Time and Time Again – Ben Elton
It’s the 1st of June 1914 and Hugh Stanton, ex-soldier and celebrated adventurer is quite literally the loneliest man on earth. No one he has ever known or loved has been born yet. Perhaps now they never will be.
Stanton knows that a great and terrible war is coming. A collective suicidal madness that will destroy European civilization and bring misery to millions in the century to come. He knows this because, for him, that century is already history.
Somehow he must change that history. He must prevent the war. A war that will begin with a single bullet. But can a single bullet truly corrupt an entire century?
And, if so, could another single bullet save it?
Thanks to Transworld and Netgalley for my review copy.
In the late 1980’s I was a High School student studying history and learning for the first time about The Great War of 1914-1918. In the evenings I watched the popular television shows of the time and could not help but be aware of the very talented and highly entertaining Mr Ben Elton – I loved his stand-up routines and was (as we all were) a fan of Blackadder.
Fast forward an alarming number of years and I am holding a book written by Mr Elton about World War One – still the period of history I find most fascinating. A dream combination for this reader!
Time and Time Again has brilliant imaginative promise – if you could change one single event to make the world a better place what would you change? It is hard to argue with the logic of trying to stop the chain of events which led to the outbreak of war in August 1914.
That is the approach adopted by Elton. A soldier is offered the opportunity to travel back through time to change history by breaking the chain of events which lead to the outbreak of The Great War. An alternative solution is presented and our solider (Hugh Stanton) is trained to ensure he blends into early 20th Century society. He is given a comprehensive knowledge of people and places which are key to ensuring his mission is successful and then armed with very anachronistic laptop, body armour and i-phone he sets off to Europe with the aim of being at a specific time and place to jump back in time. As you may expect Stanton is skeptical as to whether or not he will actually time travel.
Making sure I avoid any spoilers on plot twists… I found the idea for being able to consider changing one event in the past cleverly reasoned and I liked the idea of ‘great minds’ being entrusted with a secret. There are some entertaining discussions into the ethical nature of taking one life to potentially save millions and you cannot help but feel that a Reading Group could spend some time debating whether the characters are taking an appropriate course of action.
So it is all good on concept, plot and subsequent analysis. However, I found some of the characters just a bit too over the top and it took me a while to warm to the key player (Stanton). Having established a brilliant premise I felt the story lost pace somewhat in the middle, perhaps with a bit too much treading water as the finale was established. That said, I really enjoyed how the story played out and the ending was quite unexpected, a good unexpected!
For a reader with some knowledge of the First World War this is a fun story where Ben Elton plays with figures and events we know and turns things on their head. If your awareness of 20th Century European history is a bit rusty you are in good hands as you are given all the information and detail needed to enjoy an engaging adventure story.
I enjoyed Time and Time Again and it had plenty of positive elements which would ensure a 3/5 score – lots of fun to be had and a thought provoking premise.