Running Out of Time
, not to be confused with the song
or the film, is a 1995 Science Fiction young adult
novel by Margaret Peterson Haddix.
Jessie Keyser has lived 13 years thinking that she lives in a rural village called Clifton in 1840s Indiana. When her village is struck with a bout of diphtheria, her mother tells her the truth: The year is really 1996, and Clifton is nothing but a replica of a historic village, or a tourist attraction. Jessie is sent to go get the cure for diphtheria in secret in the outside world from a scientist named Mr. Neely. But something more dangerous is afoot when Jessie's search ends.
Rumors exist that The Village
is inspired by this. For the trope that means "running out of time", see Race Against the Clock
Tropes used by the novel:
- Big Brother Is Watching: Since the tourists obviously can't interact with the villagers, special portraits of the President, trick mirrors, and similar tactics are used to let them observe from afar. At least one tourist has commented on how voyeuristic it all is, but the tour guides cheerfully explain that the villagers are aware of the surveillance and have all consented to it, so if no one has any further questions, we'll be moving right along...
- Born in the Wrong Century: Jessie's dad is said to prefer 1840 to 1996, and therefore really enjoys his life in Clifton and has a hard time separating from it and going back to the present.
- Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: It's heavily implied that the reason Jessie's father joined the Clifton community in the first place and is so reluctant to leave it is because he has an untreated mental disorder.
- Chekhov's Gun - The fat environmentalist's comment about how you can't trust the water, referring to a ditch that Jessie was about to drink out of, ends up saving her when she's given a glass of water with a sedative dissolved in it. She remembers talking to him and dumps the water out the window instead of drinking it.
- Evilutionary Biologist: Frank Lyle, whose reason for letting people get sick in the town was to strengthen the immune systems of the survivors.
- Fish Out of Temporal Water: A non-literal form of this trope, as Jessie is not really from 1840, but from a strictly-run historical preserve. However, 1996 is completely alien to her.
- Innocent Bigot: When Jessie gets to the outside world, she meets a black girl and briefly considers commenting on how surprisingly smart she is and asking her what it's like to be a "Negro." Fortunately she doesn't get a chance to actually say it.
- Masquerade: The adults who joined Clifton when it was founded obviously know the truth, but they raised their children to believe it was the 1840s. They were initially meant to explain everything to the kids once they were old enough to understand, but that ended up being forbidden before any of the children could find out. The odd anachronism, such as the word "okay," still manages to creep in, which does not please the men in charge.
- The Nineties: The book describes trends from the real present day and how they seem strange.
- Past Right Now: The existence of the historical preserve, essentially a key aspect of the story.
- Playing with Syringes: Clifton is actually the brain child of a few scientists, funded by a millionaire, who are trying to breed a race of super humans by releasing various diseases into the water until the survivors are immune to all of them.
- She Knows Too Much: Jessie's knowledge of what's happening in the town is reason enough for them to want to kill her.
- Truman Show Plot: Variant...not a reality show per se, but close enough. Only the children didn't know the truth.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Frank Lyle, who intended to strengthen humanity against diseases.