a novel about Richard III in This Time
Bassett Books LLc
ISBN 113: 978-0-9824493-0-1
At one time, I got very, very interested in fifteenth century England, the Wars of the Roses in general, and Richard III in particular. I even considered writing something about that misunderstood monarch, but first, Sharon Kay Penman beat me to it, and second, even before she beat me to it, I couldn't figure out how to write about him. However, knowing something about the period was, in a circuitous way, an influence on my own writing career, such as it has been. I didn't end up writing about Richard III, but as I've said elsewhere, earlier, I always wanted to write a novel set in medieval England. Just knowing others had done this, helped propel me toward that goal, though I am writing about an entirely different period, and my work is quite frankly what I call "romantic science fiction." I can't think of anything else to call it.
Having said all this, I would like to introduce Joan Szechtman's This Time to the reading public. It is, in my opinion, an extraordinary book. She claims it isn't "really" science fiction, but I know my science fiction/s-f-/sci-fi well enough to know that this novel fits quite comfortably into that genre. It isn't so common nowadays, to write about someone from a past era, who somehow stumbles into the present, and I've never heard of anybody before Ms. Szechtman who has tackled Richard III in this way. But she has done an excellent job, which is one reason I think this is a very promising first novel, which is often not the case.
Her premise is that by means of a sort of time machine that acts very quickly, Richard is brought back from his last battle at Bosworth Field, still alive, and someone else's body is substituted for his. Thus, 500 years of legend making begins. He finds himself in, of all places, Portland, Oregon.
The bulk of the story(and this confirms my opinion that the book is a kind of science fiction), concerns his adjustment to "modern times". Without going into detail(I don't want to give too much away), I found the manner of his adjustments both very human and very touching, and at the same time, very funny, both from his point of view, and from the point of view of those who are trying to help him adjust. This was one of the strongest parts of the book, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how he goes about adjusting.
I also think Ms. Szechtman has extrapolated a lot from what is known of the real Richard, both in terms of his history, and his actual personality, and created a credible story from these extrapolations. This shines through quite well, though some readers may feel he adjusts to his new environment awfully quickly, for someone who has been brought forward 500 years. Just one example: how would Richard III, or anyone else from the fifteenth century, deal with the continual bombardment of information available to people living now, through the media and the Internet? I don't know. But Ms. Szechtman has him handling this change almost effortlessly, within a few weeks or months. This is not meant as a criticism, though some readers might find this difficult to swallow.
That said, Joan Szechtman has written a fascinating book, and she plans two more on Richard's adventures and adjustments, to follow in 2010 and 2011. I am looking forward to these. I also think anyone interested in historical figures, science fiction and/or historical fiction, will find this a very good read, regardless of whatever they think about Richard III.
Finally, to further encourage readers, I invite you to read an excerpt from This Time. When I read it, it had me hooked. And I preordered the novel. I'm glad I did.