Visions of Paradise

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Three Days to Never

I seldom read contemporary fiction, preferring either the past (historical fiction) or the future (sf). Occasionally a contemporary fantasy will intrigue me, usually written either by Charles de Lint or Tim Powers. Powers’ latest novel Three Days to Never is actually a contemporary science fiction novel (set in the late 20th century) with aspects of fantasy, a bit of a departure for Powers.

The premise is that Albert Einstein, in addition to his “famous” discoveries, also invented a time machine which consisted of some rather convoluted elements. After sampling the time machine himself, Einstein decided it was too dangerous and tried to destroy all its scattered parts. The novel concerns two shadowy groups which are trying to track down and obtain the various parts of the time machine for their own purposes.

While the novel has multiple viewpoints, most of it concerns a single father and his daughter whose recently-deceased grandmother apparently had parts of the time machine and understood their purposes very well. The novel is primarily a thriller as the father and daughter, once they learn of the existence of the time machine, try to elude their shadowy pursuers while also seeking to obtain the rest of it themselves.

It does not pay to think too deeply while reading Three Days to Never, but all the historical connections between Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, the three-Day Arab-Israeli War and other historical elements are fascinating, and Powers successfully pulls it all together at the end. Overall it is much more interesting in my mind than the Dan Brown-type of pseudo-historical thriller, even though Powers’ premise is not any more logical than Browns’ on any scale of believability. Powers is just a much better writer than Brown.


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