Two members of a family—from different time periods—use psychic abilities to manipulate past events but with conflicting purposes in Chiocchi’s (Baby Boomer Bust?, 2010, etc.) sci-fi tale.
There’s a curse in the Pennfield family. Certainly, college professor Chris believes so, partially blaming his alcoholism and philandering ways on a ghost’s centurieslong vendetta against the Pennfields. In 2007, he writes a letter for future descendants, warning them of the curse and convincing Jimmy Mashimoto-Pennfield in 2052 that he himself is cursed. Chris and Jimmy, like other Pennfield men throughout the years, have experienced “unexplained psychic incidents,” namely seeing apparitions. Chris, however, uses his psychic ability to peek back at 1963, looking for a way to explain his relative’s—then–7-year-old Shippy—catatonic state and consequent institutionalization. Chris surmises it’s curse-related. Jimmy has a similar idea, only he hopes to alter the past to keep Shippy out of the sanatorium, theorizing that Shippy will be cursed later, which will, theoretically, reset events and allow Jimmy to save his own skin. Chris’ vivid dream afterward shows him the altered past, and believing Shippy is now unquestionably cursed, he returns to ’63 to undo the change. He and his scientist pals, rightly presuming they’re up against a future Pennfield, may soon have to rescue Shippy from a fate worse than institutionalization. The novel is just as complicated as it sounds, but the author ably leads readers through the multiple storylines. He structures the narrative using two time periods—Chris in 2007 and Jimmy in 2052—generating an unhurried but absorbing pace. Jimmy’s selfish motive makes him an unequivocal villain, but there are a few twists, including a surprise relationship and curious backdrops, like the future world ruled by a series of “virtual governments.” Each time Shippy’s fate changes, the plot is harder to follow, but explanations and subsequent resolutions are logical.
An atypical time-travel story as dense as it is fascinating.