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chronothon

After Ben Travers finally made it back to his apartment in 2009, he didn’t stay there long. Being home alone with nothing to do but going to work the next morning at the marina in St. Petersburg, fixing other people’s boats, he decided to look up his time-traveling girlfriend Mym. Along the way, in Manhattan, Ben gets snagged by a Mafioso and coerced into participating in a 25th century game show: The Chronothon. Think of a chronothon as a race, like our current Amazing Race on TV. The different levels are like trips on Amazing Race, and there are about a dozen levels to go through. As the racers start, they go through a time gate, which is also a space gate, and they appear in the desert in ancient Egypt. In each level, the racers have an objective they have to achieve. Usually the objective is an artifact of some type they have to find and bring to the next get to move on to the next level. As the racers go through the gates, they have no idea where they come out on the other side, neither where, or when. What further complicates the race it that not everything is what it seems. Might the game even be rigged?

The Chronothon is the second book in Van Coops’ time travel adventure trilogy. The first book was In Times Like These. Unlike some sequels, where the second book is much like the first book, but with a different story and twist, The Chronothon is a completely fresh story, based on the same time travel technology applied In Times Like These. While Van Coops wrote this to be a stand-alone book, and while I can imagine it might work that way, I would no recommend it. If you are interested in The Chronothon, you really should read In Times Like These first to have a grounding in the technology and the characters of this book.

For me, this was a page turner with surprises and delights in every chapter. Like the first book, everything about this story is related to time travel and its effects and challenges. It’s not a story about a game using time travel, it’s about how time travel can be used for a game.

The Chronothon was a little corny at times. For instance, on the planet Diamatra, there is a native sentient species, the Soma Djinn, which are centipede-like creatures that inhabit human hosts and turn them into cannibalistic zombies. I would expect that sentence either turned you off completely, or it made you want to read The Chronothon, just to figure out how a reasonable and well-read human being like me can give this book three stars.

But here you have it:

Rating - Three Stars

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in-times-like-these

The best time travel book of all time is Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. This book is the second best.

Ben, Carson, Blake and Robbie are four young men in their mid-twenties in St. Petersburg, Florida who belong to a softball league and enjoy their games after work. Francesca is one of their friends who likes to play the role of fan and sometimes she comes to the games to watch. On June 10, 2009, they start their game as a thunderstorm rolls in. Soon they get rained out completely. As they linger around the dugout, changing out of their uniforms, getting ready to go home, lightning strikes nearby. A power line whips free with sparks flying off the end. The world of the five friends goes dark.

When they come to a bit later, the world seems different. It’s mid-day. Were they passed out all night? Then they notice that the baseball field is no longer there. Their cars are gone. Everything seems somewhat retro. Within an hour of head scratching and ambling around they finally come to the conclusion that they are in St. Petersburg, Florida, in December 1986. They have the few clothes on their backs, flip flops, no money to speak of. Their cell phones don’t work. Now what?

They have no idea what happened to them, and the rest of the story is about their journey back through time.

The story is told in first person narration by Ben and from Ben’s point of view. First person stories often drive a sense of urgency and action, which works marvelously here. The descriptions are vivid and I have pictures of the scenes and people in front of me. The story is fast-paced and filled with action. And it’s all about time travel. This is not a book where time travel is just another method of getting around, like tracking a trolley to the city, or an airplane to Tokyo, or a time machine to 1955. No, this story does not just “use” time travel, it is about time travel. The mechanics of time travel, its limitations, its amazing possibilities, are central to the plot and the story line, very much like it was with The Time Traveler’s Wife. In Times Like These is not a story that applies time travel as a vehicle, but rather it’s time travel that reveals itself by telling a story.

As it is with time travel books, the methods of travel, the triggers, are always different. Sometimes there are machines that make it possible. Sometimes there are natural phenomena that accidentally cause travel. In Times Like These it is science that makes it possible, with limitations. And the limitations are what makes it complicated and very, very dangerous.

