Tuesday, March 5, 2013

October the First is Too Late by Fred Hoyle

This 1970 Fawcett paperback holds a special place in my heart. I have read it several times and I am in awe of its intelligent composition, suspenseful plot, and riveting conclusion. Hoyle begins this jewel of a book with a note “To the Reader” where he states: “The “science” in this book is mostly scaffolding for the story, story-telling in the traditional sense. However, the discussions of the significance of time and of the meaning of consciousness are intended to be quite serious, as also are the contents of chapter fourteen.” And what exactly is in chapter fourteen you ask? Ah, but let’s back up a moment. The plot: the world has been split by time shifts. World War I is still raging in Europe. Greece is in the Golden Age of Pericles, and America is a thousand years in the future. Asia and Russia are nothing more than a plain of glass. What has happened and why? Two young men risk their lives to discover the truth, and for one of them the truth is a mind-bending experience. The narrator is a musician and each chapter is titled with a musical term. Chapter fourteen will turn out to be the conclusion, and everything is explained. Ah, but chapter thirteen is so mesmerizing that I couldn’t but help think of two things: the paintings of Maxfield Parrish and the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Burroughs connection is not intended, and I thought of it simply because the plot takes such a wild turn that it reminded me of Burroughs. Think of La and the City of Gold in The Return of Tarzan. An entirely unexpected turn of events. I do wonder if Hoyle was inspired by Maxfield Parrish in any way. October the First is Too Late is a strange and wonderful book. If you haven’t read this one you can easily find hardcover or paperbacks on most used book websites.

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