In this novella, a surgeon finds himself jumping forward in time, with each interval growing longer.
Dennis Tanner, 40, has a good life: he’s a respected general surgeon; he loves his beautiful wife, Rachel, an architect; he has friends and a comfortable Manhattan apartment. But then he begins losing time. At first just a few hours have mysteriously passed. A tox screen and other tests show nothing is wrong with him, but then seven hours go by without his knowledge, and then two years. Dennis barely has time to address his wife’s astonishment at his reappearance before he’s again propelled forward to 2062, with Rachel now an old woman. Each jump takes him further and further forward in time, centuries ahead, to a world where he’s homeless and lost. In 2300, he meets Leah, a friendly woman who has a drink with him. He tells her the truth, which she’s skeptical about, but she asks him interesting questions about 2017. As he answers, he realizes how much he wants to stop and “be anchored in this time, at this moment. Never seeing more than a fleeting glimpse of a world was like being able to watch only movie trailers and never the movie….He could learn to live in 2300. He could adapt.” But it will be 2418 before Dennis learns how and why he’s been pushed forward in time. Adler (Tell Me a Fairytale, 2016, etc.) writes a compelling sci-fi narrative, with the reader as eager as Dennis to figure out what’s happening. In just a few pages, the author stirs a lot of what-if speculation about the future and what it would be like to suddenly travel there, increasingly bewildered by changes in technology and living arrangements. The language, however, stays pretty much the same: surely 400 years would make as much difference to future English as it has in the past. In addition, while the explanations for Dennis’ predicament and how it was brought about make sufficient sense, the novella concludes with these revelations, seemingly on the brink of the real story.
While delivering an intriguing premise, this sci-fi tale ends too soon.