Read: 7 November, 2012
Brendan Doyle has received a rather strange invitation. He has been asked to give a lecture on Samuel Taylor Coleridge and is being flown all the way to the UK and offered at least $5,000 to do it. The mystery deepens when Darrow, a very wealthy but dying man, explains that the lecture is merely to be the introduction to an evening during which Darrow, Doyle, and several guests will be meeting the actual Coleridge.
Time travel is very difficult to write about. Between the paradoxes and trying to explain why characters don’t foresee what’s coming, it can quickly devolve into comedy. So let me just start by saying that Powers has done it. He’s pulled it off – perfectly and beautifully.
Apart from Doyle, there isn’t too much depth to the characters – since this is mainly an action-driven novel – but they are still interesting and entertaining. Of course, there are types: the woman posing as a man to avenge a lost love, the crazy clown/magician, etc.
But what I especially loved about the novel is how the facts to come are laid out early on (thanks to time travel), so the focus is not on what happens next but rather on how will we get there.
Unfortunately, the climax was something of a let down. While the rest of the plot seemed carefully planned so that everything was predicted through past (and sometimes future) events, the climax had multiple elements that just seemed to come out of left field – in one case, this actually involved introducing a brand new rule for the fictive universe. It’s almost as though Powers just got bored and wanted to move on to his next project. It’s a shame, because it’s a rather big blemish on an otherwise very enjoyable novel.
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