Saga Press released Gregory Benford’s latest novel, Rewrite, shortly before the end of the year. Charlie Moment, a history professor whose life is going nowhere, opens the action by cruising through a red light into the path of an oncoming truck, and he is gone.
Not dead, actually. He awakes in his childhood home , sixteen again. Everything is as he remembers it, his parents of the time, his old friends, and Woodrow Wilson High School. What he does not know is that he hasn’t simply returned to the past; he’s in an alternate universe. And there is no requirement to relive his life as he had. He can change things.
Okay. I know this sounds like a fantasy, which will turn off those of us with a strong preference for hard science fiction. But I was also reading The Order of Time, by Carlo Rovelli, which was giving me a distinct sense of how little I understood about the way the world works. Or at least how time and space work.
Was Benford’s set-up even remotely possible? I came away from both books with a sense that it could not simply be dismissed. That we’re still on a learning curve.
In any case, Rewrite is a gripping ride which provides some comedy, an opportunity to sit in on discussions with Robert Heinlein, Casanova, Albert Einstein, and Philip Dick. We get to party with Billy Wilder, Roger Ebert, and Steven Spielberg. We find out who really wrote Back to the Future.
Tense action moments are scattered through the narrative, and I came out of it all wondering how the world might have been different had some of the horrific acts of the 1960’s been prevented. And whether the world we are living in really has this kind of wild flexibility.