Time paradoxes when woven into fiction make for marvellous reading, a testament to the author’s skill at getting around tricky prose will come down to their planning.
Ben Elton’s latest novel Time and Time Again, cracks this head on. It’s ripe with an original narrative that has you at every step turning the pages, hopeful that, Stanton the books ex-special forces operative gets his man. He does, and just when the mission feels like a celebrated success, after a near scrape with death, a love interest turns everything upside down.
The story is good, but there’s little characterisation. Hugh Stanton doesn’t actually learn anything about himself and seems to jump into bed with another woman, having only shortly found out his wife and children’s deaths were at the hands of the very people that sent him on this time-traveling venture. I find that part far harder to believe than Issac Newton leaving a time capsule at Cambridge University, containing information on how to arrive in 1914, far more plausible.
The love scenes are awkward and frigid with little passion behind the stakes. Instead, we’re given a detailed account of hospital bedside care that lasts months(chapters). I wanted sex and significant violence with bursts of suspenseful action. Elton’s attention to detail often feels like an insecure uncle attempting to ram his 1st World War knowledge down your throat in the hope that you might think he’s smart.
However, unlike his other books, I read this one from start to finish. It was an interesting idea, and my own interest in history drove me forwards to learn more. The ending fabulously bleak, which certainly adds to the drama of the story and helps deter the fact that Hugh is mainly grey, behaving one minute like his dead family haunts him and the other that they couldn’t be further removed if they tried.
If you love history and page turners, give it a go. Otherwise, give it a miss.