Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

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A Monday evening "Still writing a column" review: Time On My Hands

What would you do with a time machine and a political agenda? Quantum physicist Jasper Hudnut has an idea - he'll send someone back to the 1930s to stop Ronald Reagan from ever becoming President of the US. Broken-hearted travel writer Gabriel Prince, the narrator of Peter Delacorte's 1999 Arthur C. Clarke Award short-listed novel Time On My Hands, is that man.

Finding himself in 1938, Prince falls in love with a doomed starlet, becomes a film writer at Warners (by remembering "High Noon"), and starts to befriend the left-wing Dutch Reagan. It's an ill-fated friendship, as Reagan drowns. Prince never wanted to kill him, so round the time loop he goes again. It's another journey that's going to end in death and disaster. For one thing, the time machine was stolen from 22nd time travellers, and the owners are in 1938 and want it back, and Prince's Spanish Civil War film script is turning into a hot potato.

Delacorte delivers a complex story of paradox, and the ease with which one man in the right (or is it wrong) place can change history. There's a flash of an alternate 1984, where Reagan's death has led to a very different world - but it's a world that Prince can't live with, knowing that it cost the life of a man he's found to be a genial companion and of the woman he loves.

Time On My Hands is a readable romp through time, asking the perennial question: "What would I do differently if I had another chance?"

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