Ben Elton has a very clever and intriguing idea behind Time and Time Again. To sum up, an upcoming glitch in time which is only known to a group of Cambridge scholars, will allow somebody from 2025 the opportunity to travel back through time to 1914, where they may be able to change the future (or what we think is our history).
Ben Elton has a knack of writing about topical subjects. Inconceivable was a story about relationships and IVF, Dead Famous was based on Big Brother at the very height of the reality television show’s popularity, while Chart Throb was set around The X Factor. Time travel is always going to be a popular ‘what if’ for conversations, movies or a books, and as such, this book may not date in the way the author’s other books might.
Time and Time Again begins in 2025, when the main character, Hugh ‘Guts’ Stanton, visits his old Master of Trinity, Professor Sally McClusky, on her request at Christmas. Hugh is a widower whose wife and children were killed in a hit and run accident the year before.
Hugh was a British soldier who earned the nickname ‘Guts’ because of his bravery. After becoming an internet celebrity, Hugh was eventually asked to leave his Regiment because his fame compromised his and his Regiment’s anonymity.
Professor McClusky and her fellow members of the Companions of Chronos open a sealed envelope from Sir Isaac Newton, telling them how to use a loop in time, and select Hugh to use the opportunity.
After much debate about which event (or events) to alter, Hugh is tasked with preventing the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose death started World War One in 1914.
The time travel itself goes to plan (more or less), and Hugh gets to experience a more gracious and beautiful world than that of 2025. He visits cities which have been destroyed forever by war, at the height of their glory. Motorised vehicles are rare, food tastes better, smoking is everywhere and suffragettes are trying to get the vote. Mobile phones, computers and other modern devices may or may not ever come into existence, with Hugh attempting to save the world from war and the future which followed.
Hugh successfully prevents the death of the Archduke, but that is not the end of the story. This action is another beginning for the story.
There is romance and adventures and the most exotic travel imaginable in this book. At one point I found myself believing Time and Time Again completely and thinking, this could happen. We’re a long way from 2025, and dropping Sir Isaac Newton’s name into the mix makes the romantic idea of time travel seem possible. I wanted Hugh to succeed, so I could enjoy the glorious future that Hugh, Professor McClusky and the Companions of Chronos expected to follow.
But not everything happens in this story as you imagine it will and changing the past altered the future in ways that the Companions of Chronos had not envisaged. I won’t go into any details because this book should be read and enjoyed without spoilers, but I will say, there were so many twists in the last part of the story that I had to re-read the last chapters after rushing to the ending on my first read.
I could not put Time and Time Again down.