Friday, 22 July 2016

Frozen In Time

SM Stirling's Island In The Sea Of Time (New York, 1998) is subtitled "A Novel of the Change." An evocative subtitle. Every novel is about changes in the lives of its characters. Some also describe historical changes. This one is about a change significant enough to be called "...the Change." It will be different from "the Fall" in the same author's The Peshawar Lancers. There is a Changes Trilogy in British juvenile fiction.

The text of Island... covers pp. 9-608 without any blank paper in between. It begins with CHAPTER ONE, March, 1998 A.D., and ends with EPILOGUE, March, Year 3 A.E. There are no Appendices, a frequent feature of this kind of fiction.

"The collapse of the whaling industry during the Civil War era had frozen Nantucket in time, down to the huge American elms along Main Street and the cobblestone alleys. The British travel writer Jan Morris had called it the most beautiful small town in the world, mellow brick and shingle in Federal or neoclassical style. A ferociously restrictive building code kept it that way, a place where Longfellow and Whittier would have felt at home and Melville would have taken a few minutes to notice the differences." (pp 9-10)

(For Nantucket Main Street, see the image.)

Which other North American author of nostalgic time travel fiction might have written that description of Main Street? Poul Anderson, certainly. A visit to Nantucket might suit either Manse Everard or Jack Havig, two time traveling small town Americans.

 "The Midwest of [Everard's] boyhood, before he went off to war in 1942, was like a dream, a world forever lost, already one with Troy and Carthage and the innocence of the Inuit. He had learned better than to return."
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), p. 178.

However, the nostalgic time travel writer par excellence is Jack Finney. A Finney time traveler would find himself in the past merely by walking down that Main Street and would not need a time machine.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I'm not quite satisfied however, with ISLAND's subtitle. The people in the three Nantucket books called the incident which cast them back thousands of years to their past "The Event." It was the characters in the DIES THE FIRE series who called the event which brought down the old world "The Change." A more accurate subtitle would be A NOVEL OF THE EVENT.