For instance, when you travel in time (and I’ll leave it up to you to read about how this can happen), you disappear from the current location and materialize elsewhere, and elsewhen. Since the earth rotates faster than a jet plane, if you were to jump in time by a second into the future, the earth would have moved under you by about a third of a mile. So, you can’t just time travel, you have to space travel also. Since you can’t afford to rematerialize in outer space after a time jump, since the earth moved away from you, you need an anchor, some object that fixes you in place on earth. And that gets tricky. What if you materialize where some other object occupies the space? You would be fused with that other object.

Imagine you materialize in a meadow where there was tall grass. Now the grass would be growing through your feet? It would be very painful indeed.

I don’t want to get too technical in this review, but this is what the book is about. How does a person travel in time safely with these terrible limitations?

There is only one technicality that bothered me somewhat, and it permeates the story. They make extra sure that fusion does not happen. Humans do not suddenly occupy the space of other objects. But air does not seem to matter. The entire technical plot and plausibility seems to ignore the fact that air also is matter, and it needs to take up space. We’re not in a vacuum, even when we’re not co-occupying space with furniture, or buildings, or other people.

But that’s ok. I got over that quickly, immersed myself in a world where time travel was invented, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sheer adventure of it.

There is a sequel, titled The Chronothon, and I am reading it now.

Rating - Three Stars

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There will be time

Jack Havig is born with a strange mutation that allows him to travel backward and forward in time at will. As a child, his parents are sometimes puzzled when he suddenly disappears and then just comes back moments later.

As Jack grows up, the polishes his skills more and more. Since he can control time, he can actually travel to another era, spend weeks, months or even years there, and then come back to the minute after he left. If he was alone in his room, nobody would even have known – except that he aged while he was gone.

Eventually he succeeds in his quest to find others with his unique skill. But he soon discovers that these others have formed an organization with evil intentions. That’s when he decides he has to extract himself and fight for humanity.

He finds out that it is not easy to hide from an organized gang of time travelers. There Will Be Time is told from the perspective of Doc, a friend of Jack’s family who has known them from before Jack was born. Doc narrates the story as he follows Jack, his growth and his later mastery of time travel and associated intrigue.

A well-structured story, it is sometimes a bit tedious as it goes into too much detail about far-future history and speculation around it.

The chapters are titled with roman numerals. However, at the end, the book includes what is advertised as “bonus stories” titled Progress and Windmill. It took me some time of reading into those stories before I figured out that they really had nothing to do with the novel, and that left me somewhat confused at the end. I think they should have left those out. They didn’t add anything and were somewhat meandering and pointless by themselves.

In the end, There Will Be Time is a must-read book for time travel aficionados like me.

Rating - Two Stars

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Time Traders

Time Traders is  really two books in one. The first half is Time Traders. The other half is Galactic Derelict. The book could have stopped after the first half, and Galactic Derelict could have been a sequel. With the exception of one, the protagonists are the same. A group of agents who time travel for the U.S. government, chasing Russian time travelers who are on to some alien technology that they think will give them an advantage in the game for balance of power in the world.

I had never heard of Andre Norton when I discovered this book by accident on an Amazon search. It cost $0, so it was not a difficult buy. Andre is actually quite a good writer, and she wrote a lot of fantasy and then later science fiction books.

In Time Traders, she packed too much stuff into one book: Time travel, alternate history, by traveling into the past of human civilization, international intrigue (the Russians vs. the United States – of course, this is copyright 1959, so that makes sense), interstellar travel, aliens of all types, most significantly humanoids, mystery weapons, computer and robot controlled machinery (using tapes), hyperspace travel, and on the list goes. In the end, nothing really gets resolved.

I felt like the author had a tool chest of neat stuff available in 1959, and she wanted it all packed into one book. That made the story disconnected, choppy and somewhat hokey. Then I found there a sequel, but I am not interested.

