A classic Time Travel novel written in 1970 by Jack Finney. Commercial artist Simon "Si" Morley is chosen as a candidate for a government experiment in Mental Time Travel. However, Si (through his girlfriend) has a personal stake in the time period in question, which leads him to take a trip back to the New York of the 1880s. Slow-paced, exceptionally well-researched intrigue follows as Si attempts to solve a nearly hundred-year-old mystery.
Much of the early part of the novel is devoted to the protagonist's lovingly created nostalgia for the period, creating a definite mood for the setting.
Finney wrote a well-received sequel much later, From Time To Time (1995), before he died.
This book provides examples of:
- Born in the Wrong Century: The premise of the novel.
- The Chosen One: Si Morley. More accurately, he's one of the chosen few. Unusually for this trope, the process of finding and recruiting the very few people capable of time travel is portrayed as being handled rationally. The US government systematically trawls through army records.
- Establishing Character Moment: In his first proper appearance, Jake Pickering very nearly (and very intentionally) breaks Si's hand with a handshake.
- Foregone Conclusion: Invoked and lampshaded regarding the nature of the top-secret project that Si Morley is being asked to join. It is obvious from the very title of the book, not to mention the blurb and cover art, that time travel is going to be involved somehow. In-universe, Morley himself acknowledges that what all these people in their incredibly realistic historical stage sets had been attempting to do had been clear to him for some time before either he or anyone else came out and said it. Nonetheless the scenes in which Morley goes from bemusement to awed understanding as to what the Project is, and why an unsuccessful commercial artist like him is being offered a role in it, are real page-turners.
- Instant Expert: It takes Si weeks of training and preparation to achieve time travel. Kate and Julia both master it instantly just based on Si describing it to them, making the project volunteers look like chumps.
- Large Ham: A conversational duel between two nineteenth century bullies is observed by Morley from his twentieth century perspective: "And now Pickering and Carmody were acting their roles in a time when the melodramatic conventions of the stage were largely accepted as reality. Deadly serious, meaning every word, each of them, I think, was also appreciating his own performance."
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: "Those are actual quotations, word for word, from The New York Times, February 1, 1882, anyone free to read it and check up."
- Mental Time Travel: one of the originals.
- Monumental Battle: That depends — does hiding from the police in the Statue of Liberty's disembodied arm count?
- Ret Gone: Sorry, college guy. We don't know who you were, but you ain't anymore.
- Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: Well, except for the guy who accidentally wiped him from existence. Still, even knowing that he existed in the original timeline is enough to make the director try to stop the project.
- Later joined by... well, if you really want to know, you can check Wikipedia, but this one doesn't bear spoiling.
- Shown Their Work: Finney put a lot of work into figuring out what life was like in 1880s New York, and by golly, he is going to let you know it.
- Time Travel Romance
- Trapped in the Past: A rare example of averting the "trapped" aspect, with Si and a fellow chrononaut preferring to settle down and live there. In fact, in the sequel From Time To Time the other man actually reverses Si's attempt to erase the time machine's inventor from ever existing. He's quite happy where he is, thank you.
- Your Universe or Mine?: What the protagonist tries to decide upon.