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Posted March 27, 2012
Time travel, future history, love and loss in the near future-past.
I read J. Conrad Guest’s One Hot January quite a while ago and enjoyed it, but I have a talent for forgetting tales and all I remembered, on picking up this sequel, January’s Thaw, was that the story involved time travel and a 1940s Private Investigator. I thought about picking up the earlier volume and rereading before embarking on January’s Thaw, but I didn’t and so I can confirm, January’s Thaw stands perfectly well alone, though you’ll want to read One Hot January afterwards if you haven’t already. And I still want to read January’s Paradigm too.
Which is prequel and which is sequel becomes a moot point in a novel of intersecting timelines and parallel universes. Which is the real Joe January? How honest an effort can he make to change his own past? And how will he learn to live in the present when yesterday was 1947 and tomorrow is 2047?
There’s a touch of H.G Wells in the author’s explanations and description of the future, with Joe January facing a world of promiscuity, terrorism, excess and modern technology. Time-travelling protagonists question whether changing the past has brought any improvement, and the modern world’s supposed freedoms are well compared with a theoretically benign authoritarianism.
Attitudes to women, love and lust come to the fore with some fascinating arguments about past and future objectification of women. “Love is a choice, not a feeling,” says one of the characters, and respect is a right. “If the rights of even one individual are revoked, then the rights of all mankind suffer,” she says later.
The story’s tightly woven around one man’s hopes, loves and regrets. But the themes are all-encompassing with politics, recent events, abuse, advertising and more, all viewed through the eyes of the ultimate outsider—a man from the past, living in the future, looking forward and back to the present. A fascinating, if sometimes wordy book, with much food for thought and a fine storyline, this is an intriguing novel bound to appeal to anyone who's ever wished H.G. Wells were still dreaming and writing today.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!