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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Review: Three Days to Never

I'm beginning to see patterns in Tim Power's books. Take a few historical characters that are well known, involve them in some secret occult organizations or happenings, stir rapidly, and serve. What I consider his best novel, The Stress of Her Regard involved the romantic poets (Byron, Shelley), gargoyles, vampires, and other such beings, locked into a struggle.

Three Days to Never involves Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, time travel, and the wiping out of entire lifetimes. Rather than narrate directly about these illustrious men, who have enough biographies that even a casual reader might detect falsehoods, Powers works at a second remove, narrating the story of Frank and Daphne Marrity, a father-daughter pair who stumble over the truth when Frank's mother dies --- first, that they are descendants of Albert Einstein, and second, that Einstein left a more terrible secret than the famous equation, E = mc^2. He left a time travel machine that would allow a user to potentially wipe out entire lifetimes, erasing beings as if they had never been.

Two factions, the Israeli Mossad, and a secretive occult organization that's bent on retrieving the time machine for their nefarious purposes. Complicating matters is a wild card, a version of Frank Marrity from the future, who wants his old life back.

Does all this sound confusing? It is. While the central narrative is easy enough to follow along, untangling these threads and motivations made the book unusually slow going for me. Further, I've read enough about Einstein's character to find the depiction of Einstein less than believable, which made the story less than real to me.

The novel rolls along fast enough, and while the ending is reasonable, left me less than satisfied. Too complex to be an airplane novel, but not quite there as a literary fantasy, I cannot recommend this except to Tim Powers fans. The payoff might not quite be equal to the reward.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've skipped over your Declare post, because I'm in the process of reading it right now and don't want the end spoiled. I'm surprised that you were disappointed with Three Days to Never. For me, The Stress of Her Regard is slightly more confusing and the characters were harder to relate to. What I love about Powers' books is the rich, complicated worlds that he creates. I'm also really found of his short story collection, Strange Itineraries. If you like his vampire stories, you'll like "The Way Down the Hill."