This is the sequel to Time and Again which I reviewed not too long ago. Si Morley, the protagonist, has returned to the 1880s in New York City to marry Julia and start a family. But he is haunted about “the Project” where he learned time travel in the late 20th century, and he decides, with his wife’s permission, to go back and find out. He makes it back, meets Rube Prien, one of his associates, who wants him to go to the year 1912 and attempt to prevent World War I by manipulating just the right details in history at just the right time. Reluctantly, he decides to do it, and subsequently he spends most of his time in the 1912 era.
In the process of pursuing his mission, he ends up taking a ride on the Titanic from England to America. We all know what happened to the Titanic, so why would he do a thing like that? It was part of the mission. The key figure in the escalation that led to WW I was an aide to President Taft who happened to travel on the Titanic. Si knew which lifeboat would have room so he could save himself.
He also was with a female “companion” named the “Jotta Girl” which I won’t elaborate about here lest I spoil things for you. The two of them know that in order to change history, dangerous as it sounds, they need to make a slight course change in the Titanic’s path, just a few feet, so it would miss the iceberg. He and his companion accomplish exactly that by distracting the man at the great ship’s wheel just briefly, and they think they have accomplished it, until 11:20pm comes around on that fateful night.
Well, I can tell you that if Si and the Jotta Girl hadn’t messed with the course of the Titanic, it would have sailed right past the iceberg and arrived in New York a few days later. But the fact is, our time traveler was on board, and without even realizing it, it was he who ended up sealing the fate. The lesson is: don’t mess with history if you are a time traveler.
The neat thing about this story and Time and Again is that time travel is accomplished not by machines and energy, but by self-hypnosis, manipulating the surroundings, picking the exact time and place, and by pure skill. Once it’s described, it’s completely plausible, and as the reader you get immersed into the story accepting that Si can do this incredible thing. That’s where the magic starts.
I loved these two books.
Interestingly, and I didn’t know this until just now, Jack Finney is also the author of the novel “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” which has me surprised. I just have to pick up a few more Finney books then.