Most helpful critical review
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The book tries TOO hard, and, just doesn't work.
on 30 December 1997
How I came to "From Time To Time": I first read Finney's "Time and Again" when I was 10. I loved the way the story really gave me a sense of what it could feel like to be a time traveler (rather the more standard sci-fi focus on the mechanics of time travel). The book is precise about the tiny details that make up daily life, and I was struck by what a "modern" man had to do to adapt to the "olden days." I was also thrilled to find an illustrated "grown-up book." Fast forward 27 years: I find a copy of "From Time To Time" at the bookstore and just have to buy it. Before starting the sequel, I re-read "Time and Again," marveling anew at Finney's skillful descriptions. Like the first time, I couldn't put the book down until I got to the very last page. As an older (and wiser?) reader I found inconsistancies, ridiculous transitions, and other flaws, but it was a great read just the same.
I wish I could say the same for the second book. The opening was promising - a secret gathering of people who look for clues to alternative time flow....a clever (if convoluted) way of bringing back The Project, destroyed by Si Morley at the end of the first book. The rest of the book read like Finney had just cut and pasted a whole bunch of story ideas together, unable to decide what version of Morley to use -- Si as a cad, as a tormented soul, as a flirt, as a secret agent, etc.
The story goes like this: Si agrees -- for no apparent reason -- to go back and try to stop WWI through involvement with the mysterious "Z." His trip takes him to a variety of places in NY (luckily, he bought a trusty camera!), and suddenly, the man who dearly loved the NY of the 1880s and his charming wife, Julia, is waxing poetic about the NY of 1911 and the "Jott Girl," who hits on him throughout the book (not that he minds).
The descriptions of people, places, and things in this book are flat. A lot of time is devoted to things that have nothing to do with the search for "Z" (including a long foray into the vaudeville scene to look for his 12-year old father, culminating in SIX PAGES of one vaudevillian's boring life story), and except for his attraction to Jott, Si seems to be having a miserable time.
Throwing in the Titanic in the last few pages was plain pointless; just a chance to bring in one more little historic reference. But, unlike Si's heartfelt brushes with great moments in history in the first book, here he's like a busy Forrest Gump, just trying to get his face in the picture.
Throughout "From Time To Time," I kept waiting for Si to go look up his wife and child, nearly 30 years in the future. How could a fellow so taken with the interaction of time with time, and so given to flights of philiosophy not even muse about the possibility? It would have been really interesting if Si had run into himself, aged now in pace with his family.
Finney deserves credit for searching out the right old photos, for capturing the spirit of some important moments in American history, and for trying to satisfy all us "Time and Again" fans. Unfortunately, "From Time To Time" doesn't do it.