"Timeshares," eds. Rabe & Greenberg

Pros: Fascinating concept, and the stories tie together in some unusual ways
Cons: Contradictions between stories, and some ideas or characters that fell flat
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review book courtesy of Penguin Group.

 

How could we fail to be fascinated by the concept of time travel? Besides the logic puzzles it presents, often in the form of potential paradoxes, there’s the question of what we would do if we could travel through time. Would we try to fix our own lives? Would we want to observe pivotal moments in history? Would we try to save John Lennon?

In Timeshares, many wonderful authors try to answer those very questions. Time travel has been invented, and somehow it’s in the hands of someone who wants to turn it into a means of history tourism. Of course, there are problems with that. Such as, nearly everyone who goes back in time is going to have an ulterior motive. How could they really expect people not to interfere? In theory it’s impossible to alter the past, and any changes that are introduced fix themselves back to the way things were. But naturally, theory and practice don’t always line up perfectly…


 

One of my favorite stories in this volume is, in fact, about John Lennon’s new lease on life. It beautifully addresses the fact that the idea to go back and save great figures from history would hardly be a unique or even rare idea. Chris Pierson’s But I’m Not the Only One is surprisingly affecting and lovely.

Other stories touch on the Mona Lisa, the Titanic, da Vinci, missing tribes of Native Americans, the Garden of Eden, saving dead relatives, fixing one’s own past life, and of course, dropping in on the life of Jesus himself. Meanwhile, the different stories dance in and out of each other’s spheres of influence, largely adding to each other by touching on similar subjects or spending time with one or two of the same people.

That gets undermined a bit by some of the differences. In some stories Timeshares is a slick, corporate affair. In others it seems to be represented by dingy little offices. In some there are security officers or police who try to keep people from messing with the past; in others folks are allowed to try what they want. In some stories the past really is inflexible, while in others, not so much. To counter this, however, I admit that one of the later stories, Michael Stackpole’s By Our Actions, seems to present a sort of answer to these inconsistencies that very nearly ties things together.

Naturally, this being an anthology, and on a topic that begs such a wide variety of approaches, you’re invariably going to find one or two stories that don’t thrill you quite as much as others. The overall quality is quite high, however, and I definitely enjoyed seeing the range of stories that came out of this idea.

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