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A Sci-Fi Book About Sci-Fi Books, With Gangsters
on November 21, 2016
In a way, many noir classics involve a sort of time travel. My favorite noir film is Robert Mitchum's "Out of the Past", in which characters out of the hero's past show up to complicate his present and ruin his future. Well, the author of "Take Back Tomorrow" has just turned that figurative haunting of the noir hero's life by his dubious past and uncertain future into a literal tale of time travel. Here, we have a half dozen characters zipping around various decades of L.A. pulling all of the usual noir tricks - scamming, strong-arming, blackmailing, drug running, and so on. The plotting for standard noir usually gets pretty complicated; this book just adds a new literal time travel component.
What makes this more fun, though, is that science fiction stories are the macguffin at the heart of the plot. SPOILER. Here, we aren't selling drugs, or fencing goods, or robbing banks. Rather, the characters are going into the future to steal science fiction stories and books and to bring them back into the past to republish as their own. So, get this, the book is really a science fiction book about science fiction books. Once you buy into the idea that traveling to the future just to steal future books is what you would do if you could time travel, (as opposed to, say, get stock tips or info to get rich gambling), then the rest of the story is easy to take.
This is especially so for sci-fi fans. The author knows the genre, especially from the 30's on, so there is a lot of name dropping about obscure, but real, magazines, serials, publishers and authors. For example, when a future thief mentions in passing a plot that he's brought back, you''ll recognize it as Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall", a story that Isaac can't write in 1941 because it's now already been written. That adds a lot of fun to the read, assuming you're a fan.
Now, the writing itself is serviceable. The main characters are appealing enough to hold your interest. There are some very nicely staged scenes and some sharp set pieces, but there is also a fair amount of more clunky narrative bridging those scenes. There is a fair amount of monologuing and a lot of scenes in which one character explains what's going on to another character. I don't mind that because it is very helpful, in both noir and time travel fiction, to have characters help the reader keep track of what's going on. I guess my point is that this isn't a "literary" or "great writing" read. It's a clever, fun, slightly goofy, time travelling Valentine to sci-fi wearing a noir costume. If that sounds at all interesting to you, by all means hop aboard.
Please note that I found this book while browsing kindleunlimited freebies. I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.