Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Ronald Wright

Pub Date: March 20th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-18172-8
Publisher: Picador

 An era-hopping first novel takes a lovelorn London curator on an escape to the future via an H.G. Wellian time machine--only to find humankind not at home. Canadian Wright (Stolen Continents, 1992, etc.), born in England, builds on his award-winning nonfiction and travel writing in this fast-forward fantasy. Though it's long since ended, the romance of curator David Lambert with enigmatic archaeologist Anita has been the defining experience in his life- -until a letter from Wells himself falls into his hands, leading him to be there when the time machine makes its fiery return in the first moments of the new millennium. Keeping his find of the machine secret, David works feverishly to understand and modernize it, spurred on in his desire to surge ahead by a chance reading of Anita's obituary (dead of mysterious causes at age 32) and by his own illness, diagnosed as mad-cow disease. Brought forward a half-millennium in a flash, he arrives in a now- tropical England and discovers London burned and overtaken by the jungle. David sets off for Edinburgh, hopeful that some people can be found in the cooler Highlands, keeping a journal all the while in which he ruminates about his former life with Anita and Bird, her other lover and his best friend. Still farther north, a herd of llamas leads him at last to the human contact he's so craved. Imprisoned and treated with suspicion at first, since he's fair-skinned and everyone else is black, David persuades his captor, Laird Macbeth, that he's harmless. Ultimately, he learns the fate of civilization, but not before renewed suspicions among Macbeth's devoutly Christian folk compel him to play Christ in a literal reenactment of the Crucifixion. Vividly elegiac in style and enveloping enough in its mystery, but for long stretches this remains a one-man roadshow- -and suffers from a lack of substance in the supporting cast.