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Time and Again

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One of the most beloved tales of our time!

Science fiction, mystery, a passionate love story, and a detailed history of Old New York blend together in Jack Finney's spellbinding story of a young man enlisted in a secret government experiment.

Transported from the mid-twentieth century to New York City in the year 1882, Si Morley walks the fashionable "Ladies' Mile" of Broadway, is enchanted by the jingling sleigh bells in Central Park, and solves a 20th-century mystery by discovering its 19th-century roots. Falling in love with a beautiful young woman, he ultimately finds himself forced to choose between his lives in the present and the past.

A story that will remain in the listener's memory, Time and Again is a remarkable blending of the troubled present and a nostalgic past, made vivid and extraordinarily moving by the images of a time that was ... and perhaps still is.

400 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1970

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About the author

Jack Finney

142 books400 followers
Mr. Finney specialized in thrillers and works of science fiction. Two of his novels, The Body Snatchers and Good Neighbor Sam became the basis of popular films, but it was Time and Again (1970) that won him a devoted following. The novel, about an advertising artist who travels back to the New York of the 1880s, quickly became a cult favorite, beloved especially by New Yorkers for its rich, painstakingly researched descriptions of life in the city more than a century ago.

Mr. Finney, whose original name was Walter Braden Finney, was born in Milwaukee and attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. After moving to New York and working in the advertising industry, he began writing stories for popular magazines like Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post and McCall's.

His first novel, Five Against the House (1954), told the story of five college students who plot to rob a casino in Reno. A year later he published The Body Snatchers (later reissued as Invasion of the Body Snatchers), a chilling tale of aliens who emerge from pods in the guise of humans whom they have taken over. Many critics interpreted the insidious infiltration by aliens as a cold-war allegory that dramatized America's fear of a takeover by Communists. Mr. Finney maintained that the novel was nothing more than popular entertainment. The 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers was remade twice.

Mr. Finney first showed an interest in time travel in the short-story collection The Third Level, which included stories about a commuter who discovers a train that runs between New York and the year 1894, and a man who rebuilds an old car and finds himself transported back to the 1920s.

He returned to the thriller genre in Assault on a Queen (1959) and tried his hand at comedy in Good Neighbor Sam (1963), a novel based on his experiences as an adman, played by Jack Lemmon in the film version.

In The Woodrow Wilson Dime (1968), Mr. Finney once again explored the possibilities of time travel. The dime of the title allows the novel's hero to enter a parallel world in which he achieves fame by composing the musicals of Oscar Hammerstein and inventing the zipper.

With Time and Again, Mr. Finney won the kind of critical praise and attention not normally accorded to genre fiction. Thomas Lask, reviewing the novel in The New York Times, described it, suggestively, as "a blend of science fiction, nostalgia, mystery and acid commentary on super-government and its helots." Its hero, Si Morley, is a frustrated advertising artist who jumps at the chance to take part in a secret project that promises to change his life. So it does. He travels back to New York in 1882, moves into the Dakota apartment building on Central Park West and experiences the fabulous ordinariness of a bygone age: its trolleys, horse-drawn carriages, elevated lines, and gaslights. This year Mr. Finney published a sequel to the novel, From Time to Time.

Mr. Finney also wrote Marion's Wall (1973), about a silent-film actress who, in an attempt to revive her film career, enters the body of a shy woman, and The Night People (1977). His other fictional works include The House of Numbers (1957) and the short-story collection I Love Galesburg in the Springtime (1963). He also wrote Forgotten News: The Crime of the Century and Other Lost Stories (1983) about sensational events of the 19th century.

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Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
499 reviews855 followers
February 14, 2019
January 12, 2019 review

My year in books begins with a re-read of my favorite time travel novel, Time and Again by Jack Finney. Published in 1970, I'm happy to report that the book stands as a vivid parallel universe romance and labor of love from an author who was legitimately enamored by New York City of the 1880s. If I was sectioning off the best books to read each month of the year, this would also be a nominee for the Best of January, with a protagonist journeying to a Manhattan of frozen ponds and horse drawn sleighs the first month of the year. Though not a perfect trip, it is a wonderful one.

Simon Morley, who for reasons that frustrate aesthetic delight insists on being called "Si," is a twenty-eight year old art student from Buffalo who works as a graphic designer at an advertising firm on 54th Street. Si is a man of another time, having met his girlfriend Kate Mancuso at the antique shop she owns on Third Avenue, where Si enjoys picking through stereoscopeic slides from New York City of yesteryear. Then one Friday, watching the clock edge toward lunch, Si is visited by Ruben Prien, a project manager for a U.S. government program who without being able to divulge any details offers Si the opportunity for a great adventure.

Arriving for his interview at a storage company warehouse on the Upper West Side, Si is taken to a room where after four minutes, he finds his application completed, several details in the room different from when he entered and Ruben claiming that twenty minutes have elapsed. Insisting that this is wrong and pointing out what's been changed, Si passes his test and is shown even stranger things. He sees instruction rooms, one with a woman learning the Charleston. Si is led onto a catwalk above a massive sound stage, where sets have been built, one of a Montana plain with Crow Indian teepees. Si meets the project director, a theoretical physicist named Dr. E.E. Danziger who believes that science has yet to catch up to everything Albert Einstein theorized.

"He meant that we're mistaken in our conception of what the past, present and future really are. We think the past is gone, the future hasn't happened yet, and that only the present exists. Because the present is all we can see."

"Well, if you pinned me down, I'd have to admit that's how it seems to me."

He smiled, "Of course. To me, too. It's only natural. As Einstein himself pointed out. He said we're like people in a boat without oars drifting along a winding river. Around us we see only the present. We can't see the past, back in the bends and curves behind us. But it's there."

"Did he mean that literally, though? Or did he mean--"

"He meant exactly what he said. When he said light has weight, he meant that the sunlight lying on a field of wheat actually weighs several
tons. And now we know--it's been measured--that it really does. He meant that the tremendous energy theoretically binding atoms together really could be released in one unimaginable burst. As it really can, a fact that has changed the course of the human race. He also meant precisely what he said about time: that the past, back there around the curves and bends, really exists. It is actually there." For maybe a dozen seconds Danziger was silent, his fingers playing with the little red cellophane strip. Then he looked up and said simply, "I am a theoretical physicist on leave here from Harvard University. And my own tiny extension of Einstein's great theory is ... that a man ought somehow to be able to step out of that boat onto the shore. And walk back to one of the bends behind us."

Danziger's project--comprised of fifty people and drawing on the services and resources of various branches of the government--have sought recruits with an ability to see things both as they are and how they might have been. After studying a specific time period and training on a sound stage, the recruit is placed in an environment that exists now as it did at that point in the past: a town in rural Vermont, the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. Trained in techniques of self-hypnosis, the recruit then exits their location and steps out into the world of the past. Why? To prove it can be done.

Si is offered the opportunity to travel to San Francisco of 1901, but the artist has another travel destination in mind: New York City, January 1882, where he wants to watch a letter mailed at the Main Post Office. Si's girlfriend Kate had a foster father who lived and died unable to solve a mystery surrounding the suicide of his father Andrew Carmody, a Wall Street financier who briefly served as an adviser to President Grover Cleveland. Whatever misery Carmody endured has to do with that letter, which was partially burned by his wife along with a suicide note that read "That the sending of this should cause the Destruction by Fire of the Entire World ..."

Disclosing his mission to Kate, Si's girlfriend helps him bone up on New York City of the 1880s. He's outfitted with period garb and an apartment at the Dakota building, a magnificent blockwide structure constructed in Central Park in the early 1880s. Si has only a few days to convince his subconscious that the world of eighty-eight years ago is the world outside his window and after wandering through the park during a blizzard, is certain that he did briefly return to the past. He tries again, only this time with Kate at his side, and at the clop of hoofs and a faint axle squeak, they encounter a horse drawn bus emerge from the snow.

