an incredible tour in words and pictures of a time long gone.

When I think of Christopher Reeves, I don’t think of Superman, but rather Richard Collier, the Chicago playwright in Somewhere in Time. I’ve never read Richard Matheson’s novel, but I fell in love with the movie, longing to visit the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. As I read Jack Finney’s novel, Time and Again, I was reminded of the love story between Collier and Elise McKenna and made a mental note to add the film to my Netflix queue.

My exposure to time travel stories is quite limited. I’ve read The Invisible Man, but not The Time Machine. Several years ago, I read The Mirror (Marlys Millhiser) for an online book club and the story has stuck with me ever since. I really enjoyed that book and need to get a copy for a future rereading. And, then of course, there’s the popular Time Traveler’s Wife, which I did enjoy quite a lot, in spite of the confusing chronology. But it wasn’t until Nan made a reference to Time and Again, followed by a comment by another friend (who said Stephen King mentioned the novel in his afterward in 11/22/63), that I finally decided to pull this book off my shelf. I have no idea how long I’ve owned it, but it was long overdue for a read.

I wish I could say I loved it. I liked it well enough, but it’s probably not one I’d read again. I had a hard time suspending my disbelief to the point at which it seemed reasonable to assume that one could go back in time simply through self-hypnosis. There were several instances in which the descriptive detail went on far too long with very little dialogue, and I found myself flipping ahead to see how many pages remained in the current chapter. December may have been the wrong time of year to attempt reading this book (or any book, for that matter!). It took me almost six weeks to finish this book of just under 400 pages. The second half of the novel was more suspenseful than the first, so I did find myself looking forward to reading a few pages every night, but overall, the pace was a bit uneven. That said, I’m still interested in reading the sequel, From Time to Time, which was published a year after Finney’s death.

On the Future:

At the table during dinner he was almost directly across from me, and I wanted to needle him, wanted to get at him; I couldn’t help it. Maud Torrence was talking about a Professor Peirce who had just read a paper before the New York Academy of Sciences on the advantages of establishing national and international time zones. Listening, I discovered there was no standardization of times anywhere in the country or world; any little town was free to pick its own time and often did, so that the time in towns a few miles apart might vary; eleven minutes maybe, or seventeen, or thirty-one. Railroad stations had clocks showing the times in different places, and Byron remarked that railroad timetables on long east-west trips were almost impossible to write because there were some seventy-odd different times used in the places the trains went through. Professor Pierce suggested time zones to be called Atlantic Time, Mississippi Time, Rocky Mountain Time, and Pacific Time, and I considered making a prediction but I was more interested in Jake.

While the book was not terribly enthralling, I did enjoy the various historical references, such as the one above, as well as Si’s observation of Dutch immigrants, and one lengthy conversation about the origins of the Statue of Liberty.

Books added to my TBR list:

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Replay by Ken Grimwood

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis


  1. Anonymous5:39 AM

    Time travel is fascinating to me - although I haven't read that many books that use that device. I loved THE MIRROR and have read it more than once. I have read OUTLANDER twice and keep meaning to continue that series. Big commitment though as they are all very, very long. I have heard Nan talk about TIME AND AGAIN, but it's not one I've read. Perhaps one day I'll have a time travel fest and read some Connie Willis and THE TIME TRAVELLER'S WIFE and others.

  2. This book has been on my TBR pile for ages. Someone talked about it and made me intrigued, it might even have been another book, but I STILL haven't read it...

  3. I read this book years ago and liked it very much. It is one of the few books of fiction that I can remember reading that I DID like! (I normally read non-fiction.) Glad to see you mention it here, but I don't think you liked it as much as I did!

  4. I never thought of the term 'self-hypnosis' - to me it just seemed so real to be able to do that. I think of it often when I'm in a spot that is unchanged. I wonder if I stayed there long enough, could I go back to say, this farm of 100 years ago. I could do this even in my own cellar! And I think about how I'd feel - would I want to come back from a certain era?

    I am looking forward to Juliet Nicolson's The Perfect Summer


    - and I wonder about living then. Or if someone went back then, could they stop the future war? Or should they, knowing there would be other repercussions.

    There are two movies I love which explore this idea - The Lake House; and Frequency. The latter is one of my favorites, which I've watched innumerable times.

    I'm hoping to reread Time and Again this very month. We'll see if I still love it as much as the other times I've read it.

    I so loved the photographs, and thought they made the story seem that much more true/real. I really do go on and on about this book, don't I? I think about it a lot.

  5. 11/22/63, Kindred and Slaughterhouse-Five are all excellent -- I hope you enjoy them.

  6. Time and Again was not my favorite of Jack Finney's books but I love time travel and I think he handled it well, especially in his short stories. I didn't know the sequel was published after his death. About Time (short stories) is probably my favorite. I also have a 3-in-1 I enjoyed and have read The Night People (not great) and I loved that other one with the pod people (brain fart) but it was quite different from the original movie.

    I have read 3 of those books on your wish list - Kindred, Outlander and Slaughterhouse Five. All are excellent, but I've never continued the Outlander series because the ending made me steaming mad. I hated the ending. Did I read To Say Nothing of the Dog? Eeks, I can't remember. Help! I am losing it!!!!

  7. Got it! Invasion of the Body Snatchers. So, have you read The Doomsday Book? Because I think that comes before To Say Nothing of the Dog. TSNotD is one of the books I am dying to read. If you've read Doomsday, we should buddy read Dog.

  8. Kay - Books about time travel are fascinating to me, too. I'm surprised I haven't read more. Did you read The Mirror for an online book group with me? Wasn't it good?!?! I need to get a copy and read it again. I can still envision certain scenes from the story.

    I tried to listen to the audio of Outlander, but it didn't hold my interest. Wonder if I should give it a second chance.

    I think you may like The Time Traveler's Wife. Hmmm. I still have the movie in my Netflix queue. Wonder if it's any good.

    Kailana - Do you need a copy? I'd be more than happy to send you mine, if you'd like. Let me know.

    Kay G. - No, I liked it but I'm not going to keep my copy. Not something I want to read again.

    Nan - Wow. Let me know if you are ever successful in your time travel attempts. ;)

    I enjoyed The Lake House and Frequency. I actually have Frequency in my queue for a second viewing. Time to move it to the top of the list. :)

    Katya - I'm hoping to read 11/22/63 later this spring. Definitely one I need to download to my iPad or listen to on audio, though. It's far too big to haul around! And I really want to read Kindred. Maybe Slaughterhouse-Five. Sigh. I need an extra day in my week. ;)

    Nancy - Wow. You are quite well-versed in Finney's works. I'll have to check out some of the titles you mentioned. I think Time and Again would have been better as a short story. The pacing was definitely a bit uneven.

    OK, you and Katya both agree on Kindred and Slaughterhouse-Five. Must read those!

    I might have tried The Doomsday Book. Or maybe it was To Say Nothing of the Dog. It was one of those and I couldn't get into it. Hmmm, maybe an audio version would suit me better.


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