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Somewhere in Time - Richard Matheson

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Author: Richard Matheson / Genre: Fiction

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      19.02.2012 19:46
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      Nice idea - just didn't work for me.

      I would not normally choose a romance book, but I do think Richard Matheson is a literary genius. I loved his books 'I am Legend' and 'The Beardless Warriors"' as well as being quite a fan of the old Twilight Zone, many of the episodes of which were also written by Matheson. Matheson himself regarded this as his greatest work, so I really did want to give this man's masterpiece a try. 'Somewhere in Time' was originally published under the title 'Bid Time Return', but the name was changed after this book was adapted to a screenplay and filmed as 'Somewhere in Time' starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

      Somewhere in Time begins with 37 year old Richard Collier driving through Los Angeles. He has just been diagnosed with an inoperable tumour of the temporal lobe, and has withdrawn all of his savings and decided to leave the quiet guest home he has lived in behind his brothers house for so many years and travel. This is not the well thought out plan of a man who decided to see the world with time he left though. Instead it is an act of desperation. Richard seems to accept his fate, his impending death, but is haunted by the fact that his 37 years have been rather empty. He has never married, never fallen in love, never been intimate with a woman.

      He leaves everything to fate, flipping a coin to see which direction to go. As the coin toss decided on South as the direction, he ends up in San Diego, fed up with traffic he takes an off ramp and ends up at the Coronado bridge, which he follows finding a beautiful historic hotel. It is here that Richard will first see the woman that finally wins his heart - instantly - it is love at first site and Richard is completely head over heels. This is the one woman that is his destiny - his soul mate - the one he was always meant to find. There is only one problem. Richard has not just fallen for another guest - he has fallen in love with a photograph taken 70 years beforehand.

      While most fellows would give up at this point, Richard is determined to find her - to be with the woman he loves - even if that means going back into time to find her. He reads books which tell of her life - as she was a famous actress in her youth and books on time travel. I do not think it is a spoiler at all to tell you that Richard does find a way to travel back through time- after all every synopsis of the book tells us this, and it wouldn't make much of a story if he did not . But the cards are stacked against him, he is dying man, arriving in another time with no job, no source of income, one suit of clothes, and only $30 in the currency of the times. How will he win the love of his life and how will he remain in a time which he does not belong?

      I had high hopes for this book, and I must say most readers really do love this book. Perhaps it is just the wrong genre for me. Maybe I just am not at all romantic. The first part of the book is well written. Richard's loneliness and despair are so strong they cast a black cloud over the reader as well. But then this is what Matheson does best, paint the picture of the man completely alone on the earth, whether he has human companions he can not relate to, or truly is the last man on earth such as in 'I am Legend'.

      But when we get to the romance sections of the book - it just doesn't ring true to me. It is as if I were to try to write about living in Africa. I could read dozens of books, but it would always remain a subject of which I have no experience. In my eyes, Matheson writes about love as a man who has never known the emotion. It is flowery, intense, even in a poetic - but some how empty to me. I do not want to go into too much detail - but everything was simply too perfect. His fair maiden had also saved herself from all other men, only to fall at the feet of a stranger. And this is the Victorian era. -But then he is not really a stranger is he? He is her fate. All the same it was just too much for me and I was well pleased when the book was over. It was OK to read once, but I will not read it again.

      I will admit there is certainly a romantic theme here - the idea of two soul mates drawn together by destiny, soul mates whom time itself can hold apart, a love so intense it overpowers temporal reality. But to me is was more like a chivalrous romance of Mallory's time except with a bit of sex thrown in - most unrealistically if I may so myself. I'm sure some would find it romantic, but I found it wavering between sickeningly sweet and sad. The written expression of unfulfilled dreams of a longing that must forever go unsatisfied - but that is only my take on it.

      Matheson was in fact married, I have tried to find biographical information on him, and very little is known, except that he was born in Brooklyn in 1928, is married and had 4 children and lives or lived in Woodland Hills California, which I believe is a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles. Perhaps he has known romance just completely different from my perspective and other readers with a different prospective on these issues will see this. But while I am not a romantic - I have found my own true love and a romance of an intensity which I would never discuss - if I were less modest however - I think it would put Matheson's ideas of romance to shame. His description has a flames like those on a movie set made of plastic sheeting and studio lights - the real thing is flame of such intensity that it must in time lessen a bit to prevent it from completely consuming its hosts. To me this a romance story for those who only dream of romance - not those who have found it.

      I won't rate this down too much. This is a classic book and a great many people love it. You might as well. But I do not feel it can compare with his other works, and it just didn't do much for me. The first half is too dark and depressing, the second still sad and needy, and in my opinion, false. I was waiting for fireworks and didnt even get party poppers I'm afraid, but as I said this is not my genre to begin with.

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