Time travel is one of my favorite things, so whenever I come across a book or a movie with it that I haven’t experienced yet I get really excited. Somehow I had completely missed out on Jack Finney’s classic illustrated novel Time and Again.
I really wanted to love this book. I wanted to embrace it as a new favorite and read the sequel and reread it again and again like I do with all my favorites. Well, I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it either, but there were so many things that bothered me while I was reading the book that I can’t ignore. It was casually sexist and racist, it completely idealized the 1880s, and honestly I found Si kind of annoying.
That said, there were a lot of things I liked about it. I loved the pictures and sketches, and he was certainly a master of description. I almost felt like I was there, seeing 1880s New York City. My favorite part was the chapter on the fire.
Really great time travel fiction, or even regular old historical fiction, can bring to life a horror of the past that we don’t think about today. I don’t spend a lot of my time worried about fire. We have fire exits, great firefighters with the best equipment, sprinklers and fire extinguishers. Fire can still be devastating, but I don’t think they effect modern lives in quite the same way they did people in the past. I’ve read about terrible fires before, but nothing has quite made me feel the horror like Time and Again. It was worth getting through the other stuff in the book for that horror of reading those chapters and feeling the fear of people trapped in a burning building.
That is my favorite feeling when reading–to find something that you thought you understood, but then to feel it on a deep level. What books have you read that made you understand something about the world or the past?