We didn't turn immediately; we couldn't quite bring ourselves to do that. But we heard the squeal of iron tires crunching cold dry snow, heard the loose wood-and-iron rattle of the body, and the crack of leather reins on solid flesh. Then, very slowly, we turned our heads to look again at the tiny, arch-roofed wooden bus with high wooden-spoke wheels, drawn by a team of gaunt horses, their breaths puffing whitely into the winter air at each step. It was closer now, filling our vision; and staring at it I knew now from where and when I had come. It took a moment of actual struggle for my mind to take hold of what it knew to be the truth: that we were here, standing on a corner of upper Fifth Avenue on a gray January afternoon of 1882; and I shivered and for a moment felt shot through with fear. Then elation and curiosity roared through me.

What I love about Time and Again is how enamored Jack Finney is with time travel and stuck behind a typewriter in the late 1960s, with New York City of the early 1880s. This is a Manhattan Island covered by hundreds of acres of farmland, where Trinity Church is the highest point in the city at 284 feet and neither traffic signals or telephones are in use. Si records pages of interesting sights and while Finney does go overboard on detail, so would my report if I traveled back in time. Finney's use of weather--snow, ice, freezing cold--is a character in itself and adds tremendous atmosphere to the novel, particularly in the time travel scenes.

I liked how Finney uses self-hypnosis as a catalyst for time travel. Richard Matheson used a similar device for Bid Time Return in 1975 but of the two novels, Finney's is vivid, exciting, researched (including photographs) and as a love story, more convincing. Traveling back alone, Si rents a room in the same boarding house as the man who mailed the letter and becomes enamored with the ill-tempered villain's fiancée, Julia Charbonneau. While I endorsed Si getting Julia away from the blackmailer she'd be miserable with, I wasn't sure whether this constituted cheating or not, whether what happens in the 1880s stays in the 1880s.

Contemporary readers are bound to notice what I did and that is the male gaze which Si frequently employs whenever he encounters a woman. I was more restless over how long Si's recruitment went on and how long it took for him to go back in time. Finney puts almost as much thought into the time travel project as Michael Crichton does in Timeline; I did like how in his debriefing, Si is prompted to recount as many facts as he can to determine whether he has altered history. Finney ultimately questions whether the project has Crichton-like implications for disaster and resolves the novel thrillingly.

My thesis: This novel holds up supremely well as imaginatively spun science fiction romance.

Length: 129,242 words

November 20, 2014 review

The next stop in my time travel marathon (November being Science Fiction Month) and by far the best yet is Time and Again, a little known but much loved 1970 novel by Jack Finney that handles a fantastic premise -- a government project sends a man eighty-eight years into New York City's past -- with more imagination, sensuality and logic than any time travel story I've read. This is a wonderful book that has just become one of my favorites.

Simon Morley, known as "Si", is twenty-eight years old, an art student from Buffalo who works as a graphic designer for an advertising firm on 54th Street. Si is a man out of time; he met his girlfriend Kate Mancusco at the antique shop she owns on Third Avenue, where Si enjoys digging through stereoscopeic slides from New York City of yesteryear. Then one Friday, watching the clock edge toward lunch, Si receives a visitor. Ruben Prien is a project manager for a U.S. government program he revaeals very little about except to promise Si that he envies his opportunity to be offered an adventure as great as this.

Si is invited to participate in some tests first and arriving for his interview in a complex disguised as a moving company warehouse on the Upper West Side, is shown many strange things. There are instruction rooms, one with a student speaking medieval French, one with a man in a World War I uniform training in bayonet combat, one with a woman learning the Charleston. Si is led onto a catwalk above a massive soundstage, where several sets have been built, from a neighborhood in the 1920s to a Montana plain with Crow Indian teepees. Si is finally taken to the employee cafeteria, where he's introduced the the project director, a theoretical physicist named Dr. Danziger.

The old man asks Si how much he knows about Albert Einstein. Not much, Si replies, except that Einstein had bushy hair and was terrible at arithmetic. Danziger elaborates, "He meant that we're mistaken in our conception of what the past, present and future really are. We think the past is gone, the future hasn't yet happened, and that only the present exists. Because the present is all we can see." In other words, the past isn't gone. It exists and can be reached.

Danziger's candidates, those with the ability to see things both as they are and how they could have been, are trained in techniques of self-hypnosis, and after rehearsing on a soundstage, are placed in certain environments -- a town in rural Vermont, a plain in Montana -- that have gone unchanged between now and some point in the past. Danziger has discovered a way to make time travel possible, just as Einstein theorized. Why? To prove it can be done.

Si is offered the opportunity to travel to San Francisco in 1901, but the artist has another destination in mind: New York City, January 1882, where he wants to watch a man mail a letter at the Main Post Office. Si's girlfriend had a foster father who went through life unable to solve a mystery surrounding the suicide of his father Andrew Carmody, a financier who was an adviser of some sort to President Cleveland. The source of whatever misery Carmody was enduring had to do with that mysterious post, which was partially burned by his wife along with a suicide note that read "That the sending of this should cause the Destruction by Fire of the Entire World ..."

His mission disclosed to Kate, Si's girlfriend helps him study up on the history of New York City of the 1880s. The project rents him an apartment in the Dakota Building, one of the few available buildings in Manhattan that was standing in 1882. Over a period of several days, dressed in period garb, Si attempts to train his mind that the world outside his window is 1882. After many failed attempts and one false start, Si is visited by Kate, and the couple makes the attempt together.

I've summarized 115 pages of Time and Again and would prefer to leave as much of the ensuing 285 pages a surprise as I can. One of the things that Finney does here that so many writers ignore is to stop and consider how traumatic the experience of time travel would be. It comes as an existential crisis, making travelers physically ill from the realization that they're now history, surrounded by people who were all dead a minute ago. The experience is not treated flippantly or as a plot point but given a gravitas that I see rarely in science fiction.

As time travel speculation, Finney couldn't have chosen more elegant mechanisms than Einstein, the Dakota Building and self-hypnosis. Logically, it all makes sense. New York City of 1882 isn't a travel destination I'd have chosen, but Finney took history I'd never known and brought it to life:

-- A New York City covered by trees and farms (the Dakota Building has been built so far out in the sticks that's how it earned the name "the Dakotas").

-- Floors covered in tobacco juice, with spittoons as hit or miss as modern day men's urinals.

-- Men gathering at the Western Union building on Broadway to set their pocket watches to noon as a red ball drops the length of a flagpole on the roof.

-- The arm of the Statue of Liberty a landmark before the full statue could be erected on Ellis Island.

-- Elevated trains pulled by small locomotives.

-- Orphaned and homeless boys sleeping on hay barges in winter.

As a native Texan who's never seen a real winter, I was particularly amazed by how vividly Finney utilizes snow, ice and freezing cold to advance his story, particularly Si and Kate's dramatic arrival in 1882 during blizzard conditions that obscure all indications of the present until the sound of a horse drawn sleigh announces their arrival in the past.

The big ticket action sequence in the novel develops naturally from the characters and builds ferociously in a way it only could in the place and time of Finney's story. At no point in the action did I feel that Finney was taking 20th century plot devices and running his time travelers through them; the workings of New York City in 1882 seems to inform every decision.

There were moments where I thought I was ahead of his story and knew exactly where Finney was leading me, possibly toward the paradoxes Ray Bradbury speculated about, maybe a twist ending reminiscent of The Twilight Zone, and in each instance, I was wrong. The triumph of the book is how well Finney takes modern day technology and marries it with the romance of the past. As endings go, Finney's ranks as one of most satisfying I've ever read.

Time and Again is a novel that has worked its spell on enough players in Hollywood to be in perpetual development as a movie. Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward fancied making a film version in the 1970s before Newman passed the book to Robert Redford, who failed in his attempts to interest Sydney Pollack, George Roy Hill or Steven Spielberg and got close to directing it himself in the 1990s. The novel would make a great big screen fantasy romance, with any number of young actors able to fit into the lead roles.
Profile Image for Tim Null.
131 reviews78 followers
February 10, 2023
You know Clement Clarke Moore's classic poem Twas the Night Before Christmas, and you remember the line: "And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I'm in my cap." Well, that line reminds me of a time travel book I read half a century ago. In that book, there's a bedroom scene I recall on almost every cold, wintery morning.