Norton is a good writer, but her subject matter is just not interesting enough to me. No more Andre Norton.

Rating - One and a Half Stars

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Corridors of Time

Malcolm Lockridge is a former U.S. Marine in the middle of the twentieth century. He is in prison because he accidentally killed one of the thugs that tried to mug him. A mysterious, beautiful and apparently rich woman proposes a deal that he can’t refuse, in exchange for getting him out of prison.

She takes him into the woods somewhere in Denmark, where they enter an underground corridor with very mysterious properties. As you walk down the corridor, you walk past gates into different times. You exit the gate at a labeled time, and out you come into the selected era.

Lockridge quickly figures out that the corridors are used by enemy factions working on manipulating history to their advantages. He first becomes a pawn in their games, and soon finds himself as a pivotal figure in history, spanning from the Neolithic age almost 2,000 B.C and going forward about 4,000 years into the future from now.

Anderson has a unique descriptive style, which lends itself well to this story, where he has ample opportunity to put the reader into the deep past. When reading his description, I find myself seeing clear and vivid pictures in my head. Here is an example. Lockridge has just woken up in Denmark about 1,800 B.C, and he looks around:

White sunrise mists rolled low across a drenched earth. Water dripped from a thousand leaves, glittered in the air and was lost in brush and bracken. The woods were clamorous with birdsong. High overhead wheeled an eagle, the young light like gold on its wings.

— Kindle Locations 547-548

I found the story charming and entertaining, but confusing at times and occasionally tedious. The complex web of  international and intertemporal intrigue across the ages was so complicated, the story, the “time” line and the plot were difficult to follow.

The Corridors of Time is not one of Anderson’s best, but for a time travel buff, it’s a must-read.

Rating - Two Stars

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Departure200 passengers board a Boeing 777 in New York, bound for London. The plane crashes in the woods somewhere in England. Nick Stone has the presence of mind and courage of spirit to get right to work helping his fellow survivors rescue as many of the victims who didn’t die. Harper Lane is a young British writer who finds herself in the middle of  the rescue, against her better judgment. Sabrina Schröder is a German research physician and the only doctor on board, with plenty to do patching up the injured passengers with not much more than a first aid kit and very little medicine. Yul Tan is a Chinese-American computer scientist who is on the cusp on inventing the next generation of the Internet.

When days go by and no rescue crews show up, these four unlikely protagonists quickly discover that the world they landed in is not quite right. As they slowly unravel what happened to them, they are thrown into a conflict much larger than they could possibly have dreamed.

Departure is an “accidental time travel” story, meticulously plotted and told in the first person by Harper and Nick, alternating, in journal-style. To make it even more unusual, the story is told in the present tense. This gives the action intense urgency and realism.

After recently reading a few amateurish novels that lacked editing, this was refreshing. Not a grammar error to be found, not a word missing or misspelled anywhere to distract me.

I have to say, however, that while the first third of the book was a page turner, the rest of the book, with perhaps the exception on the last 5%, was too contrived for me. There was lots of action, lots of intricate story development and plot, sometimes to the point where it was hard to follow. I must admit there were sections when I just skimmed and turned the pages to make it through those boring – or rather – overdeveloped parts so I could get on with it.

Overall, Departure was a fun, quick read, and it helped that it was about time travel.

Rating - Two and a Half Stars

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OutofTimeJohn Campbell is a college professor of archeology. He lives alone, is disenchanted with his life and does not have much respect for most of his students. One of his pastimes is treasure hunting at yard sales and flea markets. He finds an old desk for fifty dollars. When he takes it home to clean it up, he finds some locked drawers and compartments that he can only access by taking the desk apart. It turns out, the desk used to belong to Nikolai Tesla, one of the geniuses of the 19th century. It contains many notebooks, designs and a handheld device that turns out to be a time machine.

