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February 2003
2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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A Shortcut in Time by Charles Dickinson
Forge Hardcover: ISBN
097188191X PubDate Jan 03
Review by Rob Archer
288 pages List price $24.95  
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In A Shortcut in Time, the newest offering by Charles Dickinson, the author takes on the topic of time travel in an entertaining and thought provoking way.  I really liked how he made use of the Law of Unintended Consequences.  The entire concept of traveling back and forth through time is one that is generally romanticized, and here the author hints at some of the raw emotional trauma that might ensue from being so far from all that you know and what connects you with your contemporaries.  That said, it is probably best to not try to map out many of the affects that are caused by the jumping of time.  Once weve suspended disbelief long enough to accept time travel, we must also tolerate  the little inconsistencies that crop up in the book as they are not really sufficient to mar the story.

The story is of paramount importance here for this is most definitely a plot driven tale - one that resonates  with concepts from other time travel stories, most notably in some respects to Back to the Future with its admonition to Marty McFly that interfering with his parents meeting could mean hed never be born.  I was never able to quite get around that it almost seemed like I was reading the outline of a made-for-television movie.

Another drawback was that although I enjoyed the pacing and plot twists I never felt really connected to any of the characters.  It was easy enough to root for them as they are not unlikable, but the emotion was provided by the circumstances, not because you ever really cared deep down what happened to the character per se.  There were a number of relationships that could have been more deeply explored that would have given the reader a much more connected feeling.

A nice touch was the non-formulaic ending to the story.  Were all used to everything being wrapped up quite neatly before a book finishes, and this definitely went in a slightly different direction.  But one of the drawbacks of that was there was no real closure to the story.  Dickinson leaves us with a nice little twist, though it is one that seems to be somewhat of a conundrum.  The one thing sorely lacking from the closing chapters is a disturbing absence of emotion.  The main protagonist seems to go on autopilot when struck with the reality of his situation, although this could possibly be explained away by the memories that seem to come to him of a life that he never lived.

In this day and age of books that can double as doorstops or small coffee tables, it is rare to feel that a story was just too short.  But thats exactly how Id classify A Shortcut in Time.  At a svelte 288 pages, you never truly are able to dive into the world he crafts.  This is not to say that it is not an enjoyable tale as it certainly is, I just thought it ended before I could ever get myself emotionally invested in the characters.

All in all, A Shortcut in Time is a nice quick read that will only take a few days at the most.  The story moves along swiftly and is a bit of a page turner.  If you are looking for a light enjoyable read, then this book will do nicely. 

sfr3d.gif (19860 bytes) 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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