In that scene, our trusty time traveler is laying in bed with his wife on a cold, cold night. He thinks about how lucky he is to be able to live in the past with the woman he loves. He does admit to himself that the cold nights are truly a downside. He mentions that in addition to having to use lots and lots of blankets, his wife wears a bonnet on her head. He says that most men also wear a hat in bed, but since he's a macho 20th century man living in the 19th century, he'd rather be cold than wear a hat to bed. Whenever I think about this scene, I think to myself, "I'd rather wear a hat to bed than be cold, but then I'm a neo-macho 21st century man."

This winter has been colder than usual, so I've been thinking about that scene a lot. So much so I decided I needed to reread that time travel book. The only problem was I couldn't remember either the name of the author or the title of the book. The only thing I could remember was that the story took place in New York City.

No problem. I'm a modern 21st century man. I just Googled: great 1970s nyc time travel novel. Google said the book I wanted was Time and Again by Jack Finney. I thanked Google and ordered myself a copy of the book.

I've now finished Time and Again, and it was thoroughly delightful, but it ain't the book I was looking for. I'm hoping From Time to Time by Jack Finney will be the book I'm searching for. While we're waiting for a copy of that book to arrive, let's go ahead and talk about Time and Again. No point in wasting our time here together.

I don't know if you've ever gone on a Sunday drive. Well, if you haven't been on a Sunday drive recently, let me refresh your memory. Moms and Dads love Sunday drives, but kids think they're boring. Some kids will even pretend they're car-sick just so they can go home and play kickball. Time and Again is like a Sunday drive. Some folks will love it, others won't, and some will even DNF the book just so they can read the latest thriller.

Personally, I think Time and Again has everything a book needs. You've got government spooks and scientists. You've got friends and relatives like in Mad About You and Friends. You've got numerous trips around New York City in 1882 that are educational, eye-opening, and every bit as exciting as Rick Steve's Europe. You've got nourishing and informative breakfasts and suppers just like Check Please! Bay Area. You've got corrupt New York cops and one of the best chase scenes in American literature. And to top things off, you've got the Statue of Liberty. 🗽 Oh, did I forget to mention that the book is illustrated? And there are mysteries. And let's not forget the impostor, the burning buildings, and the heroic firemen. There are also feminists and former slaves. Lastly, but not leastly, there are shoeshine boys and newspaper reporters. There's even some genealogy thrown in. What more could you want?

Even given all the above, numerous reviewers have given this book a 3 rating. I guess they're just not fans of a Sunday afternoon drive around New York City.
Profile Image for Candi.
622 reviews4,715 followers
October 17, 2020
“I’ve always felt a wonder at old photographs not easy to explain… I mean the sense of wonder, staring at the strange clothes and varnished backgrounds, at knowing that what you’re seeing was once real. That light really did reflect into a lens from these lost faces and objects. That these people were really there once, smiling into a camera.”

If you’ve ever been bewitched by antique photographs, intrigued by the lives of the people and places forever captured within, perhaps even wishing to take a step into another era, then this time travel novel is likely to delight you. Better yet, if you have a penchant for all things New York City, this would be the perfect book to grab on a rainy autumn day.

Simon (Si) Morley is pretty sick and tired of his life. I had to laugh at this, however, when Si was approached by Ruben Prien, an agent for a secret government project: “You’re bored and dissatisfied with yourself, and time is passing; in two years you’ll be thirty. And you still don’t know what to do with your life.” What the hell? Since when did thirty years of age become a sign of time having slipped away?! If that is in fact the case, then my life passed me by a long time ago. And I still don’t know what to do with my life. But I digress. Naturally, Si jumps on the chance to engage in some pretty neat time travel. Don’t worry yourself too much about the logistics – that’s not really the point here. Although I was a bit intrigued with the physics of time and what that really entails.

“We think the past is gone, the future hasn’t yet happened, and that only the present exists. Because the present is all we can see… we’re like people in a boat without oars drifting along a winding river. Around us we see only the present. We can’t see the past, back in the bends and curves behind us. But it’s there…”

If you don’t dwell on this point too long, then you can easily settle in with Si on his grand adventure. You’ll find yourself making the leap from 1970 New York City to a much earlier time – the winter of 1882 to be exact. More than anything, I found this to be a romance – not between two people (well, there was a bit of that), but rather a love affair between the author (and the reader) with that grand city. You don’t have to necessarily know the intimate details of New York ahead of time to enjoy this. But it helps to be familiar with at least some of the major landmarks, which most of us have probably gleaned from books and films already. What Jack Finney does remarkably well is to evoke the place in a way that makes you feel as if you were also there, living in another century. Like Si, you become a part of the mass of people that laughed and loved and lived on some of the same streets that still exist today. The architecture is markedly different, but there are some things that remain as they were all those years ago. Finney also includes some marvelous photographs of the old buildings, and he vividly describes the clothing that was worn during the 1880s. It’s all wonderfully nostalgic.

“For an instant I had a glimpse in my mind of a lifted hoof wet with slush, the fetlocks balled with gray snow. And now I could – not imagine; that wasn’t the word – I could feel the city around me, all the others, I mean: the people in their houses tonight like me, in the soft yellow light of a million gas flames.”

This book doesn’t get philosophical or too science-y about time travel, so no worries if that were to turn you off. There’s some discussion about how an individual could alter the present by meddling in the past, but this is really an adventuresome book that celebrates an incredibly vibrant city. Read it for the descriptive setting and some nail-biting action that escalates towards the ending section of the novel!

“… I had forgotten the obvious: that simply being with people is to become involved with them.”
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,308 reviews2,191 followers
March 18, 2014

When I read a time travel story, I try not to dwell on how the character got to this other time and place. It just doesn't pay because then I start asking questions for which there is no realistic answer. So for me it has to be about the destination, what I find there, what happens there, what it means for the character in his or her present day.

And oh what we find there in New York City in 1882! Beautiful buildings some of which are still standing in Si Morley’s present day New York of 1970, interesting people, and in many ways, what Si seems to think are simpler, happier times. But when he learns about the orphans, the cruel working conditions, and the Boss Tweed corruption, it gives Si some pause. The detailed descriptive writing makes you believe that you are in that place and in that time. I was fascinated and couldn’t wait for Si to go back each time he came back to his present.

Si understood and agreed that he could not interfere, should not do anything that would in any way alter the course of history but what was he to do about Julia? I thought for days about that ending and won’t say more because you just have to read it for yourself.

To the critics of time travel stories who need an explanation of how this happens, I would say: Imagine you are in another time, in another place with people you don't yet know. It doesn’t have to be a story about time travel; it could be a fantasy, a mystery, a story that takes place in history or in the future because isn’t this what we as readers of any fiction are ultimately summoned to do when we begin that first page of any story.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,323 reviews2,146 followers
February 11, 2018
I went into this one with very high expectations from all its rave reviews but came out with a middle of the road opinion. It was a pleasant enough read but I could not find the spark that would have made it a top class one.

I am a sucker for a good time travel experience but was not impressed with the method of travel used in Time and Again. However it served its purpose and we travelled to New York in 1882. I am pretty sure that you need to be acquainted with that city in order to really appreciate much of the rest of the book. It was really heavy on detail - descriptions of streets, buildings, costumes, horses and snow. Lots of snow.

On the plus side the story really took off in the last part of the book when some exciting stuff happened at last. There was some romance and there was a very, very smart ending. In fact I am giving the ending a star all of its own!

