|Submitted by Dan Bieger |
(Apr 13, 2009)
When you pick up a book dealing with time travel, you expect the science to suffer. Mathematically, itís possible but physically there is a small difficulty in the limits of the speed of light and what happens you attempt to exceed those limits. But, offer up a genetic anomaly and maybe it becomes plausible. Make the anomaly inheritable and you have a faux-science that suddenly becomes all too plausible and all too fascinating.
Add in characters that you must care about, the time traveler and his wife, and you have a story for the ages that either trumps all the tropes or ignores them. The traveler goes back and watches his motherís death over and over, his parentsí courtship over and over, and realizes there is nothing he can do to change any of the events. He can observe but he canít affect. He can even discover the approximate time of his own death but thereís nothing he can do to change the outcome; must live it as it happens.
What happens to the woman who grows up knowing that the time traveler exists Ė she meets him for the first time as a child - and frequently meets and chats him with through her formative years. She even comes to realize that she will marry him. And she learns to deal with the idiosyncrasies of his travel, little things like the fact he loses all his clothes, cannot carry any thing with him when he travels, has no control over when it will happen. That would unbalance a lot of people but because she grows up with all this, it is not all that unreasonable to her. Familiarity breeds content.
Perhaps, more than anything else about this book that makes it worth the read, is the horror associated with the attempt to bear children. The genetic anomaly persists into the next generation and that carries terrible consequences for the time travelerís wife. The resolution to the dilemma presented is a powerful exposition in what it means to be this woman.
There are more characters to like and dislike, folk who deal with the traveler and his wife, friends and family that are impacted simply because they know the couple. For example, the wifeís brother has a teenage encounter with the traveler that grows from a horrible incident into a horrible milestone for the traveler and his wife. There is a friend whose sexual escapades both contribute to and resolve the wifeís separation anxieties. There is a housekeeper who provided emotional support to the traveler when he was a boy and to his father who cannot cope with his wifeís death. There is a doctor roped into studying the genes to look for a cure or, at the very least, a means to control the anomaly. And there is the time traveling daughter who learns from both parents the parameters of her own life.
The Time Travelerís Wife is a love story and a good one. More than that, it is a story of overcoming a handicap. And more than that, it is the finest time travel story Iíve ever read. It should have earned a Hugo and a Nebula and the Phillip K, Dick award.