If you had the opportunity to correct one
event in the past 100 years, what would it be? For Hugh Stanton, it is the assassinations
that started World War One, and then the militarism that seemed to drape every aspect of
German life. So along with the aid of group of Oxbridge dons, he sets out to prevent the
idiocy that was the First World War, only to discover he is not the only one changing
history, and what he has done has had terrible ramifications in the timeline.
Ben Elton is a clever chap. And he wears his politics on his sleeve.
Unfortunately he likes to show off both and the story suffers from it. I was also annoyed
to spot two historical clangers in the first 60 pages. Considering these were spouted by a
Cambridge history professor, my opinion of the story and Ben Elton dropped a few notches.
The initial interleaving of past and future action is interesting and works to maintain a
certain level of tension. But the constant blatherings of Professor McCluskey regarding
Marxist historical theory are well off, and another black mark against Elton.
However, the biggest failing is not that the story starts on page 100, but
rather this is a short story dressed as a novel. The main character of Hugh Stanton shows
very little development, and the subsidiary characters are spear-carriers. Unfortunately
this sort of writing gives science fiction and science fiction writers a bad name. When
committed by a mainstream author, which is how I classify Ben Elton, it compounds the
damage. You can read it if you like, but there arent any jokes to leaven the
afternoon you will waste.
- Steven Litten
TV comedy scriptwriter is what springs to mind when someone mentions Ben
Elton to me. After that is: stand up comic and then writer of satirical novels. So when I
sat down to read Time and Time Again I was anticipating either more biting satire
or a gently droll piece not what I actually got, which is a serious science fiction work
i.e. little or no humour. Reassuringly, Mr Elton has delivered a novel that does credit to
him and the genre.
In the late seventeenth century Sir Isaac Newton, through his studies of
gravity, determined that the for a brief interval of one or two seconds that time in 2025
would overlap time in 1914, thus making time travel possible. He entrusted these
calculations to the Masters of Trinity College, Cambridge. Viewed from 2025, the twentieth
century was a disaster and the opportunity to avert World War I is a golden opportunity
and Hugh Stanton is the man chosen to make the journey. But after he starts his mission
Hugh begins to question whether the mission was such a good idea and then his life
Hugh Stanton is the appropriate choice for time travelling adventurer: a
loner, with no attachments to the twenty first century, adaptive and able to blend into
the crowd; and willing to go.
I enjoyed this story. The characters were well drawn, the culture shocks
of moving from twenty first century Britain to early twentieth century Europe were nicely
shaded and the reveal later in the book suitably handled. Mr Elton has a future outside of
- Simon Litten