The curiosity of the archeologist leads Campbell to visit ancient Rome first, but he also ventures to colonial America during the time of the revolution, and to Germany during the Nazi period. He discovers that a Nazi named Hans Richter also has a time machine, and he seems to have dedicated himself to changing world history so the result is that the United States of America never exist and the Nazis ended up undefeated in World War II. Campbell decides to make it his mission to stop Richter.

I love time travel stories, and this one is based on an interesting premise and a fairly exciting plot. This kept me turning the pages. I wanted to know how it would all end.

However, the writing is juvenile. The book is full of clichés and it feels like it’s written by a high school sophomore. For example, when they were in ancient Rome they “hit the taverns.” Whenever they had meals, they “washed the food down” with wine or beer. Or: “Mary was used to luxury, but this was over the top.”

The characters are not credible. The author seems to know very little about archeology. I don’t understand why he made the protagonist an archeologist. He could have been a car mechanic, a hairdresser, or a computer programmer. He is just not credible as an archeologist. Also, I could never accept that Campbell is able to speak fluent ancient Greek and Latin within just a few days of acclimating. In general, the main characters are all shallow cardboard figures doing things that don’t seem real or even possible.

The grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and spelling are atrocious. It feels like there isn’t a page where there isn’t something wrong. The author does not seem to know the difference between “threw” and “through,” “there” and “their,” “your” and “you’re,” and many other such pairs. Many sentences have missing words and sometimes the structure is so jumbled, it’s impossible to figure out what he author is trying to say. He also has trouble with plurals. For instance, he keeps writing “Nazi’s” to indicate more than one of them. The whole book reads like a hastily written first draft.

The author obviously never proof-read his own book, and he didn’t bother to ask anyone else. It does not take an expensive professional editor to find 95% of the errors. The book has some 200 pages, and I believe I could easily find 200 corrections in a casual read. With another couple of days of reading and editing his own work he could have made a huge difference in the quality of the book. As it is, the errors are distracting from the story. I only paid 99 cents for the book on Amazon, but I still feel cheated. I expected a finished work, not a first draft.

Overall, Out of Time is a neat idea for a story, but it’s so poorly done, it’s distracting. The book is simply not finished. I don’t think I’ll read any more LaVigne novels.

Rating - One and a Half Stars

 

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Time Travel

 

I am going on a time trip. I need to borrow some weapon, though. Does somebody have any weapons I could use for a minute?

No matter how long I’ll be engaged down-time, I will return exactly one minute after I leave, so we could arrange that you come to my place with the weapons. You give me the weapons, you just wait for a minute until I come back from my time trip, and I’ll give you the weapons right back.

But first I need to write to this guy in Prince George, BC.

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A Bridge of YearsI came across this time travel novel, and this author, by a review of Stephen King’s 11/22/63. Supposedly, Stephen King was inspired by this book and author and it helped with the idea for 11/22/63. I am not sure how true that anecdote is, but it was enough to inspire me to buy the book and read it. I was not disappointed. The book starts in 1979 in Belltower, Washington, a small, sleepy town not far from Seattle with this sentence:

Soon, the time traveler would face the necessity of his own death.

The pace never lets up. A Bridge of Years is the story of a few characters, each of them down on his luck, who come together in a house on Post Road in Belltower in 1989, to face a dangerous nemesis from the future, with no place to hide and a lot to lose. Most of the action occurs in 1989, likely because Robert Charles Wilson published the book in 1991. That was his present. But the story spans from 1962, to 1979, and then 1989, into the middle of the 21st century and it speculates on through the eons of human evolution. This is not just a book about time travel, but rather, time travel is the essence of the entire story and the plot. Time travel is the fabric of the structure of the novel itself. It’s one of the better ones of the genre, and I think I need to check out this author some more.

Rating: ***

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The MineJoel Smith is a 21-year-old college student from Seattle, on a trip with a friend visiting Yellowstone in May of 2000. On the way back, outside Helena, Montana, he decides on a whim to explore an abandoned gold mine. While his impatient buddy waits at the car, he enters the mine, finds a mysteriously glowing cavern, sees a rattle snake, drops his flashlight and as he withdraws he bumps his head and passes out.

