THE BOOK OF TIME
by H.G. Wells and Richard A. Lupoff
An Introduction by Fender Tucker
A Time For Ideas
Sometimes you read a book because of the wonderful style of the author. You relish the phrasing, or the timing, or the vocabulary, and keep on reading to find more of what you enjoy. Or if it’s fiction you might get off on the plot, wondering what will happen next and if the hero will make it through the book alive.
These are all good reasons for reading books, especially modern books by authors who have been schooled in the art of making things swift and accessible. Authors who don’t write swift prose are relegated to print-on-demand publishing and their books will probably never find themselves on the grandest altar of 21st century literary glory: the shelves at Wal-Mart.
H.G. Wells is an exception. His prose is as stodgy and slow as any of his contemporaries of the early 20th century but there’s a chance that some of his books might be embraced by the Walton cartel. I’m thinking War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, or The Time Machine. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of them at Wal-Mart because they are classics which occasionally get placed on the shelf next to the latest teenage vampire novel — and because movies have been made of them.
But the other author featured in the book you’re holding now will, alas, probably never make the Wal-Martian pantheon, even though films have been made of some of his works, including a story in this book. Richard A. Lupoff writes like a modern man, recognizing that the reader doesn’t have time to parse every complex sentence for its meaning, and doesn’t engage in the “see-how-erudite-I-am” vanities of our great-grandfathers. He has a story to tell and presents it in a linear and mostly concise manner. In that respect he makes an odd bookfellow for H.G. Wells.
THE BOOK OF TIME is an anomaly in today’s literature. It has both the old style of Wells and the modern style of Lupoff and each is represented by several examples. For Wells it’s the immortal novel THE TIME MACHINE, and the short stories “The Gray Man” and “The Chronic Argonauts”. For Lupoff we have the short stories, “Nebogipfel at the End of Time”, “12:01” and its sequel, “12:02”.
THE TIME MACHINE has been filmed twice and “12:01” three times. The first TIME MACHINE, with Rod Taylor (1960), had its charms but the second, with Guy Pearce (2002), was universally disappointing. We can be thankful that Hollywood hasn’t considered “The Gray Man” and “The Chronic Argonauts” because you know they’d be bad.
“12:01” is another matter. The first version of it was a 1990 British short film that captured the spirit of Lupoff’s story of a “time bounce”, where the world is caught in a loop, repeating the same snip of time over and over again. In 1993 two full-length films were made in Hollywood. The first, entitled 12:01, was made with Lupoff’s approval, but it was eclipsed by the second, a film with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell called GROUNDHOG DAY. No credit was given to Lupoff for the idea and although he and the producers of 12:01 complained of plagiarism, the big bucks of Hollywood prevailed. Nothing new about that.
What sets the two authors and their stories about time apart from the rest of literature and film is the originality of their ideas. In Wells’ time, the idea of traveling through time at anything but the normal rate or direction was completely original. In Lupoff’s time, the idea of a time bounce was completely his own. Both men were rewarded with published books and films — unequally, I’m sure — and now this Ramble House book places them together for handy comparison, along with their spin-offs.
Original ideas are not easy. They don’t come very often but when they do, they are impossible to kill. Wells had his in 1895 and Lupoff had his in 1990. THE BOOK OF TIME has both of them and for an investment of a few hours of your time you can read them one after the other. And Ramble House guarantees that neither Hollywood nor Wal-Mart had anything to do with the words in this book. Take your time and enjoy. That’s what time is for.
February 1, 2011