I have to assume that as someone who has sadly never yet seen New York I missed out on the magic of this book.
Profile Image for Kevin Kuhn.
Author 2 books584 followers
April 9, 2022
A vivid, romantic slip into the late 17th century. I very much enjoyed Jack Finney's "Time and Again" largely due to the development of the main character and his description of New York in the 1880's. The drawings and pictures add some interesting breaks in the story, but they are also a bit of a distraction and tended to pull me out of the moment. I picture Finney gathering pictures and drawings for research and the idea popping into his head to actually include them in the novel. I'm wondering if he had to overcome objections by his editor and publisher on this? My next novel starts with a short period piece and it's a good reminder to gather a few photo's as I believe it could really help with the level of detail in the descriptive narration.

The additional characters were fine, but none nearly as developed as Simon Morley (main character). I feel like he could of built much more tension with his love interest, Kate, in the current day. She fades from his life with little fanfare and I think Finney missed an opportunity.

In addition, he clearly romanticizes the past. While he briefly touches on the plight of orphans and the lower class, the main character quickly shrugs this off. Finney makes a weak case that the past is better than the future, despite all the clues that's it actually flipped.

I believe that if I was a New Yorker, or spent more time than a few brief vacations and business trips, I would have fallen for this novel more. I know Time and Again is a favorite novel for many and my guess is that it's Finney's excellent descriptions of 1880's Manhattan. I don't want to spoil the second half, but I think Simon's relationships in the past are just as limited.

Fantastic, descriptive prose and an interesting story, but imho it falls short in developing enough of the supporting characters and relationships to make this a true classic.
Profile Image for H..
116 reviews
June 8, 2009
If Simon Morley, protagonist of Finney's Time and Again, had any real personality beyond his nickname being "Si," perhaps the book's loose ends and rough edges would have distracted less. But he is neither a complex and interesting original nor a heavy-handed archetype. He's more of a blank slate onto which we might project ourselves, the first-person writing tone that of an amateur blogger who is trying his hand at a journalistic account of a very exciting place. No matter the topic, if the writing is boring so must be the reading.

Here, plot must take the place of character but, unfortunately, it has many weaknesses, and often what strength it appears to have is mere fluff: the author's showing off of his in-depth research on the 1880's.

There is beauty in the idea of simplicity and novelty as the route to time-travel, but Finney's simplicity is just that: it falls short. The idea is that with enough study on a time and place, a person can mentally transport themselves to this other time. This is put forth as a government project, and Finney attempts an exploration of the human motivation to use knowledge that shouldn't be used, to negative ends.

So many obvious questions pop up, left unanswered, that the ridiculousness gets in the way of the story. It comes off as badly thought-out and amateurish. How does a time-traveler come equipped with money? How does he will himself to a specific day? How does time pass in the present while one is in the past? Why isn't the government asking these questions? Why isn't the government watching more carefully? Why is it so easy for random people to be able to do this when apparently it's so hard for others who spend ages studying and have huge amounts of government money spent on them?

It's all very sloppy. Luckily there was another storyline of some mystery and suspense that kept things moving.

[minor spoiler:]
The romance, however, did not convince or engage. It's hard to fall in love with characters that do not have much character to them, and harder still to care whether they fall for each other. I think the breaking point for me was when Morely decides to interfere in his love interest's life upon the epiphany that the people of the 1880's are just as human and worthy as those of his time. He realizes this after spending time with an impoverished man who works 14-hour days freezing his ass off for $1.50/day so his children won't join the thousands of orphans around the city. So Morely decides that these are real people, and his action against their real pain is to... save his crush from a bad marriage.

The morality of this story seemed as confused and vague as the character, actually, and it gets quite full of it at the end.

If I hadn't come to this book with high expectations, I might have been more accepting of the mildly diverting mystery storyline, but I think I would have been less forgiving of the onanistic travel book descriptions of buildings and carriages, and verbatim quotes from newspapers of the time.
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book562 followers
September 18, 2020
It isn’t very often that a book truly surprises me, particularly one that deals with a well-worn plot line, like time travel. This is a time travel book unlike most of the others I have read. It is full of delicious descriptions that are so accurate and detailed that they make you feel you have literally stepped into the world of 1882. Since Finney was able to take me to 1882 so easily, I had no reason to doubt that his character, Simon Morley, could get there as well.

Si is transported to 1882 through a government program. He is meant to be an observer, but I doubt it would be a surprise or a spoiler to admit that he becomes a bit more than that. The evolution of the story is so natural and unforced that I found myself thinking “if we could time travel, this would be the way”. Just as important, and even more surprising, I was taken off-guard by the ending. I did not expect it. I did not figure out any of the major twists.

Another unique and wonderful element of this book is revealed in its subtitle, An illustrated novel. Indeed, the book is sprinkled with old photographs and sketches that depict New York City as it was in the 1800s. A major element of the story circles around The Dakota, a beautiful old Victorian building that still stands in New York, dwarfed by the sky-scrappers and reminding us that architecture was once a wonderful blend of spires, curlicues and multi-leveled roofs. Even a modern photograph of it conjures up the world of Edith Wharton or Herman Melville (who gets a passing reference in the book that made me smile). The illustrations add another sweet element that perfectly compliments the narration.

What I loved the most about this book, however, was just how much fun it was. I smiled repeatedly, I held my breath the way I used to do on rollercoasters, I read when I should have done other things, because I needed to know what was going to happen next, I never wanted to put it down. What more could you want from a novel? Well, perhaps this, that in the end it had something worthwhile to say...and this one did.

One more thing I cannot resist sharing is a quote I absolutely loved, and I'm betting most of my GR friends will appreciate, just as I did.

"I even envy you this day. Have you ever given someone a book you enjoyed enormously, with a feeling of envy because they were about to read it for the first time, an experience you could never have again?"

Yes, yes I have.
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,080 reviews619 followers
April 5, 2022
5/4/22 - An update on my time travel reading.

I’m shortly to start my fifteenth time travel novel and thought I’d quickly list my 4 & 5 star rated novels for any who, like me, is somewhat obsessed with this sub-genre.

5 Stars:

11/22/63 - Stephen King
Man in the Empty Suit - Sean Ferrell
The Time Traveller's Wife- Audrey Niffenegger
Recursion - Blake Crouch
Time and Time Again - Ben Elton

4 Stars

Time and Again - Jack Finney
Sea of Tranquility - Emily St. John Mandel
The Outcasts of Time - Ian Mortimer
Replay - Ken Grimwood
The Man Who Folded Himself - David Gerrold

Aside from my star rating I’ve not attempted to put these in any particular order.

As before, I’m happy to take any further recommendations…



I'm doing the rounds of time travel novels. I've read a few and here's my quick and dirty order, so far:
1) 11/22/63 - Stephen King
2) Man in the Empty Suit - Sean Ferrell
3) The Time Traveller's Wife- Audrey Niffenegger
4) Time and Again - Jack Finney

So this one is in last place? Well, last of a list of four of my favourite books. I love the options time travel opens up and each of the above does a brilliant job of exploiting that. The only reason this doesn't 't climb higher in the list is that I found the 'present day' setting somewhat off putting itself. It's written and set in the 70's and this period (though I lived through it myself as a teenager and into my twenties) seems like a time travel adventure in itself. That said, it's detailed, clever and has the author has found a brilliant way of wrapping up the story. I've just ordered and am about to read the follow up book published around the time of the author's death (1995). Can't wait!
Would welcome any further recommendations for god time travel capers.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
June 7, 2016
I'm not sure what happened with this time travel tale, where a man travels back to NYC in the late 1800's and gets involved in the lives of some people in a boarding house in that era, except that it got just a little slow for me about 1/2 or 2/3 through. So I skimmed the rest and read the ending (my husband HATES it when I do that), and kind of lost interest. I keep meaning to get back to it but it's never happened, and it's been at least a year.

This reminds me quite strongly of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, where an author takes a bunch of vintage photos and builds a story around them. I thought it was a gimmick in that book and I tend to think so here as well. Time and Again is pretty well-written, though, and a lot of people like it a lot better than I did.

