Time and Time Again – Ben Elton

Back when I first started bookselling Ben Elton wrote his first novel, Stark, and it seemed like an odd departure for a massively popular stand-up comedian (well, it did in those days…). However, over 25 years and he is now on his fifteenth novel, a First World War based time-travel-fest called Time and Time Again.

Ben EltonWorld Wars and time-travel are subjects which go together well – if you could go back in time and change things so that Hitler was never born or Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand didn’t visit Sarajevo you’d probably jump at the chance. You could probably save millions of lives and make the world a better place. Probably…

I really enjoyed this book because every time you thought you had it under control it slips out of your grasp. Hugh Stanton, a maverick ex-soldier with nothing and nobody left to live for, is the perfect choice for an assassin to travel back in time and prevent the death of an Austrian Arch-Duke – until you discover why he is all alone in the world. And then, once his mission is complete you suddenly realise that you are only half-way through the book – there is obviously a lot more to this time-travel stuff than first appears. This is a book full of unexpected consequences stretching back to the age of Sir Isaac Newton and onward into an unspecified future. Sometimes confusing, but in a good way…

Ben Elton’s comedy was always an acquired taste and his work outside stand-up – from the sublime Blackadder to the rather less well-received The Wright Way – has met equally mixed reviews. His novels, however, have always hit the spot with me. The early ones were ecologically aware and left-leaning (which suited me then – and probably still would now, to be fair) and they have gone on to become thought-provoking views of modern life.

Jane

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