So, once again, for the 7 billionth time in science fiction, a brilliant scientist (you know, distinguished, silver haired, white lab coat) working on some super-high-tech contraption flips a switch and – BLAMMO! – he plunges the entire planet into chaos!
I hate it when that happens. Well, I guess it can be okay if the situation results in some thrilling science fiction fun -- and I will grant there is some of that in this worthy effort, TOWARDS YESTERDAY, which is a first-time novel venture for writer and journalist PAUL ANTONY JONES.
There is much to like, but equally as much to criticize in this attempt to write a fast-paced, pot-boiling sci-fi yarn very much in the tradition of Dean R. Koontz, although this offering blows a tad more technological, whereas Koontz leans more toward horror.
In brief, this is a time travel scenario in which the entire human race gets thrust 25 years back in time by an experiment with tachyon particles that goes badly awry. The situation offers plenty of opportunity for interesting premises – such as the dead being “revitalized” when they are allowed to wake up again 25 years in the past. Old people are young and vigorous again. Widowed husbands are joyfully reunited with dead wives, a man gets to see his long-dead child alive again. And this is juicy: Adults suddenly find themselves back in their childhood bodies, but with their grown up minds and memories all intact! Nice!
But the shock of the sudden and inexplicable time quake also creates societal chaos and a period of readjustment, forcing all of humanity to come to grips with a mind-numbing set of circumstances. The calendar gets instantly dialed back from year 2042 to 2018. Yow!
What’s agonizing about this novel is that it often misfires even when the author is doing all the right things. I mean, he gets and “A for Effort” is his ability to keep the action going – but unfortunately, some of the action scenes come off as numbingly tedious in their rendering. For example, if you want your hero to bash in the head of a bad guy with a car bumper – why spend a whole page or so describing in minute detail the process of tearing the bumper off a wrecked car as we wait for the head-bashing?
The bigger problem for me, however, was the uneven inner psychological workings of the characters. For example, the main character, Jim Baston, alternates back and forth from tormented “inwardly destroyed” man who killed his own daughter and ruined his marriage, to happy-go-lucky brilliant scientist and writer who easy-breezily falls in love with a sexy young mathematician. In one scene, Baston endures a gut-wrenching reunion and conversation with his ex-wife whom he thought was dead (along with his little girl) -- and right on the next page he is enjoying wine, a candlelight dinner and hot romance with his new number-crunching honey!
Also, one of the most promising and primary characters, the preacher Jacob Pike, just kind of recedes into the background of the plot and basically fades out of the story -- which is kind of inexplicable. A final and truly critically flaw of the story is the way the toughest challenge the characters are grappling with resolves itself – not through direct action of the heroes – but rather through a happy circumstance of science. This sort of "oh, we never thought of that" situation destroys the punch of the ending.
But, you know what? – I am going to do some of my own time traveling right now and predict the future. My prediction is this:
That one day Paul Antony Jones is going to be a millionaire because he will be a best-selling author. No, I’m not being snarky or cynical, or just trying to be nice. Not in the least. I just bet it happens. This author has everything it takes. His writing skill (which is considerable) can produce the kind of mass-market page turners that publishers love to promote, and gazillions of readers like to buy to read on the beach, or while riding the bus, or just to enjoy.
Ken Korczak is the author of: THE FAIRY REDEMPTION OF JUBAL CRANCH