Nancy Oakes's Reviews > A Shortcut in Time

A Shortcut in Time by Charles Dickinson
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's review
Feb 12, 08

bookshelves: sci-fi-fantasy

This book held my interest literally around the clock. However, I was quite disappointed with the ending -- not, perhaps (although it is true) because the story didn't end the way I though it should but because the end where you're wondering what is going to happen now is just flat. Flat as a pancake. As I read the last page I said to myself "huh?" and wondered if the author was like sitting on a deadline & couldn't think of an ending or what. Or perhaps it's just me and I'm not imaginative to make up something along the lines of where the author was going.

Anyway, up to that point, this book was excellent. This is definitely the only book I've ever read on time travel that was actually somewhat believable even though the subject is so out there and even though the story caused me to slow through the paradoxes brought on by the travel to and from the future and the past. I'll try to summarize the plot here.

The main character of this story, Josh Winkler (from whose vantage point the story is told), lived with mom, dad & brother Kurt in the small town of Euclid Heights, living a seemingly normal life until one day after he arrived at the local community pool where his brother was going to teach mentally disabled children how to swim and found his brother & a friend locked in a container at the bottom of the pool. The boys were the victims of the local bully (Jack Ketch, who is also called "jock itch") who was pulling a usual prank which got out of hand. Josh's brother's friend dies; Josh's brother is revived but has permanent brain damage the rest of his life. That all happened back in the 60s; now Josh is married to Flo, the sister of Kurt's friend Vaughan who drowned, and has a daughter, Penelope (Penny). Josh is a struggling artist who hates working, really, and Flo is a doctor. They have a very good home life together and Josh is very close to both of the women in his life.

One day, Josh is coming back from buying groceries for dinner, and he gets a "warm, liquid feeling" in the middle of a storm. He discovers that he has actually moved back in time about 15 minutes. He tells his family; Flo thinks he's nuts and schedules him for an MRI to detect early brain tumor activity. Penelope (Penny) thinks it's cool but you can tell she's not really sure about her father after this. But the weirdest is yet to be. Out of the storm comes a wet girl wearing a long dress with an apron on top of it and the story she tells is that she, Constance Morceau, had been with her boyfriend in her parents' apple orchard, and that the next thing she knew, a storm came, she was running to get out of it, and she ended up in this present time. Now she just wants to go home and needs help getting there. Josh, who is so taken with his own time travel experience, becomes somewhat obsessed with finding out if this girl is telling any semblance of the truth, while Flo figures she has some kind of angle & it involves cash. Eventually, Josh will help Constance, but it will cost him everything he loves.

A Shortcut in Time is a definite "not misser." It is very well written (except for the end). You end up caring about each character, with the exception of Jock Itch maybe, but I had strong negative feelings about him throughout the story. Thus, the characterization is very very good. The pace of the novel is quick and doesn't drag and the author doesn't get bogged down in the hows of time travel, just the fact that it happens. After all, if the main character doesn't know how this happens, then who's going to explain what's happening? The writing is SO good,in fact, that the author almost makes this book believable.

If you like Sci-fi, you will love this one. Keep in mind that this is not great literature; it is a book you can have fun with and ponder the inevitable paradoxes of time & existence that result. I was sad when the book was far as I'm concerned, he could have kept going.
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