Theo Logos's Reviews > Three Days to Never

Three Days to Never by Tim Powers
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May 26, 12

bookshelves: speculative-fiction, urban-fantasy
Read in September, 2006

Tim Powers is the only living writer of speculative fiction who regularly excites my interest, so I had been eagerly anticipating reading his latest effort, `Three Days To Never'. While I agree with others who have stated that it is not among his strongest work, it still looms far above most of what currently passes for speculative fiction, and did not disappoint me. I consumed the book in a day, and it was a most satisfying experience.

Powers does a couple of things better than anyone else I know of working in his genre. The first is to accurately portray human character across its full range of possibilities. His protagonists are almost always flawed, sometimes deeply, and his villains sometimes show discomforting traces of goodness. While he strongly hints that there are absolutes of good and evil in his universe, his human characters always have a certain amount of moral ambiguity, and you sense that his heroes are never too far from crossing the line and falling to the estate of his most monstrous bad guys. In `Three Days To Never', Powers illustrates this more starkly than ever before by using the possibilities of a time travel plot to double one of his characters and use him as both hero and villain - showing the extremes of both nobility and depravity that can exist in all of us.

The other feat at which Powers excels is in creating a fascinating and consistent universe that encompasses nearly all of his writing. The world he writes of is a world we recognize as our own, yet tilted oddly askew - refocused through an eldritch lens and given an arcane, funhouse feel. It little matters which of his books you first enter through into his universe, whether it be the siege of Vienna in `The Drawing of the Dark', cruising with Caribbean pirates in `On Stranger Tides', playing high stakes poker in Vegas in `Last Call', or navigating the deadly cloak and dagger games of the cold war in `Declare' - the crazy logic of his mystical universe remains remarkably consistent, from the monstrous, inhuman powers that lay just outside the spectrum of our daily lives that are summoned with Kabalistic magicks, to the madhouse, anti-logic of his ghosts who hover near us in an obscene caricature of the living world. It is the aura imparted by this peculiar universe which gives all of his work a unique stamp, much like Keith Richards' guitar work does for Rolling Stones songs. `Three Days To Never' is no exception to this rule. If entering the Powers universe sends chilling thrills through you as it does me, you will not be disappointed by this latest of his works.

This book does have its flaws. The connections to Einstein and Chaplin are more forced than are the historical allusions in his other works, and the details of his arcane science are sometimes, well, too detailed. The ending, also, is not as satisfying as it could have been (though consistent with his style), yet when the journey is as much fun as Powers makes it here, I wont quibble about the destination. This book should not be your introduction to Tim Powers (for that see `Last Call'), but if you are already a fan, it should not disappoint you.
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