27 October 2014

Time and Again, by Jack Finney

This will easily land on my list of Best Books I've Read in 2014. Throughout the craziest and scariest time in my life this summer, it was this book I could turn to in order to be completely distracted. It certainly helped that this was filled with authentic photos from the 1800s and illustrations.

Known as one of "the" time travel books, with even Stephen King proclaiming its greatness, Jack Finney happens to also be the author of The Body Snatchers (which was retitled Invasion of the Body Snatchers when the film was made), but you never would have guessed it with this beautiful and iconic tale of time travel between the 1970s and 1880s New York City. No zombies in this one, I can assure you. (Not that I would have minded.) Time and Again is a whirlwind of visual delights as Simon Morley accepts an opportunity to work with the government to travel back in time to January 1882 in order to track down the source of a mysterious letter his girlfriend's family has always had, but never understood. To follow the trail, Simon must completely immerse himself in a time that not only is different in culture and dress, but also in the very land that New York sits on. To see a farm in the heart of Manhattan doesn't seem like that ever could have been possible, but it was, and it is this essence of combination and simplicity that lures Si in. To fall in love with a woman who would already be dead by his own time in the 1970s was unexpected and Simon is faced with a multitude of concerns, most especially ethically. Can he change the future? Should he?

If you're like me, you love a good time travel story, and this one ranks right up there. I loved everything about this book. Descriptions of the "Ladies' Mile," a section of New York regularly walked by the ladies to window shop was fantastic, and every description of clothing, mode of transportation, and food resonated with my inner desire to time travel. I wouldn't mind partnering up with Simon Morley, a comprehensive and thoughtful character, to revisit these long-forgotten times and enjoy comparing the differences. And while successful at purely time travel, the vivid imagery of a time past both beautiful and romantic, Time and Again also brings up several political questions Finney, and many others, contemplated at that time: Have we hurt the earth too much with our pollution, have we lost the authentic taste of food because of too many hormones and chemicals we inject into the animals or put onto the plants? Not withstanding these implications, Finney's Time and Again is not a political novel, but it certainly asks these questions in certain scenes, and is timely enough for today. If they asked these questions forty-plus years ago, how much further have we advanced, or how poorly do we match up with it today?

Highly recommended. I'd actually recommend you run out now and grab a copy.

Publisher: Touchstone, a Division of Simon & Schuster
Release Date: Originally published in 1970, reprinted by Touchstone April 2014
Pages: 477

Passages of Note:
...I'd usually sit down with one of the stereoscopes - the viewers - she had, and one of several big boxes loaded with old stereoscopic views, mostly of New York City. Because I've always felt a wonder at old photographs not easy to explain. Maybe I don't need to explain; maybe you'll recognize what I mean. I mean the sense of wonder, staring at the strange clothes and vanished backgrounds, at knowing that what you're seeing was once real. That light really did reflect into a lens from these lost faces and objects. That these people were really there once, smiling into a camera. You could have walked into the scene then, touched those people, and spoken to them. You could actually have gone into that strange outmoded old building, and seen what now you never can - what was just inside the door. (p.16)
We sat in absolute silence then. I was stunned. I was, and I knew it, an ordinary person who long after he was grown retained the childhood assumption that the people who largely control our lives are somehow better informed than, and have judgment superior to, the rest of us; that they are more intelligent. Not until Vietnam did I finally realize that some of the most important decisions of all time can be made by men knowing really no more than, and who are not more intelligent than, most of the rest of us. That it was even possible that my own opinions and judgments could be as good as and maybe better than a politician’s who made a decision of profound consequence. Some of that childhood awe and acceptance of authority remained, and while I was sitting before Esterhazy’s desk - the room silent, everyone watching me, waiting - it seems presumptuous that ordinary Simon Morley should question the judgment of this board. And of the men in Washington who agreed with it. But I knew I had to. And was going to. (p.464)
About the Author (from the book)
Jack Finney was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1911 and lived in California. He wrote stories for magazines such as Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, and McCall's, and is the author of several novels, including the science fiction thriller The Body Snatchers, later published as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which served as the basis for multiple film adaptations.  He passed away in 1995 in Greenbrae, California. 


  1. I've never heard of this book but you've made me want to read it ASAP.

    I think about you all the time and love your attitude!!

  2. I love the incorporation of pictures! I typically don't like time travel novels but this one looks really fascinating.

  3. I read this one and really enjoyed it as well! Did you know he wrote a sequel to it? From Time to Time: http://www.amazon.com/Time-Book-ebook/dp/B00AK9IXBY/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-4&qid=1414507219. I haven't had time to read the sequel yet but am excited to!

  4. I've never read this book, but am adding it to my wish list now!!

    1. The kindle edition is just $1.99 now... had to buy it :)

  5. I read this a few years ago, so good! When I read 11/22/63 by King this year I was reminded of it. I had no idea he wrote Body Snatchers too!

  6. I didn't know of this novel so thanks much for the positive word.

  7. I read this back in May and really enjoyed it. I hope all is well with you now. I know that feeling of needing to escape into a book when life is just too much!

  8. I love looking at old photos, so throw a time travel story and I'm there. sounds like a great read and I'm gladd it helped you forget about things for a while.

  9. This is one of my all time favorites. Glad to find another fan of the book.

  10. Great review, your enthusiasm shines through! Happy New Year!

  11. Sounds fascinating. I like most things about history... not sure why? I also love time travel, even on cartoon TV shows! Go figure. So this book sounds perfect for me. thanks.