Maybe I really will finish it sometime.
Profile Image for Duane.
828 reviews430 followers
June 6, 2017
I thourghly enjoyed this book. I love historical fiction, time travel, adventure, and a little romance. It makes a perfect combination. Add the wonderful imagination of Jack Finney and you have a literary treat. The concept of time travel in this story is so natural and realistic that it becomes almost beliveable, it only requires imagination, the right setting, and faith. My favorite thing about the novel though was the imagery created of 1882 New York City. I can see why New Yorkers love this book. Reading it you almost have the feeling of being there with tree lined streets, no tall buildings, no automobiles; seeing horses pulling carriages, slieghs, and buses. No spoilers from me though, to enjoy the story of Si and Julia you will have to read the book. It's time travel at it's best. 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,529 reviews979 followers
December 4, 2014

It was an ordinary day, a Friday, twenty minutes till lunchtime, five hours till quitting time and the weekend, ten months till vacation, thirty-seven years till retirement. Then the phone rang.

Simon Morley is a graphic artist in New York around 1970, caught in a boring job doing advertisement drawings for moderate pay. He is just about ready for an adventure, anything to escape his predictable and unappealing current lifestyle. The mystery caller offers him the opportunity of a lifetime : to travel back in time and witness history in the making. It seems Simon has the right temperament and psychological profile to take part in a secret government project that can send a person back to a certain, well documented, moment of the past. For 'Si' Morley, this moment is New York, in the year 1882.

It may be that the strongest instinct of the human race, stronger even than sex or hunger, is curiosity: the absolute need to know. It can and often does motivate a lifetime, it kills more than cats, and the prospect of satisfying it can be the most exciting of emotions.

So Simon accepts the offer and goes into intensive training sessions with a select team of historians and psychologists, immersing himself completely into the target period and deploying auto-hypnosis to convince his brain that he is living in 1882 just by wishing it into existence.

It sounds familiar because the same method of time travel is used in a novel by Richard Matheson I read earlier this year ("Somewhere in Time"). Finney wrote his story a few years before Matheson, and both of them may have been inspired by even earlier novels using hypnosis to alter reality. Motivation-wise, Matheson's hero is driven by passion for a woman he sees in an ancient portrait, while Simon is led by curiosity and a thirst for adventure, with the romantic elements taking much longer to develop and being in general less convincing.

Both heroes travel back to about the same year of the past, one to San Diego, one to New York. Another common element between the two time travel stories is the observation that we may have gained some material benefits from the accelerated industrial development of the twentieth century, but we have lost on the social and personal accomplishments scale. According to Simon, people were happier in the past:

Faces don't have that look now; when alone they're blank, and closed in. I passed people in pairs or larger groups who were talking, sometimes laughing, occasionally more or less animated; but only as part of the group. They were shut off from the street around them, alien and separate from the city they lived in, suspicious of it, and that's not how New York was in the eighties.

Finney goes even further in his condemnation of the modern world, building an argument for actually 'living in the past' and rejecting his selfish and the profit oriented contemporaries. :

We're a people who pollute the very air we breathe. And our rivers. We're destroying the Great Lakes; Erie is already gone, and now we've begun on the oceans. We filled our atmosphere with radioactive fallout that put poison into our children's bones, and we knew it. We've made bombs that can wipe out humanity in minutes, and they are aimed and ready to fire. We ended polio, and then the US Army bred new strains of germs that can cause fatal, incurable disease. We had a chance to do justice to our Negroes, and when they asked it, we refused. In Asia we burned people alive, we really did. We allow children to grow up malnourished in the United States. We allow people to make money by using our television channels to persuade our own children to smoke, knowing what it is going to do to them. This is a time when it becomes harder and harder to continue telling yourself that we are still good people. We hate each other. And we're used to it.

Getting off the high horse of ethics and responsible behaviour and how much better 'les neiges d'antan' were, I have some stuff to praise and some grumbling to do about the novel:
- on the plus side, the presentation is very good, using photography inserted into the text to illustrate the journey into the past. The research into the location and the period is extensive and rich in details: buildings, streets, clothes, food, cultural events, newspaper articles, parlour games, and more.
- the final chapters are better structured and more spectacular that most of what went on before, for readers who are patient enough to read that far. Favorite scenes: a night time sleigh ride in the snow through Central Park, a trip down Broadway in a horse drawn tram, a devastating fire in a sprawling office building.
- on the minus side, the same extensive research is fed to the reader in extra large portions that slow down the pace of the story considerably, to the point where more than half of the novel reads like a dry, non-fiction description of famous buildings in the city in 1882.
- the characters and their motivations are insufficiently developed and unconvincing, driven more by the need to visit all the interesting places in the town than by plot or personality. There is an attempt to have a mystery story as a backbone to the novel and a source of suspense, but this felt flat and uninspired for me more often than not.

In conclusion, some very good concepts about time travel and its implications, and excellent research, but the execution is less impressive. Finney is more ambitious and far reaching in his story than Matheson, but he is not as good a storyteller.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,157 followers
January 5, 2015
If you like mystery, action and intrigue with a bit of romance and VERY DESCRIPTIVE details of the people, architecture and life in 1880's New York, you will like this book. Interesting method of time travel.

I was glad I happened to purchase the illustrated version of the book as the old photo's and sketches added to my enjoyment.

Great ending for a book club discussion. Loved the book!

Profile Image for Genia Lukin.
230 reviews178 followers
July 13, 2013
I was going to give this book two stars, because until the end it was merely bland and inoffensive, about like Finney describes modern food to be. But the ending threw me into a rage, so one star it is.

Fnney's book has a few redeeming features - chiefly, his painstaking research into the period he attempts to depict. And by 'depict' I man depict, literally; the entire book is filled with photographs, newspaper cuttings, illustrations, sketches... to which the author painstakingly refers, and which he sometimes also painstakingly describes. The pain, in this instance, is not only the author's, but also the reader's, as he has to plough through debris of descriptions with the machete of 'can we please move on'.

The plot and characters begin inoffensively enough - so inoffensively, in fact, that I may have trouble, having finished the book, describing just who was who and what was what. There are a couple of bland women-love-interests, one of them less bland - and immediately discarded - and one more bland - and therefore kept. The protagonist is a man of no apparent emotional processes besides, occasionally, wonder or stupour. His falling in love with his preserved-love-interest is a complete mystery to the reader; we see none of it happening, even in terms of romantic cliches such as, well, 'lightning struck me, and I was smitten for life.'

Events are loosely connected to each other, and, if the reader is sufficiently accommodating, all sorts of things can be tolerated. For example, the existence and likelihood of millions of dollars in army financing going to a project of, pardon me, self-hypnosis. The probability that an absolutely un-second-glance-worthy twenty-something with no personality would be the most suitable person to travel through time, and the infuriating moment that comes when you realise that his then-girlfriend is, in fact, much better at this whole thing than he is, but, by virtue of being only the protagonist's girlfriend, is not recruited to the program by the starved-for-candidates leadership.

The writing, itself, pained me from the start. The writer's one virtue - meticulous research - rapidly turned into a vice, as, like with every pedantic and geeky person who has read too many books, he can not help but let the readers see just how much meticulous research he had done. On Every. Single. Page. There really is a point at which we, as the readers, do not need to hear about the draperies and curlicues in a carriage in the middle of a climactic scene, and there are only so many pages of descriptions of streets, people, and houses that one can take.

It is towards the end that my hackles started rising. Especially once the hero and his girlfriend finally (what took them so long to think about it? I was screaming at them to just time-travel out of there for about seventy pages) got to the present. The horrible horrible present, filled with air conditioners and other trivial luxurious minutiae, but apparently devoid of a single good thing to be said for it on the significant and global grand scale. Instead we are treated to the inevitable scene of "What? A World war??" from a resident of the 19th century, which had known a good number of horrible and shattering wars, including the incredibly traumatic American Civil War just twenty years previous, a whole slew of independence wars in the Spring of Nations, not to mention the entire barrage of the Napoleonic Wars which (just like the World Wars) reshaped the political and military world map and engulfed all of Europe just at the beginning of the century.

