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WILL YOU BE THERE? by Guillaume Musso


by Guillaume Musso & translated by George Holoch

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-340-93371-8
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton/Trafalgar

Pills with strange powers allow a dying doctor a chance to revisit and perhaps alter his past.

Musso’s tale of time travel comes up flat. When his protagonist, 60-year-old doctor Elliott Cooper, on a humanitarian mission to Cambodia, operates and mends a child’s cleft palate, a village elder asks the doctor to name his greatest wish. Cooper replies that he wants to go back to the ’70s and save the life of a woman he loved. The elder hands Cooper a blown-glass bottle containing ten golden pills. The pills take Cooper where he wants to go, though he’s never sure if they’re just inducing dreams, however vivid. And though he tracks down Ilena, his lost love, Elliott, in his trips into the past, must also confront the taunts of a nearly derelict man dying of lung cancer. The man turns out to be Elliott in the present. Saving Ilena raises complications involving a child Elliott fathered and his lifelong friendship with another friend, Matt. Musso’s premise and the question it raises—can one revisit the past and alter the present and future?—produce a modicum of suspense. But even if read as a treatment for a screenplay, the narrative is thin and unsatisfying. As characters, Elliott, Matt and Ilena are virtually ciphers, defined by notes on their careers and by brief physical sketches. Dialogue is stilted and the prose offers more than a few howlers: “a fingerprint is a unique work of art that takes place in the months before birth”; “he’d thought this whole time traveler business was trouble.”

A wearying commute through time.