Review by John for: A Bridge of Years ~ by Robert Charles Wilson
A mind-bending time-travel thriller that is both futuristic and historic – but is above all a story about a man trying to rebuild his life.
About: Tom Winter moves into a secluded house in the remote Northwest of the United States, looking to recover from separation from his wife, job loss and a subsequent bout of alcoholism. The house is deep in the woods and has been empty for almost a decade, but oddly the inside of the house is immaculately clean. As he spends his first few days there, he notices more strange things, which eventually leads to the discovery of a hidden tunnel entrance underneath the house. When he finally journeys through the weird tunnel he finds himself in New York City in the early 1960s.
It turns out that his secluded haven is hiding a portal through which he can travel backwards and forwards from his current-day home to New York City almost thirty years previously. Feeling that there is little left to bind him to his normal world, he spends more time in the City and soon finds himself involved with a woman and the hip community that was evolving in the East Village.
Meanwhile a couple make a startling discovery in the woods near to Tom’s house and meet the time traveller who was the guardian of the portal. They find out from him that a vicious renegade soldier from the far future has also travelled through the same tunnel back to New York, where he is hiding out trying to avoid the brutal life which he had been forced to lead. This soldier will not tolerate any other time travellers in his new domain, and he will seek out and eliminate Tom.
While Tom tries to come to terms with building a new life in the past, he is unaware of both the terrible danger he is the facing and the people who might just be able to help.
John’s thoughts: I liked this book! It’s a clever and twisty story that is both exciting and thought-provoking. And despite its fantastic setting and story line, at its core the story is about personal struggles, relationships, love and trying to build a better life.
Tom is damaged but eminently likeable and you want him to succeed in creating a new life for himself. The guardian of the portal is also a fascinating creation and you root for him as he tries to heal, rebuild the damaged portal and protect people from the soldier. The renegade soldier ought to be someone to despise, but the more you find out about him the more you come to have some sympathy for him and the situation he is in. There are also other interesting characters; and then, of course, there is the mysterious time ghost.
Wilson has a great imagination and creates a fascinating world (or worlds) for his story. He also has some refreshing new takes on the old subject of time travel, and the mind-bending implications of traveling back into the past and changing history. But he doesn’t let the science and fantasy get in the way of a terrific human story.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I’d rate the book 4 stars. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in science fiction, time travel, futuristic/historic thrillers, or stories dealing with trying to mend a broken life.
384 pages; Orb Books; December 2011 (originally published 1991) Hugo Award – Nominee; John W. Campbell Memorial Award – Winner.
Robert Charles Wilson was born in California and lives in Toronto. His novel Spin won science fiction’s Hugo Award in 2006. Earlier, he won the Philip K. Dick Award for his debut novel A Hidden Place; Canada’s Aurora Award for Darwinia; and the John W. Campbell Award for The Chronoliths. http://www.robertcharleswilson.com/