And all the author could come up with in terms of what good happened between 1882 and 1970 is.. air-conditioners.

Okay, Mr. Finney, let me give you a hand here and count a few of the mild improvements we've managed to install since that period:

-Most of the monarchies of the time are democracies now
-A good chunk of the peoples who at the time were colonial subjects have actual countries now
-When people go to a hospital, they actually stand a good chance of coming out of it alive due to antibiotics, anesthesia, and anti-sepsis practices which at the time were virtually unknown
-The Human rights movement
-The Geneva Convention
-Abolition of child labour, mandating of minimal wages and working conditions, the eight-hour workday
-The cleaning-up of police practices and brutality. That thing that sent you guys to the future in the first place? It would have a lot less chance of actually happening now.

These are just a few off-the-cuff things. Plus, we went to the moon, and if for the author it somehow seems paltry and bleak, well, that's hardly our fault.

To top it all off, the author's basic premise in the end seems to be that, if our time is broken, the best way to deal with that is to abscond into the past, where none of these events happened yet, and then pretend that they never will. How the protagonist would ever manage to live with himself, fleeing the world knowing that, only thirty years in his future, is that dreaded World-War-Eye ...they knew Roman numerals and used them more frequently than we did, by the way) he avoided thinking or talking about. The year is 1882. In 1914 he and his wife will be in their fifties and, hey presto, here is modernity, come to claim you again.

The author's message that the world of our time is not worth living in is acceptable, but instead of attempting to say something like, it needs to be fixed, or changed, or improved, maybe even brought back to past values and vigour, he says it needs to be dropped, abandoned. We've ruined our world with pollution - let's flee to the 1880s, where pollution did not exist (barring, of course, all that coal they burned that turned the air into smog over half the world). And what if time travel is not available? No answer.

And this, more than anything, is my issue. We cannot run away from an imperfect world to a romanticized - heavily, I should say - Luddite utopia of the past. If only because we can't. Finney concludes his story by extolling the virtue of running, and I cannot condone that.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Mona.
511 reviews296 followers
October 7, 2022
Charming, but Flawed, Tale of Time Travel to 1882 New York

"Time and Again" is certainly worth reading, but it has its flaws.

For one thing,its far too long and plodding. It would have been a much better book at half its length. The really interesting action doesn't get started until well into the book's second half.

The book opens with Simon ("Si") Morley, young artist, working at a New York ad agency. They treat him well, but he's bored silly with making sketches of bars of soap.

A mysterious man called Ruben (Rube) Prien visits him at the ad agency. They go out for lunch, and Prien reveals that he's recruiting Si for a project so secret he can't even reveal its nature. Si also cannot tell anyone else about it. He also tells Si that if he chooses to participate, he will be part of the biggest adventure anyone can possibly have. Rube makes it clear to Si that his participation in the project will be contingent upon his passing a battery of tests. Rube also makes it clear that the project hasn't found more than a handful of candidates that meet its specifications.

After a few days, Si agrees to at least check out the project. He also gives his notice at the ad agency, telling his boss that he wants to travel around the country to see if he can make it as a serious artist.

Si is told to show up at a huge warehouse on the West Side of Manhattan. It appears to be the site of a moving company, Beaky Brothers. Hidden away inside are what appear to be stage sets, depicting various times and places.

Si does pass the tests. Most important is that he is a very good subject for hypnosis. His perceptive artist's eye is also an important asset.

He's told this is a secret government project, of which he agrees to be a part.

Si finally gets the idea that the point of the project is to send him back into the past. He specifically requests to be sent to Manhattan in 1882. The reason for this request is that Si's girlfriend, Kate, has a letter mailed in January 1882 from Manhattan. Her adoptive parents, the Carmodys, gave Kate the letter, in a robin's egg blue envelope. Aparently Mr. Carmody's dad committed suicide after receiving this letter. The letter is a mystery. No one knows how it relates to the suicide. Also it says something about "the fire which will destroy the whole world." Si and Kate want to try to solve this mystery.

The project is headed by the distinguished Dr. Danziger, an elderly former academic.

The project's method for time travel appears to be a combination of self-hypnosis, and surrounding the time travel "operatives" with clothing, reading material, and an environment suitable to the time and place they are time travelling to. The project sets Si up in an apartment in the Dakota, an old and distinguished Manhattan apartment building in the West Seventies, which was around in 1882. They give him clothing and reading material suitable to 1882. One night he leaves the building and knows he is in 1882. There are no cars on the streets, only a single horse drawn sleigh with a man and a girl in it.

It soon becomes apparent that Si is one of the few who is capable of time travel. On one of his first trips, Kate joins him, suitably attired. They get to the downtown Manhattan Post Office on the date and time the mysterious letter was postmarked and they see the man mailing it. They follow him and find out where he lives. Si later discovers that the man's name is Jacob Pickering.

Anyway, the project forbids Kate to accompany him on future excursions. Si goes back to 1882 repeatedly. He find the boarding house where Pickering lives and takes a room there. Julia Charbonneau is a young woman who assists her aunt in maintaining the boarding house.

Si experiences the charms of old New York. He tours the Ladies' Mile with Julia. He attends the opera, and various balls, fetes, and parties. He describes for us the elegant homes and hotels of that time. We experience Madison Square Park and Central Park in 1882. He rides in horse drawn buses and in sleighs.

Si has many adventures and does finally get to the bottom of the mysterious letter.He encounters many local characters, including a coachman, other boarders in the boarding house, the famous police chief Inspector Byrnes, and Andrew Carmody, the recipient of the letter.

He decides that he prefers 1882 to the present, where, as he sees it, modern man is on a collision coarse to destruction, after having lost the joy of being alive.

There is a totally surprising ending, which I won't reveal.

The book was fun, but it has several major flaws.

For one thing, as I've already mentioned, it's far too long.

Its pace, especially in the first half of the novel, can be plodding.

Another flaw is that I found the method used for time travel a bit difficult to believe, maybe because I've read a lot of time travel books.

Most other novels about time travel use a few different methods.

There are time machines (as in The Time Machine and Doomsday Book ).

There are time travel vehicles (for example, the tardis in any Dr. Who TV show or novel).

There are spontaneous time travellers for whom time travelling is an inherited trait over which they have no control (as in The Time Traveler's Wife).

There are physical portals---usually sacred spaces, as in the stone circles in Outlander.

The method used in "Time and Again" was the least convincing of all.

We are told that not many can do what Si was able to accomplish.

Still, if all it takes is a costume, a set, some props, and self-hypnosis, why aren't visitors to Renaissance Faires time travelling? (Unless they are and we don't hear about it :) )

Here's another issue I had with this book.

I found Si's belief that life in 1882 was better slightly naive, although I did see his point about the soul deadening destructiveness of modern man.

Life for many in 1882 was brutish and short. This was particularly true of the poor.

To his credit, Jack Finney does show us a few examples of the working class poor, in particular the coachman driving the public bus with whom Si converses. This good man works fourteen hour days in horrific cold and isn't allowed to even sit down, all for less than $2 a day (a pitiful salary even in 1882).

But, even with its faults, this novel is worth reading. Paul Hecht does a passable, although not extraordinary job of reading the audio, although honestly I preferred Campbell Scott, who read the abridged version I started with before realizing it was abridged.
Profile Image for Kimber.
207 reviews61 followers
May 30, 2021
A time travel story that is riveting, humorous, intoxicating & even plausible. Finney is both wonderfully descriptive & overly detailed (yet that is the essence of its charm). I felt fully immersed into the world of nineteenth century New York. Of how much the world has changed- and then how much it hasn't- and of how empty modern civilization feels in comparison. He really made history come alive & how it would feel to see these things. I felt actual thrills along with the characters. It begins in his drab modern world- which seems like a world in black and white. In contrast, the past is what feels vivid, alive & meaningful.
Profile Image for Eli Stevens.
63 reviews2 followers
November 10, 2015
This book was strange. There were times when I couldn't put it down, and it was facinating, and others, when I seriously considered not finishing it.

