Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Book Review: TIME AND TIME AGAIN by Ben Elton

Time and Time Again

Time and Time Again
Author: Ben Elton
Publisher: Bantam Press
Read: August 2015

Synopsis (Goodreads):

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? 

My thoughts:

I am very surprised that I hadn’t heard of this book before and stumbled across it almost by accident – because this is such a gem of a story! The blurb reads like a “been there – read that” story of going back in time and changing history – I have read several books with the same premise, some excellent, some very average. And yet Ben Elton manages to inject his own bit of magic to the story, and a very clever twist I did not see coming at all. Let’s just say I will never look at history the same way again!

Hugh “Guts” Stanton, a lonely ex-soldier and survivalist who has lost his whole family in a tragic car accident, is intrigued when he is summoned by an his old history professor, Sally Mc Cluskey, who poses a question to him: “If you could change one piece of history, what would it be?”  Only that this time it is not a rhetorical question, as Hugh is about to be sent on a very special mission – to prevent the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which caused the Great War, and thereby ensure a better future for mankind. Despite careful planning however, things go wrong from the very start of the journey. Soon Hugh realises that every one of his actions can have far-reaching effects that may jeopardise his mission and take away his benefit of hindsight – and alter the fate of future generations in ways he had not expected.

I loved this book and could not tear myself away – and every time I thought I knew what was going to happen, the story took a completely surprising turn, proving all my predictions wrong. The historical details were fascinating as Hugh travels from pre-war Constantinople to Sarajevo, Vienna and Berlin, trying to blend into a society he only knows from history books. Elton has created characters which are engaging and interesting, from the disillusioned and lonely ex-special forces soldier Hugh to the ruthless Professor McClyuskey, and the vivacious Irish suffragette Bernadette who will influence Hugh’s mission in ways he could not predict. What a great movie this would make! With his premise that history can be totally changed by the smallest action, and the thrilling prospect of whether Hugh’s mission would succeed, Elton challenged my perception of history and reality as a whole in ways I had not expected. Time and Time Again is one of my favourite reads this year. Very highly recommended!

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