When he comes to, he walks back out of the mine and finds a different world. He soon figures out that it is May 1941. His cell phone is useless, his 2000 vintage money is funny-money, and his clothes are definitely wrong for the period.

He rides a freight train from Helena to Seattle and soon starts a new life. In his circle of friends he even meets his own grandmother as a young college girl. Eventually he falls in love with a girl named Grace, who is engaged to another man.

He does not know if his trip was one-way. But he does know his sports trivia, which enables him to gamble and win money. He also knows that on December 7, 1941, the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor and the lives of Americans would change drastically.

Joel is careful not to change the past and history, since it might affect his own existence, particularly when he is hanging around with his own grandmother.

The Mine is a romance novel. The author spends a lot of time weaving the web of the complex social lives of a group of 1941 college kids that Joel finds himself surrounded by. Those college kids have relationships, they fall in love, and in lust, and things don’t always end up clean.

The book is very well narrated, containing just the right amount of dialog versus exposition, and it moves along at a good, steady pace. The only distractions I noticed were the frequent use of trite clichés. For instance, Joel never just put on jeans. He always “threw on a pair of jeans.” Joel’s 2000 girlfriend Jana “was as good as it got.” Road signs were “small potatoes.” The author used these types of hackneyed expressions often enough that I found it distracting.

Also, Joel was a bit too much of a superman. Landing in 1941, he becomes a crack furniture salesman overnight. He seems to have a photographic memory of sports trivia and statistics. He is super good-looking so all the girls are attracted to him at first sight. He is a great fist fighter. And he is very sensitive and a great friend to everyone. He falls madly in love with Grace, but when it becomes time to leave her, it seems to not be a very difficult decision. All through the story, Joel is somewhat too good to be true.

Overall, The Mine is a very entertaining story, a well told and expertly paced time travel tale with a romantic twist, or perhaps more aptly: romance with a time travel twist.

Rating: ** 1/2

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Time-Change-Book-Two-Alex-MyersI read this book immediately after Book One, convinced by a twist at the end. Book Two was a different experience than Book One.

Jack was back in 1856, and his task was preventing the Civil War. Again he met with many of the luminaries of the period. There were battle scenes, with Jack right in the middle of them. The bad guys were really evil, Nazi style, with human experiments and torture. Through a network of spies and thugs, they stole industrial secrets, kidnapped people, and killed whenever it suited their need. Interestingly, the bad guys were also the Southerners, versus the Yankees, trying to hold on to their system of slavery pre-Civil War.

I felt that this one, like Book One, was also written somewhat awkwardly, the writing style showing some signs of immaturity. The writer often told us what was happening, rather than showing us. This means that the book could have been longer, more elaborate, and probably more enjoyable, with better dialog and better exposition.

For instance, Frances Sanger, the second most important character in the story, was a young woman who was, we think, infatuated with Jack. But the way she acted throughout the story simply didn’t make much sense. She was portrayed as very bright, helping her father and uncle in the family business, buying real estate for stores all over the country, as far away from Virginia as Chicago and New York. So she should have been an experienced traveler, negotiator and executive. However, when she saw Jack with a young girl in a restaurant, she freaked out and acted like a junior high school girl, running to her daddy and crying about it. Frances Sanger, due to behavior like this example, just didn’t appear to me as a rounded, real person, but as an accessory to move a plot along.

And the plot, finally, was what kept me reading. I loved the story, and I particularly loved the ending. I would tell the reluctant reader to keep slogging through the first 90% of the book because the last 10% make it worthwhile and now I am waiting for the third book in the series.

This brings me to my final complaint: The time change books are, apparently, a  trilogy. I think this story would work better as one consolidated book, be it a thousand pages, if necessary. Time Change – Book Two, as I describe it here does not stand alone. I don’t think a reader could make much sense of it, let along like it and the plot, without reading Book One first. This disconnect between a series of books is much stronger here than in other similar works, like for instance those of S.M. Stirling, where the stories build on previous books, but each book can be read on its own.

