Description by the author / blurb:
Upon discovering a 1958 book titled “Account of Time Travel on Earth Using Wave Theory,” 42-year-old Max Thorning’s life is thrown into chaos. Seeking answers to the book’s cryptic clues, he discovers Dr. Time, a seemingly benign alien who has control of the Time Weaver, a remarkable device that can command any scene from the Earth’s past. Dr. Time offers him a choice to go back into Time, to any point in his lifespan that he can vividly recall. The catch: he can only bring his memories, and can only live the future one day at a time. Follow Max’s dilemma as he goes back to his 16-year-old self and tries to forge his destiny into a new one called Life II.
It need be said at once: the science behind the time travel concept of „Life II“ is spurious. According to the science of the book, time is a wave, but the human body is made up of matter, hence persons cannot transport their bodies through time, only their brain waves – including their memories. That’s why it would be impossible for Max to physically travel back in time and meet his younger self. Instead, he replaces the brain waves, the personality of his younger self. However, since Niels Bohr it is established that waves and particles are just two sides of the same coin. Yet Dr. Time insists: „ … matter can never pass through time.“ – „Only waves,“ Max agreed.
But I realised the explanation of time travel in „Life II“ only serves to anchor some inner-story coherency. It would miss the point to probe for scientific plausibility. After all, its quite comical when, due to the book’s time travel concept, Max tries several times to assume the exact same body posture and psychic state he had at the moment in time he wants to return to – when he was making a significant catch in a lacrosse game.
As for the other sci-fi aspects, the reader is best advised to see them in a humorous light as well. Dr. Time reveals herself to be an alien and she tries to prove that to Max by… performing mind-boggling calculations and exhibiting stunning juggling-skills. First I gawked at this alien making her point by vaudeville feats. Then I saw the comical side of it, and smiled.
The novel takes lightly its paranormal aspects. Max discovers the book on time travel, searches for a hidden code in the table of contents, falls on the key words „Athens, Greece“ and an address – and quite inexplicably jumps to the conclusion the author must have hidden a treasure at the address – and takes a flight to Athens. The reader might be confused by Max’ firm conviction about the treasure hunt, but he shouldn’t be. He should see the comical aspect of it and go along with Scott Spotson, go along with Max’ antics.
At the end of the novel, Lucinda, another time traveller, tells Max she beliefs that „there are thousands of them on Earth already“. Yet she thinks that by destroying the single Time Weaver of the single Dr. Time they know of – the one in Athens – they can stop the whole supposed alien invasion at once. Lucinda also voices a completely unbacked theory about the precise way the aliens are plotting their invasion. Still: „Max was intrigued by Lucinda’s proposition.“ Again, about everything surrounding the paranormal aspects, the book would be ill-judged by putting it to logical scrutiny. I’m quite certain that humour is intended, and humour is not logical.
This is not to say the novel is a quirky lightweight read. To the contrary! In everything not pertaining to the paranormal points, that is, in everything pertaining to the grip of real life, the story surprises by its degree of maturity and reflection.
Max, dissatisfied with his Life I, wants start it afresh. He goes back to when all guardrails could still be set, when he was sixteen. He leaves behind his job, his wife, his kids. They will never be born. Max shrugs at it and jumps into the freshness of Life II. At this moment, the reader may find that hard to believe, but very soon Max realises the repercussions of his action and suffers from them. He, after all, made the existence of his unique kids impossible. Their memory will haunt him throughout the novel. And in other ways Life II falls short of the promise Max saw in it, though he really had been warned by Dr. Time from the beginning: „[Problems in your present life] only exist for the moment. Never make decisions based upon problems.“
But Max goes doggedly ahead in drafting his new blueprint of life: „Live your new life the way you were meant to.“ And at first he has no doubts about how he was meant to do it. He wants to become a doctor, works hard at school and university, and is pushed on by his new-found friend in Life II, Nathan: „Don’t question yourself. Just do it.“
The divorce of his parents, the elopement of his sister, the death of his uncle by unspotted cancer etc.? Everything that went wrong in Life I, Max works to set it straight. But now his actions, too, have consequences he cannot foresee: „Max started to dread … he could inadvertently make people’s lives worse.“
And finally even Life II, despite its luminous promises, takes a down-hill swing: „Re-living time exhausted him, demoralized him, and sapped him of hope and energy.“
As the years in Life II pass by, Max questions whether his dissatisfaction with Life I had warranted his escape from it and whether his second existence in Life II really has blessed him with superior happiness.
„You were cheating fate,“ his best friend Garfield wisely explains. „Fate is not about second chances.“ Your first series of choices in Life I weren’t a blunder, weren’t an error, Max. They were, after all, your choices, and thus a genuine expression of your personality.
With this I have just cast a fleeting light on the questions about life-wisdom dealt with in an imaginative and intriguing way in „Life II“. Although the story covers a 26-year period, it’s closely knitted and never gets distracted from its principal argument. My only grief about the novel is that it’s pace could have been quickened at some points by introducing more moments of excitement, implying a peril to the characters or their purpose. As it stands, the book doesn’t sport scenes of thrill and action. Yet it always is engaging, as the reader wants to find out how Max will go about in forging his second life. „Life II“ appeals by its thoughtfulness and has both a melancholic and optimistic ring to it.
Rating: 4 of 5 stars