Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Appreciation From Time to Time

Very enjoyable sequel to Time and Again until the ending that almost ruins the whole thing.  This book violates a rule that Finney seems to have established with the first book: a sense of wonder and fun is more important than a sci-fi plot device or message.  The ending is a cruel trick on a character who deserved much better, just to re-state a message already mentioned many times over. 

This also does an injustice to the sinking of the Titanic, treating like an "ah-ha" morality trope, rather then the world-changing tragedy (as the book itself says) that it was.  Also unfortunate were that the two characters who witness the sinking of the Titanic don't describe it--an impossibility, as it jarred for life every single survivor.  Here it's unmentioned, and the narrator offers a sort of epilogue and the thing ends.

There's also false advertising, as the back of the book blares the news that the novel revolves around the main character's attempt to change the course of history by changing the fate of the Titanic.  But, actually, the Titanic doesn't show up in the book until the last 20 pages or so, and the main character's only on it for 10.  Despite the ad copy, this book has almost nothing to do with the Titanic at all.  In fact, this book could have very easily ended without including the fateful voyage at all.  Had it done so, it would have been a much better book.

This time, everything I'd written about the wonder of the 1880s of Time and Again also fits here.  The era is 1912, of course, and it mostly focuses on Broadway, its plays, and an odd but entertaining digression about vaudeville performers and other circus-like performers.  They evidently graced the Broadway stage in the time, as did many other types of performances that may surprise you.

Again, the main reason to read this is the description of NYC in 1912.  The plot doesn't matter.  The tropes don't matter.  The messages don't matter.  If you can lose yourself in the world described here, and forget the ridiculousness of plot and morality--passed off here as philosophy, but don't be fooled, it's morality--then this book is still worthwhile.  It's taken me a few hours to get over the ending, and the movie Titanic has been on HBO all day, and is on now as I write this, which doesn't help at all, but the two books really are fantastic escapism into another time and place.  They are worthy of reading and of wonderment.

What isn't worthy, again, is Finney's treatment of his female characters, who are again very minor, very in love with the main character, and frankly treated like little girls who can't help themselves.  Both girls (Julia from the first one, and the unnamed woman [!] from this one) are better women than their author treats them, and deserved better.  You'll probably tire, as I did, each and every time the main character apologizes to the reader (and to Julia, by association) for kissing this book's heroine, which he does consistently and, apparently, uncontrollably.  Again, she deserves better than the ending she got, and the name she didn't get, and I'm getting annoyed about it all again as I write this.

Whatever.  Feel free to just let those things pass and to lose yourself once again into the very well-realized New York City of the past.  Again it'll seem like you're walking down Broadway yourself, seeing what he sees and living the life he lives.  It's worth it to do this.

If you do, let me know if the ending bothered you as much as it did me.  I can overthink things sometimes, which you already know if you've read my reviews. Too bad Finney died at approximately the same time this book was published.  As he re-wrote the ending of the first book to make this one possible, so too could he have changed the ending of this one in the beginning of a third.  These are now as stuck in time as his two New York Cities are in theirs.  It's a curious statement of the solidity and permanence of history, as their own unique--yet similar--times and places, to be experienced and appreciated, never to be either again.

Time and Again the main character states an appreciation for the moment he has just experienced, the thing he has just seen, the air he has just breathed, appreciated for the unique and temporal experiences that they were.  If only I could do the same, as often as I should.

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