Sunday, March 9, 2008

1002. Three Days To Never

"Three Days To Never"

Years ago, I attended a science fiction convention and actually got to meet Tim Powers, the author of a tidy little book I finished reading just a few weeks ago, called: "Three Days to Never". At the time of the convention, when I talked to Tim, I wanted to learn as much as I could about writing. The things that he described to me about the writing task made it seem very daunting, a really difficult profession and a really difficult art. You might have the talent for it, or you have the desire for it, but you might not necessarily have the zeal or the work ethic to pull it off.

Now, I am not saying that those words of wisdom from Tim, put me off from writing, nor am I saying that his approach to writing is the only correct approach. It is true that I have written one Novel, two novellas and a number of short stories on my own. For the most part though, most of what I have written has come from the imagination, using almost only my creative energy to describe people and places, and as people and editors have become more sophisticated, it has become more and more difficult to pull off what I was able to do with ease in junior high and high school. When I was that young, imagination was enough to allow me to describe something with such adequacy and such force of narrative that most adults (especially teachers) found my writings well above average. In fact, creative writing was my strongest subject at school even though I pursued a different career path.

I describe my own experiences in the creative writing arena, not only because this is my Journal, but in juxtaposition to Tim Powers' writing brilliance. Obviously, he is not the BEST author I have ever read, and OBVIOUSLY, "Three Days To Never" is not the best book I have ever read. Yet, it is a tour-de-force and an excellent example in modern American fantasy with a lot of science fiction sprinkled in.

Before I jump into the meat of my review, I have to add a couple more things about Tim Powers the writer. The first thing that impressed me when I met him and talked to him over drinks, was how much of an unassuming man he was. Nothing overwhelming about his personality, a bit of the "professor" look in him, but yet, very down to earth, a very grounded person. The other thing he described to me (I really should say the group that was sharing the opportunity to listen to him) was the way he prepared for his books. In most important scientific jobs, there is a high amount of research involved. I would dare say that Tim performs this amount of research AND MORE while preparing for each one of the books he writes. And it shows.

Events in "Three Days to Never" take place 20 years ago from present day, in the Los Angeles of 1987. This is where the high degree of preparation and research pays off for Tim Powers. I lived through 1987, but even if Los Angeles was my home in that year, I would doubt that I 'd remember specific topographic details or place names, or where a specific road dead ends. Yet, Tim Powers, the author, keeps meticulous notes and records and knows exactly what kind of structure existed on a particular hill behind the "Hollywood" sign in 1987. This is the type of detail that helps this novel rise above the average read and achieve a level of intimacy with the reader that most reading escapades can not match. It is not simple entertainment, but you get to live the lives of the characters.

The main characters are Daphne Marrity and her father Frank, a professor. They and Frank's sister are somehow related to Einstein--this will become clear later in the book. We all of course know that Einstein was the father of the "Theory of Relativity" and later revised "Special Relativity". Throughout his life, Einstein had to contend with a number of issues that arose from the publication of his theories not least of them being the almost simultaneous rise of a competing theory, that of "Quantum Mechanics". Einstein did not outright reject this theory, but yet he had many issues with it. In many ways, Tim Powers attempts to conquer the unheard of task of overcoming the difficulties that Einstein had with "Quantum Mechanics" and putting forth a theory of what he might have achieved if he had done so.

Is it far fetched for Einstein to have created a machine that could change the world? Not when you consider the intellect involved. Are the means that Tim Powers uses to describe the search for this machine and its control that far fetched? I don't believe so -- yet, I have to qualify my statement. I have always been open to psychic powers, out of body experiences, traveling in other planes of existence through a spiritual plane, etc. All these and many other elements can be found in this book. Tim is able to incorporate them, along with excellent descriptions of the people and their motivations and the places that surround them. All in all, this makes for a very interesting tale with many elements reminiscent of a thriller or spy novel, yet, still grounded in the fantastical world of science and fantasy. If you can call that grounded ;-) !!!

I would give this book three stars out of four, and recommend it to anyone without reservation. Now of course, I have to remedy an oversight. I have to go and read other Tim Powers books. I don't know why, but for some reason, even though I met the fellow, I never actually read anything of his until this book. There is a first time for everything, isn't there? And now there is time for more Tim Powers, I say....

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