I am not quite sure what to say about this novella. It was very well written. But it was more of a collection of short stories that were loosely tied together than an actual novel.
James is a quiet boy who has befriended an old physicist. When James inherits a time machine he begins to travel through time only to find out it’s not all it’s really cut out to be. This is woven with the story of a girl who was knocked out during a bombing and has lost her family. These two stories are constantly interrupted by other brief stories. The only thing they all have in common is that the people aren’t where they should be or don’t know where they should be. I was not sure where the other brief stories came from; I think they are stories that James read, although they could have been things James experienced.
If the above sounds kind of confusing, well it was. The writing itself was exceptional and even the briefest of stories drew you in and developed the characters in great depth. The way the story was put together was confusing, and the constant interruption of the main story with unrelated side stories, made the whole book seem a bit schizophrenic. Trying to figure out what was going on as I read the book was difficult, I finally just decided to enjoy reading the stories for what they were individually and trust that everything would come together and make sense in the end. Well, my trust was misplaced. Some of the things made sense, while others were left dangling. At one point James’ sister herself is reading a Book of Unfinished Tales, where the stories are left dangling with apparently no meaning. I almost felt like Marsden added this part to excuse his own collection of dangling stories.
So while this was an intriguing and well-written book; I thought it was organized poorly and kind of only got halfway to where it was trying to go. It is a slow and meandering read, although the book itself is very short. The writing was good enough I might check out some of Marsden’s earlier books; I wouldn’t really recommend this book though.