If you know much about chaos theory, you’ll be familiar with Edward Lorenz’s butterfly effect, and it’s this concept of a small action having massive ramification in the future that takes centre stage in Ben Elton’s latest paperback release, Time And Time Again. The event in question is the gun shot that sparked more than fifty years of devastating history and warfare in the early twentieth century, but Elton’s book is as much about the idea as it is about the reality of the situation, asking if you could go back to change things, would you? And would it actually make much of a difference in the long run?
The novel is due out on paperback on the 30th July 2015, so it’s a good option for mid summer reading if you’ve already managed to make time to read the momentous release of Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman. It follows the hardback release, which arrived in November 2014, and the book is already available to listen to on audiobooks or on digital ereaders, if you’ve embraced the more modern age.
The story starts on the 1st June 1914 with ex-soldier and pioneering adventurer Hugh Stanton facing the mind blowing reality of travelling back in time to stop the Great War from starting and altering the future irrevocably, his own future included. It’s a tough ask to deliver on as everyone he has ever known or loved doesn’t exists yet and if he’s successful they probably never will.
With the madness of Europe ahead of him and the prospect of the devastating war to prevent, he casts a lonely figure in the dark of what he needs to do. He knows it’s a single bullet that lit the touch paper for the events that ensued and the destruction that it wreaked, but the question is whether or not another well placed shot of his own could be enough to stop the onslaught or if there’s an element of inevitability to what happened to the 20th century from that point on.
It’s an interesting proposition and one that will undoubtedly lead to a number of plot twists and turns as Hugh grapples with the immensity and reality of the task at hand. Paradoxical time loops and inadvertent obliteration principles aside, let alone the scientific difficulties of realising reverse time travel, Time And Time Again is a fascinating “what if?”, “what would you do?” and “what could it mean?” proposition that’s hard not to get caught up in.
The setting in such a fulcrum to our own, more recent, timeline is not insignificant, presenting the plot with a tangible, but slightly ethereal situation that we all know, but probably struggle to understand in today’s political landscape. However, for us it’s incredibly relevant still and presents a clever reiteration of the massive consequences the actions of today have on the future of the world.
Time And Time Again is Ben Elton’s fifteenth novel to-date and his back catalogue is a mix of dystopian comedy, satire, tongue-in-cheek mystery, dark comedy, detective and historical crime fiction, so moving on to time travel adventure should be a breeze. Following on from the hardback release, the new novel has had a variety of reviews with the vast majority favourable, with the exception of a more negative review from The Independent. It averages 4/5 stars on both Amazon and Good Reads from Joe Public, so it clearly went down pretty well with his readers.
Though originally more well known for his TV and stand-up comedy, having written previously for hit British comedies The Young Ones and Blackadder, Elton is no newcomer to literary success. He’s already clocked up six number ones in the UK, with all of his novels making it into the top ten books chart in the very least, so we’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t do the same again with the paperback release of his latest novel.