BFF: First book read in 2017 (Time and Time Again by Ben Elton – PER)

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During my recent travel, I’ve decided to do something: In every airport I depart from, I shall buy a book that 1) has the word “time” in the title; 2) is about history; or 3) is about time travel.

My first book purchase for 2017 is Ben Elton’s Time and Time Again, which I got for AU$19.99 (that’s AU$20 to anyone who still believes the point-99 advertising ruse) at the Perth International Airport.

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Time and Time Again tells the story of Hugh Stanton, formerly of the British Army, and currently living more than a century before he was born. The book’s cover is too tabloid-y for my taste, asking the reader the following questions:

If you had one chance to change history, where would you go? What would you do? Who would you kill?

but I was intrigued and have always enjoyed reading about time travel. Plus, it follows two of my descriptions, probably the only one in the available books that does.

In the book, we are treated to a number of geniuses: a famous person who discovers how to go back in time, an ex-soldier who is dishy and as brainy as he is brawny (Hollywood swoon), several actual historical figures, some fictitious ones, and the requisite pretty girl — she pops out of nowhere, has nice eyes, thinks ahead of her time, catches the attention of the male protagonist (for the nice eyes), has sex with him and gets him to (surprise!) fall in love again. The last character, if you still haven’t figured out from my short description of her, is the only piece that I feel has been gratuitously included to conform to the notion that we can find love anywhere, no matter how bleak the situation is. I find it surprising that I’m unable to cheer these lovebirds on, but it’s hard to cheer for this little backdrop that I feel contributes nothing to the narrative, except the description of a woman’s breasts and (another surprise) full-on pubic hair! There is a place for everything. Authors don’t always have to kill characters just to show that death is real, for example. But of course, what if Hollywood picks up on the book? I disliked this female character so much that when she’s described by another character (K-T) as a whore, I fell in love with K-T.

And now that we have dispensed with what I don’t like, I’m going to say that I like practically everything else. Ben Elton created a world that allowed me to follow without knowing so much about world history, and I imagined a present different from mine. Sure, there will be details to quibble about but the story moves fast and takes the reader somewhere interesting (except for what I consider gratuitous sex scenes that I believe don’t have a place in the book, but we really have to make sure the reader knows how fallible our handsome, brainy protagonist is).

I hope no half-witted idiot decides to make a movie out of this little gem, because I can just imagine the details of world history becoming a backdrop to the romance between pretty Irish girl and perfect British boy.

And as a last, mostly random, note about this book, I dog-eared a page because it seemed fitting about the place I was leaving:

‘Well, I’m from the colonies,’ he began. ‘Australia.’

‘How interesting. Sydney or Melbourne?’

‘Neither. The Western bit. Perth. They ignore it even over there.’

Chronos had decided on Perth for its isolation. Less chance of people knowing it or knowing anyone from it. And it explained his loner status. Perth, after all, was the loneliest city on earth.

I would disagree, but it was a different time.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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