Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A book review, this time. . . .

Szechtman, Joan

a novel about Richard III in This Time

Bassett Books LLc

Milford CT

343 PP.

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.

Anne G

10 comments:

Nan Hawthorne said...

Anne, the same things struck me about this novel that struck you. I sort of had a revelation about it. My husband made a comment about Richard being catatonic when he first wakes up in 2004, but I've decided that wouldn't happen, not with someone intelligent and whose life caused him to have to be flexible and adaptable. I thought about all the time travel books I have read where someone from now is plopped into then.. and we are never shown as catatonic as a result. Someone might say, Yes, but we know what to expect... but I don't think that is really true.. we just think we know.

What I came to realize is that while things would be different their essential natures are the same.. tables, chairs, people, even buildings. it's not like he went into a new dimension. Everything is relatable.

So I ultimately happily suspended disbelief, as Caterina tells Richard to do, and let myself enjoy. It happens this is my favorite sort of story, one where someone from one environment finds him or herself in a different one.. whether time travel or Crocodile Dundee in Manhattan or the guy from Blast from the Past coming out of the bomb shelter many uyears later to discover we didn't blow ourselves up. I love to see how the best characters make sense of it all. In Dundee the line I loved was "That's not a knife. This is a knife." In This Yime it is "He can fly?!"

I agree with you entirely about this book. It is fun, moving, intelligent, well researched, and the characters are marvelous. I will be reviewing it on That's All She Read soon.

Joansz said...

Anne,

Thank you so much for this lovely review. I'm glad you pointed out the speed at which Richard adapted to modern technology--a somewhat contentious point in my own mind. But I felt that the differences in culture and what his emotional needs were would take precedence over the physical adaptation. Thank you for vindicating my choice.

I'll link this review to my website later today.

Joan Szechtman

Anne Gilbert said...

Joan and Nan:

Like I said, I loved the book. The way Joan wrote it, I was able to suspend disbelief easily enough, and I found some of Richard's early awkwardneses rather touchingly funny. Joan certainly made his emotional needs entirely believable. I guess, from my POV, I would have had him reacting somewhat differently, but not entirely so. There are people today, coming from places like Somaila, and other such places, who haven't had access to things like Internet, TV, continual news, etc., who come here to the US to escape the problems, and manage to adjust and even thrive. In a way, Richard's situation would have been similar, thus believable. In any case, I have only the profoundest respect for the work that must have gone into writing This Time
Anne Gcccccccccccccccc

Nan hawthorne said...

Excellent point, Anne, about immigrants... people cope.. that is our species' particular genius.

When did you change your last name to Gcccccccccccccccc?

Nan Hawthhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Anne Gilbert said...

Nan:

Nope. Didn't change my name. It's nothing worse than a (sometimes) keyboard malfunciton that (sometimes) causes the letter "c" to repeat itself. I wasn't able to catch my, um, "name change"!
Anne G

Joansz said...

Early on in writing this book, I talked with a friend who related a story about a young man who was brought to England from a very isolated and remote part of Africa (IIRC). Anyway, he said that the guy adapted quickly to the technological differences. And Richard wouldn't have been as technically behind as this person was.

Anne Gilbert said...

Joan:

People from Africa aren't the only ones. The Inuit communities of the USA and Canada tend to be delighted with more "modern" technologies and equipment. Historically, they have taken these up rather quickly, especially for hunting activities. This process is still going on; many of these "native" communities have websites, for example.
Annne G

Marg said...

This book sounds fascinating! I have added it to my TBR list. Thanks for the review!

Anne Gilbert said...

Marg:

You're very welcome. I enjoyed it very much, and I think you will, too.
Anne G

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