All said and done – I am now waiting for Time Change – Book Three.

Rating: ** 1/2

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Bones SwanwickBones of the Earth is a science fiction and time travel story, where the time travel is fundamentally central to the plot. Being a time travel story buff, I was surprised that it took me so long to discover this book; it came out 2002.

The protagonist is a paleontologist who gets an offer to travel to the distant past to study dinosaurs in the flesh. Time travel is a gift from non-humans (we only find out later in the book from whom exactly) and is provided to humanity only with certain strings attached, the main one being:  humans are understandably not allowed to create time paradoxes.

Just because it’s not allowed does not mean it does not happen, and as a result, things get complicated very quickly.

Bones of the Earth is a page-turner from the first page on, mostly due to the subject matter. I very much enjoyed reading about researchers being able to study dinosaur behavior first-hand, like in Jurassic Park. I don’t know if Swanwick is a scientist himself, but he seems to know a lot about science in general and paleontology specifically. Either he is an expert himself (which I could not ascertain from the information about him available online) or he has excellent sources and he did great research.

The problem with this book is that I could simply not follow the plot.  Not only does the point of view of the novel shift around, the time shifts, and the causality shifts constantly, due to time travel. So something happening in 2034 is the cause of a result occurring 100 million years in the past or 100 million years in the future. I found myself getting lost quite often, and I simply trusted the writer to keep things straight, even though I could not follow it all the time. I would have to read the book again, and draw a plot diagram just to keep it straight – the writer must have done that himself.

Confusing or not, this book is the most time traveling book of all time traveling books.

Rating:  ** 1/2

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reflections-of-toddsvilleIn romance novels, men always wrap women into their strong arms. When lovers undress each other, they kiss every inch of flesh as they do it. A man’s hair is often unkempt. Lips are burning. Bodies are vulnerable.

I suffocated his mouth with my burning lips. He wanted no more movement from my vulnerable body. I was to remain powerless. No hint of speed lay in his temptations. My suitor’s sensuous snare of his captive was slow, measured, and calculated for mutual pleasure.

One by one he undid my stockings from their garters, rolled them down my thighs, then tossed them to the floor. I could hear my heart pounding and feel my temperature skyrocketing.

What possesses me to read this stuff? I could feel my temperature skyrocketing???

That’s what romance novels are like. I picked this one up some time ago because it had a central plot of time travel. The time travel in this novel, at first, seems like a contrived plot twist only to send the heroine from the current time of 1997 back to 1897 into the Victorian era in upstate New York. But as the story rolls on, the time travel aspect actually becomes more intricate and once I was about halfway through the book of 414 pages, I kept turning the pages with interest and suspense.

Let me get this straight – I did kind of fast forward through the romance slush – that did nothing for me. However, the descriptions of the locales, in and around Cooperstown, New York and Otsego County were excellent. I always felt like I was right there with the characters. It was a well-woven plot with a satisfying central time travel theme.

Gertrude Johnson lives in Brooklyn, New York in 1997. She is 28 years old and a famous romance novelist. To get away from the hustle, her agent sends her to a cabin in upstate New York by Cooperstown for the summer. One night she falls asleep in her cabin, only to wake up at 2:00am with a strange man in bed. The two are baffled. They quickly discover that she is now in 1897 and must cope with the fact that she is in a strange world with nothing but a flowery nightgown and her memories.  The two hit it off. Gertrude’s love life is about to change.

I read this as a hardcopy book, published by Time Travelers LLC in 2000. There were a surprising number of editorial errors, from misspellings of words, to faulty grammar and punctuation, to beginner’s errors like wrong plurals. For instance, the plural of session is sessions, not “session’s.” Things like that just should not happen, and especially not to the degree they happen in this book.

