Time and Time Again by Ben Elton
It’s the 1st of June 1914 and Hugh Stanton, ex-soldier and celebrated adventurer is quite literally the loneliest man on earth. No one he has ever known or loved has been born yet. Perhaps now they never will be.
Stanton knows that a great and terrible war is coming. A collective suicidal madness that will destroy European civilization and bring misery to millions in the century to come. He knows this because, for him, that century is already history.
Somehow he must change that history. He must prevent the war. A war that will begin with a single bullet. But can a single bullet truly corrupt an entire century?
And, if so, could another single bullet save it?
Book Review by J.A. Warnock for Love Books Group
I have a confession to make. I am an absolute sucker for a what if novel. When done well they are the logic puzzle of the fiction world. An unending succession of cause and effect; ripple after ripple of consequence.
The cover of Ben Elton’s ‘Time and time again asks a direct question…”If you had one chance to change history…Where would you go? What would you do? Who would you kill?” Yes, okay, technically three questions but I found myself pondering his questions long before I started reading the book. What would I do? Would I need to kill? As a bit of a history buff, I found myself thinking about succession laws. Change them in time for Princess Vicky to take the Brittish throne. Would that deprive the world of one Kaiser Bill? Could that be enough to prevent the first world war? Would Europe find another way to monumentally screw up so many lives and political relationships? I didn’t have the imagination to follow the line of reasoning so instead I picked up the book.
Elton makes his task doubly tricky by imagining a plausible if fairly bleak near future in which he sets his characters as well as reimagining the what if universe in his new version of the past. I almost expected to be writing that he over reached but it all hangs together surprisingly well. The scenario is well researched and flows very nicely. Elton’s pace is exceptionally well judged and this is one of those books that, once started, is difficult to put down.
We do indeed find ourselves tackling 1914 albeit with a different strategy and protagonist. Interestingly, for a what if story, two thirds of the book is taken up with the method and strategy for changing the world which could have been a bit of a cop out had Elton not crammed so much ‘history’ and a couple of nice twists into the last hundred pages. This is a well thought out and entertaining read. Four Stars.
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