I'm really glad that I did.

It's obvious that the book isn't a modern read, it's got a some what old way of thinking to it. (Even though it was only written in the 70's)

My only argument against 'Time and Again' is that it is sometimes too descriptive and long winded. Chapters that should have been expounded were too short, and other's that were boring and were too long.

I feel as though I have developed a much stronger appreciation for history and the past. I look at black and white pictures now and feel as though I understand more of what is what like to live in that time. And for that reason alone I would say that this book was worth reading.
49 reviews1 follower
August 10, 2009
I had been casually looking for this book for years after a friend/English Lit instructor at Dixie College recommended it to me. I finally found in my local Deseret Industries, a definite treasure. This is a wonderfully gentle book about a New York man who travels back through time to the 19th century. It is a lovely blend of science fiction, historical fiction, and romance and I heartily recommend it. I am strangely taken by the Victorian era, especially Victorian New York City and this book managed to pull me right in. Time and Again goes nicely along side Caleb Carr’s The Alienist and Angel of Darkness (two more recommended books) as wonderful portrayals of 19th century life in New York. Where Caleb Carr’s novels are dark, gritty, and often disturbing, Finney’s 'Time and Again' is a light, romanticized view of those bygone days. I loved this book.
Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,036 reviews691 followers
April 8, 2019
Ah, the fascination of traveling in time.  I dived into this novel prepared to be taken away.  Alas, this was not the case.  I respect the research that went into it, but there was so much description that I got bogged down with it.  The pictures and drawings were more of a distraction than a plus.  Perhaps if I had read it at another time...
Profile Image for Heidi.
1,235 reviews146 followers
August 8, 2019
A delightful read from start to finish... and despite the book being nearly 50 years old, there were times the sentiments of our hero, Si Morley, were timeless.

Its dual settings of 1970 NYC and 1882 NYC was the hook that kept me reading... the details were fascinating and endless, and yet stayed easy to read without getting boring.

The New York of today and yesteryear were both populated with unforgettable characters, charming scenes and historical facts and figures sure to please any lover of NYC history.

A total sci-fi treat with a dash of mystery thrown in for good measure. Maybe my fave book read this year!
Profile Image for Philip.
282 reviews50 followers
August 10, 2009
TIME AND AGAIN is probably the most famous novel about time-travel published in past half-century, and one of the most convincing. I first read it around 1976 or 1977, when it was already becoming hard-to-find (fortunately it was brought back into print in the early 1980s and has remained available every since). I fell in love with it from the very first reading, and have re-read it several times since. It's an "illustrated novel" that's illustrated with photographs and woodcuttings of the early 1880s, when the main story is set.

TIME AND AGAIN is regarded by some as mystery, and others as borderline sci-fi - it also has a nice romantic touch as well. By the time you've finished it you will indeed believe that the past is all around us if we can just turn that corner...

Finney wrote a sequel in the 1990s, FROM TIME TO TIME, but unfortunatley it's not essential. Richard Matheson, who penned his own famous novel about time-travel, BID TIME RETURN, paid tribute to Finney in the screen version, the much-loved SOMEWHERE IN TIME, by giving the name "Finney" to the professor who wrote the book which helps Christopher Reeve go back in time.

Profile Image for Kim.
426 reviews512 followers
September 23, 2014

I like a good time travel story and I love New York City, so this was an ideal novel for me to read. Its narrator, Si Morley, an advertising artist living in New York City in about 1970 (the year in which the novel was first published), is recruited to participate in a secret time travel project run by a government agency. He persuades the agency to allow him to go back to Manhattan in 1882 so that he can witness the genesis of a family mystery that continues to puzzle his girlfriend. As Si travels back and forward between 1970 and 1882, he faces ethical and other dilemmas in both time periods.

As with many time travel stories, it's best to gloss over the technicalities of how time travel is actually achieved. The mechanism in this novel is not at all convincing - you can apparently meditate yourself back and forward in time - but that doesn't matter. The real strength of the novel is its re-creation of late 19th century New York city, which is done both through the narrative and also through the illustrations scattered through the novel. These drawings and photographs, despite or maybe even because of their graininess, help bring the words alive.

Finney clearly did extensive research into the time period and had a particular affinity for New York City at that time. There are times when he went overboard with the period detail. There are also details that he leaves out. For example, while Si Morley refers to poverty and poor working conditions, the 1882 New York City he falls in love with is highly romanticised, as are its inhabitants.

Finney's work allows a contempoarty reader to travel back in time to two distinct periods. 1882 is a long time ago, but these days 1970 also counts as a historical period. This was the year I first visited New York City. I remember some but not all of what I saw, so it was as much fun for me to read about the city as it was in 1970 as it was to read about its 1882 incarnation. It's fair to say that the novel will appeal most to readers who love New York, have some familiarity with its geography and an interest in its history, because the plot and the characterisation are the weakest elements of the novel.
Profile Image for Anne ✨ Finds Joy.
282 reviews67 followers
March 28, 2018
This is a well loved book by many, and I'd received multiple recommendations for it, so I was pretty excited to begin, but sadly, this book wasn't a good match for me.

There were two things that got in the way of my enjoying it more. Firstly, the main character (Si Morley) felt lacking in personality. He told us the story, but it was all "tell" with little emotion. It became tiresome listening to detail after detail of someone's day, like: "I woke up. Then I got dressed. Then I brushed my teeth. Then I went out. Then I stopped at the corner....". (insert yawning emoji here)

Secondly, the plot moved along far too slowly, and did not evoke enough fascination for me to be drawn in. The long descriptions of 1800's NYC life would be more interesting for a reader with more knowledge/interest in NYC, which isn't me. The time travel concept was interesting to ponder, but the book took too long to get to the heart of the story, with the elements of mystery and romance it was setting up for. (insert second yawning emoji here)

Listening to this on audio did not help, as the narrator was pretty monotone, and didn't put any punch into the characters. I sped up the audio, but the story continued plodding along. When I did a check to see how much more of the book was left, I was quite surprised to see that I was already over 50% of the way through, and still not loving it.

I'm thinking this might be a better 'read' than a 'listen'. A book to read when you have time to appreciate the descriptions, and can be patient for the plot to take hold. But I've been reading a lot of fast-paced books lately, and I guess that's more my mood right now. So, I'm gonna chalk this one up to being 'wrong book at wrong time'. DNF @ 56%
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,100 followers
November 5, 2022
I really only wanted to read this because it used to be well-beloved and the author wrote one hell of a great rip-roaring SF/Horror, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

As a romance, it was slow, very mild, somewhat contrived, and beleaguered by a ham-fisted 1880's villain.

As an SF, it spent a lot of time setting up the psychology of time travel in a way that I found quite appealing, almost as if historians and proper mindsets are necessary to inject oneself into a new time. I liked that part. As for the actual science... we can ignore that.

As a historical novel, it spends almost all of its time on average, everyday things.

For the time this came out, I'm sure it was very charming and an extremely mild, armchair romance with a little adventure, a little social commentary, and a little culture shock.

As for a veteran time traveler, I guess I got rather bored.

If you don't like your novels spicy, but firmly middle-class and middle-of-the-road, then you might like this just fine.

Profile Image for Connie G.
1,736 reviews477 followers
September 20, 2020
Simon Morley, an artist working for an advertising agency, is bored with his job. When he is approached by a government agency to work on a secret project, he is intrigued by the idea of a new adventure. This project will take him from 1970 back to 1882 in New York City to unravel a mystery. His instructions are to limit interactions with other people to avoid changing the future. But that becomes difficult as he tries to protect Julia, a lovely young woman, from marrying a man who would make her life miserable.