I enjoyed Reflections of Toddsville, but I won’t read any more books of Hollie Van Horne.

Rating: ** 1/2

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Movie Review: Looper

It’s 2044 somewhere in America. Time travel has not yet been invented, but it will be by 2074. As soon as it’s invented it is made illegal. As with all prohibition, once something is illegal, it’s only accessible through crime and the mob. Gangsters in 2074 are as unimaginative as they are today, and the best use of an amazing technology like time travel they can come up with is disposal of enemies of the mob.

It appears that time travel is unidirectional; you can only go backwards. It also appears that you can only do it once. Once you are in the past, you are stuck there. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a time traveler, who came from 2074, sent by the bad guys to 2044. He is called a looper.

When the time comes, he drives an old pickup track out to the fields, spreads a plastic dropcloth and watches for the exact time for the stiff to arrive. The victim is sent back with a hood over his face. This way, neither the victim knows what’s happening, nor does the killer know the identity of the victim. At the predetermined time, out of thin air, the victim materializes. Joe stands there, shotgun aimed, and a split second after the victim appears he is killed and soon disposed of in an incinerator.

The loopers otherwise live normal lives. They grow old like all of us, and within 30 years they catch up to 2074, the time their younger selves left. At that time, the bad guys round up the loopers, and send THEM back in time once more, to be killed themselves. That’s called “closing the loop.”

When Joe reaches that age, he is Old Joe (Bruce Willis). Sure enough, one day Old Joe get gets rounded up by the mob and sent back in time.

There is a scene when Joe sits in a diner with Old Joe having a conversation about their shared life. As you might expect, things start getting very complicated.

Looper is a meticulously plotted time travel movie, which does not get caught up in the paradoxes of time travel, but uses them to build the story. 2044 (and 2074) is a wasteland, not much distinguishable from urban slums of today, except for the occasional strange machines like floating motorcycles. I enjoyed the movie, except for the endless and graphic violence. There was a lot of shooting going on, and the guns in this movie are LOUD. It’s a movie where just about all the characters are killers and therefore shooters.

Of course, there are a lot of loose ends, like why does Joe after looping, as he grows into Old Joe, not ever meet up with Young Joe before he looped? They were both there togther in the future world, and the growing Old Joe would have known about young boy Joe. But that’s outside of the plot of this movie – I just can’t help myself.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the TKs, or telekinesists, who can move objects with their minds and use that amazing skill to pick up chicks by floating quarters in bars.

Rating: ** 1/2

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Another time travel story, this time set in New York City. Finney published this book in 1970, so the present is pre-personal computers, although the first moon-landing had already occurred. The New York City of Finney’s present time is one I recognize at the New York City of my own youth. His story, of course, does not reference the twin towers of the World Trade Center, since they were not completed until 1973.

Similar to the way Christopher Reeve traveled back in time in the 1980 movie “Somewhere in Time” by setting up an exact surrounding and setting his mind to the target time using hypnotic techniques, Si Morley, the protagonist of this story manages to travel back to New York of January 1882. Central to the story is also “The Dakota,” an apartment building on the west border of Central Park. Interestingly, the Dakota is today an exclusive apartment home. In 1980, John Lennon lived there when he was murdered outside of the front door. This is another fact that Finney could not have referenced, of course.

This is a different time travel story, insofar as there is no time machine at all, no technology to make it all happen. We get an in-depth view of life in New York in 1882, with some shocking imagery of poverty, brutally hard work, and the endless struggle to put food on the table, by the vast armies of the poor, as well as the privileged few in upper society.

For instance, a “driver” of a bus was a person that stood on the front platform of a wagon drawn by a team of horses. The passengers are in the bus, shielded somewhat from the elements. But the poor driver is outside, 14 hours a day, standing, driving horses, earning $1.90 a day.

Time and Again is full of descriptions of life in the 19th century in New York City, in rich detail, enough, you’d think, that you could time-travel there yourself.

Rating: ****

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