Three Days to Never
by Tim Powers
Review by Andrew Brooks
Harper Mass Market ISBN/ITEM#: 9780380798377
Date: 01 December 2007 List Price £3.79 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Tim Powers Interview / Gayle Surrette's Review /
Amazingly Three Days to Never has yet to be published here in the UK, but that shouldn't stop his many loyal British readers from tracking a copy down. Check out this moderately good Powers web site and my thanks to new reviewer Andrew Brooks for his appraisal of this new release and accompanying interview with Powers.
[Editor's Note: Three Days to Never also reviewed in our October 2006 issue.]
Tim Powers's latest novel Three Days to Never, packs quite a bit between the covers. Powers has taken Einstein, Charlie Chaplain's lost Chinese Theater cement slab, time travel, poltergeists, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (not what you're thinking!), gold swastikas, shrunken heads and electronic Ouija boards, and fuses them into what may well be his most accessible novel to date. Those who've never read a novel by Powers may, given that list, think he's overreaching here, but those who know his work and are familiar with previous books such as Declare and The Anubis Gates will know he makes it work. In fact Three Days to Never felt to me a combination of both those books, although there are enough differences to set it apart from the others. It's another of Powers' "secret histories," a mish-mash of mysticism, fantasy and fact, and a good place to start if you've never read any of the author's previous works.
The novel centres on Frank Marrity and his daughter Daphne, although Powers shifts point-of-view to three other characters, all of whom have a stake in the discovery Frank makes in his grandmother's shed. Things pick up when Daphne, watching a videotape also found in the shed - a lost Chaplin film made to assist would be time-travellers - unleashes a latent psychokinetic ability that ignites two fires in their home. Enter two groups trying to find Einstein's time machine - a secret branch of the Mossad and an ancient group calling themselves the Vespers. Both have different agendas for the machine, and right to the end the reader can only guess how far they will go to have it and how indeed they intend to use it. Powers never really dictates to us who is good or bad in this novel. You may have sympathies with two or more characters, but those same characters are all working very much to their own ends. Nothing is black and white, something typical in Powers's work and a treat for those to whom complex characters appeal.
After the principal characters are established, the novel ramps up into a kind of chase thriller, with Frank and Daphne on the move and a number of neat scenes involving poltergeists, the fifth dimension, ghosts, talking heads and an Einstein weapon more horrific than the atomic bomb. Again there is a lot going on, but Tim Powers ties it together convincingly well. I hesitate to give too much of the plot away, not because this is a typical thriller that revolves around chapter ending cliff-hangers (it's not), but because half the fun is in watching how it all unravels and no one does that quite as well as Tim Powers. Here much of the satisfaction is in the unfolding of events and and the coming together of connections.
Another wonderful thing about Three Days to Never, and most of Powers's other novels, is the meticulous research the author clearly does. I sometimes find myself afterwards researching the array of subjects he casually tosses into each book, and it is amazing how he manages to take historical gaps and fill them with such fantastic, yet strangely credible, theories. I found this true of Three Days to Never and it served to keep the story alive in my head long after I'd turned the final page.
The only downside with any novel by Tim Powers is the long wait for the next one!