The book takes a nostalgic look at New York City with very detailed descriptions of the buildings, people, entertainment, and the modes of transportation. Photographs and sketched illustrations of the Victorian era are beautiful, especially scenes of horse-drawn sleigh rides in Central Park. The book picks up its pace in the second half as Simon and Julia find themselves in several dangerous situations. The ending had an unexpected twist.

The sketches, supposedly made by Simon, helped transport the reader to another time and place. Simon's musings about history makes us realize that every era has its problems. Modern technology has fixed some problems, but created many new ones.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the publication of this classic. "Time and Again" is an enjoyable book full of adventure, mystery, romance, and history. Simon's sense of excitement and wonder when he was in 1882 New York was infectious, and I always loved picking up the book again.
Profile Image for Carla Remy.
858 reviews76 followers
March 29, 2017
Maybe it is just me, maybe it is just now, but I could not read this. I got to page 130, and was utterly uninterested. There were a few good details about time and history, but the method of time travel seems too simple, too easy. All you need is a place unchanged by the years, knowledge of the period you're going to, and some good hypnosis? I know, it's fictional anyway, so who cares. And possibly I missed something, since I only read 130 pages. I really enjoyed Finney's Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, was why I got this.
Profile Image for tiffany.
302 reviews95 followers
June 24, 2018
dnf at 136 pages

this book was really boring and it moved super slowly. there was just this one big plot, and everything kinda just happened. there were no problems, and everything basically worked.

i also hated the characters. they all seemed pretty bland and the author tried too hard to make the main character seem funny but he really wasn’t.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,233 reviews1,046 followers
March 4, 2013
A strange cross between a secret-govt.-project time-travel sci-fi novel, a period mystery and a 19th-century NYC nostalgia-fest.
Liberally illustrated with period drawings and photographs that purport to be by the main character (although they obviously aren't) - but it's an original and interesting aspect.
This novel is notable for being by the guy who wrote Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
As is the case with most time-travel stories, the logic of the time-travel concept doesn't really hold up - you need a good suspension of disbelief - but the main focus of the book is a joy and appreciation for the details of New York City life in the 1880's - and the mystery and the romance do hold up their end as far as interest...
I don't know if I'd call it a 'masterwork', but it was interesting to read...
Profile Image for Stuart.
722 reviews270 followers
May 22, 2016
Time and Again: A leisurely tribute to 1882 New York
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
Jack Finney’s Time and Again (1970) has been a long-time favorite among time-travel tales, and has remained in print since its first publication. It was also selected by David Pringle for his Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels. Since I’ve been on a time-travel trip lately, this was a must-listen. It’s narrated well by Paul Hecht, and is a long, leisurely, and loving tribute to the long-gone New York of the 1880s.

Sure, there are some token mentions of poverty among the lower classes, diseases like polio, pocked faces, coal-fired factories spewing smoke, and Horatio Alger street kids scrabbling to survive. But the vast majority of the story is unabashed nostalgia for a more humane time, before modern life had crushed the spirit of man. It also features more rapturous details of classic NY architecture and city life than any other book I have read.

The time travel mechanism, always of interest, is probably the least plausible one I have yet encountered. Essentially, the government has come up with a secret project to travel back in time by creating set pieces in an old NY building which recreate scenes from the past — they then train certain operatives with flexible minds to imagine themselves in specific moments in the past, using hypnosis and lots of visual aids like old photographs, etc. Simon (“Si”) Morley is an illustrator in a 1970s advertising agency, living a mundane life drawing products like soap and bored with his routine existence.

When a burly military man approaches him with a mysterious proposal to do something exciting and completely different, without revealing any details, he is drawn in by his curiosity. There are many pages in Time and Again dedicated to showing how they train these operatives, and Si shows remarkable aptitude for transporting his mind back to 1880s New York. He also has a personal agenda — Katie, the woman he has been dating, has a mystery in her own past, a grandfather who committed suicide and left a very cryptic letter reading as follows:

That the sending of this should cause the Destruction by Fire of the entire World (word obscured) seems well-nigh incredible. Yet it is so, and the Fault and the Guilt (another word missing in the burned area) mine, and can never be denied or escaped. So, with this wretched souvenir of that Event before me, I now end the life which should have ended then.

So Si manages to convince the project managers that he would like to observe events relating to this without interfering, just being a fly on the wall. Despite some resistance, he gets them to go along with it. So now we have our framing narrative, and a reason to go back in time. What follows is 300 pages filled with loving descriptions of the world of New York in the 1880s, a simpler, more vibrant time when people were happier and less complicated.

It’s not completely uncritical, as there are plenty of ignorant and prejudiced attitudes shown among the people he meets. But the book is filled with comments on our modern neuroses, wars, and spiritual ennui, and contrasts this with the more straight-forward pleasures of sleigh rides in Central Park, dinner conversations about events of the day, strolls through the city, and (no surprise here), Si encounters a beautiful and intelligent young woman named Julia who is engaged to an obnoxious brute named Jake Pickering. Before you can mouth the words “love triangle” and “interfering with past events,” Si is actively trying to split up these two for his own selfish reasons. What happened to all that training and warnings about not messing with the past??? Ah, but matters of the heart trump such things…

There are a number of twists involving the relationship of Si, Julia, Jake, and Andrew Carmody, the grandfather of Si’s modern-day girlfriend Katie. I actually enjoyed this part more than I would have expected, as the motivations of the characters did ring true.

Up to this point, I was thinking Time and Again was a solid 3-star book, in many ways just a nostalgic trip back to old New York, but the events of the final chapters really bumped it up to 4-star territory, because they carried more emotional impact than I had anticipated, and the ending… what a bittersweet but perfect way to resolve things. It was unexpected but elegant, and lent more gravitas to the overall book. There was also a telling passage towards the end in which Si silently thinks why Julia would not fit in our modern world, which are an obvious proxy for the author’s thoughts:

No, I won’t let you stay here. Julia, we’re a people who pollute the very air we breathe. And our rivers. We’re destroying the Great Lakes; Erie is already gone, and now we’ve begun on the oceans. We filled our atmosphere with radio-active fallout that puts poison into our children’s bones, and we knew it. We’ve made bombs that can wipe out humanity in minutes, and they are aimed and ready to fire. We ended polio, and then the United States Army bred new strains of germs that can cause fatal, incurable disease. We had a chance to do justice to our Negroes, and when they asked it, we refused. We allow children to grow up malnourished in the United States. We allow people to make money by using television channels to persuade our own children to smoke, knowing what it is going to do to them. This is a time when it becomes harder and harder to continue telling yourself that we are still good people. We hate each other. And we’re getting used to it.

It’s always interesting to read a book about travel back in time that is itself already set in a world (1970) that is now in our past by almost a half century. There are plenty of obvious Mad Men-like sexist attitudes about women in the office, and references to political events of that time, like Vietnam, the Cuban Missile crisis, domestic poverty, race relations, etc., which highlight an author in the past looking even further back to find goodness and human decency. I wonder what Jack Finney would say now about the world of 2016? Or did he surround himself with photos of NY and take the trip back to a simpler time already?
Profile Image for Janelle.
1,216 reviews166 followers
September 8, 2020
What a wonderful read, I loved this time travel novel set in New York City. It was first published in 1970 and I have no idea why I’ve never come across it before because it’s just the sort of thing I like.
Simon Morley is recruited to a secret government project researching time travel using a very simple method. Not everyone can do it, but Si seems to be a natural. He travels back to 1882 and while initially not wanting to change anything he does become involved with people.
It’s written in a really descriptive way, long passages about buildings and clothes, furniture etc which I found really immersive. The characters experience of the differences between the times was vivid eg men chewing tobacco and spitting everywhere, the cold felt by the drivers of coaches, the clothes, the pastimes. There’s some photos and sketches throughout the book which adds to the charm. The plot and characters are good, with more action in the second half of the novel, all round an enjoyable book for me.
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