Archive for March, 2010
Someone else has reviewed and updated the research into Slow Glass, this time with a little bit more scientific description. This published on laboratoryequipment.com dealing with work done at the University of Warwick talks about how scientists use ‘doughnut-shaped byproducts of quantum dots to slow and even freeze light’. ‘Details are reported in Physical Review Letters‘, which specialises in short publications; hence the ‘letters’.
A few searches on Physical Review Letters didn’t turn up anything so maybe it is the print edition, with online publication later. However, on the page of one of the lead researchers at University of Warwick there is a link to the news item and I note a podcast is due soon.
The Two Timers is one of Bob Shaw’s earlier novels, dating from 1968, and like his first few early novels published in America before being published in the UK. Indeed The Two Timers, actually his third novel, was the first of Shaw’s novels to be published in the UK, by Gollancz in 1969.
The basic plot of the novel is standard SF fare, but Shaw lifts this novel up with his characterisation and the emotional depth that he puts into the main characters. Conflict and consequences of choice are prevalent throughout the book, and indeed are the driving force of this novel.
I remember vaguely Roger Moore starred in a film with a comparable plot, released around the same time – give or take a couple of years either side. I can’t even remember the name of the film let alone when it was released. I do remember it had that late sixties early seventies feel to it and was made by Moore before he became Bond.
The novel The Two Timers starts with John Breton receiving a telephone call from someone who says Breton has been living with the other’s wife for the past nine years and he’s coming round to the house to reclaim her. Breton’s first thought is that it is a practical joke. Breton returns to his wife and house guests, who are indulging in automatic writing, the result of which is a poem that puts Breton on edge. Breton remembers the night he almost lost his wife and a mystery is introduced when it is revealed she was saved by a mystery man who disappeared. After escorting their dinner guests to their car Breton stays at the doorway to smoke a cigarette in the cool evening air, and then is surprised by the appearance of the man who called him earlier, still on a mission to get back his wife.
The second chapter takes up from that moment and is told from the perspective of the other Breton, Jack Breton. Jack proves who he is with the recounting of an early personal memory. Jack Breton tells a tale of a night when his wife was attacked; only with his tale his wife dies and is not saved by a stranger. He blames himself; so much so that he ends up in hospital. Breton continues to replay the incident in his head, and he slowly begins to think that he can travel in time.
Months pass and the idea that he can find a way to travel through time seeps into him and consumes him. Then he does go back in time and saves his wife. But on returning to his present he finds that nothing has changed, he remembers her funeral, she is not at the family home; greeting him with open arms and a smile. And so his quest to regain his wife begins again.
The appearance of Jack Breton into the lives of John and Kate Breton is a very neat, incredibly inventive twist in the eternal love triangle. The situation becomes which version of Breton will win the woman?
The novel develops further with a new twist in the story in that there appears more and more evidence for mind to mind contact, telepathy: the poem from the first chapter proves to be something that the new arrival, Jack Breton, had written in his despair, and tests in laboratories showed success for some people up to a level of one hundred per cent in psychic tests. Add to this the fact that the original police officer who investigated the case still has suspicions about Breton and the tensions in the story ratchet up a notch.
I read the novel in a couple of sittings way back in the late eighties, having bought a second hand edition of the SF book club printing of The Two Timers. I recently purchased a Gollancz hardback copy for quite a bit of cash, although I’ve still to get a paperback copy of the book. When I first read this novel it was a fun, enthralling read.
Shaw grabs you right at the start and drags you through a story of alternative timelines, alternative universes and personal turmoil. It’s a novel that is more emotive and dealing with deeply personal issues than some of his works and is all the better for it. Of course, it can’t be any less personal seeing as the protagonist is facing an antagonist who claims to be him. Even though it’s one of his earlier novels and not as well developed as some of his later and more mature work – which only comes from time – it is a well constructed, well plotted and very well executed work.
I found The Two Timers a satisfying read when I first read it and a very good and competent piece of writing when I went through it again to brush up on it before starting this review. In the later chapters of the book there are a lot of characters introduced who have little to do with the main plot, and although they may have been introduced to show the effects of the time travel, it does deter a little from what is a powerful and tantalizing story that is well told by Bob Shaw.