Review of “An Extended Journey” by Paul Sherman

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This exceptionally well-written and flawlessly edited story has everything a good time travel story demands. Note, however, that it’s more fantasy than science fiction since the means of delivery to the past is in the realms of the paranormal. Thus, don’t expect some exotic high tech means to remove the characters from the present time. This detail, indeed, is but a moot point given the tremendous message of this meticulously researched historical novel, but I wanted to throw it out there just in case you’re expecting sci-fi.

More often than not, time travel stories have more of a philosophical theme as they tread the line between fantasy, history and “what if” speculations. I recommend this story to those interested in American History, particularly the period around the Revolutionary War. The author’s research is apparent in the convincing details that take the reader back to another but not necessarily simpler time.

This story features David Dearns and his family which comprises his wife, Monica, and two young daughters, Jane and Katelyn, who are unexpectedly transported from modern times back to Colonial Williamsburg in 1781. The transition is great, given they’re visiting that location in modern times and thus surrounded by numerous individuals dressed in period costumes and buildings that date back to the time of the American Revolution, which is in progress. You can sense their confusion, particularly when they suddenly realize not only where but when they are.

This event was not simply coincidence, however, but clearly a matter of being chosen to accomplish a specific mission at the behest of a mysterious black woman they know only as Aunt Harriet. Their task is to intervene with Thomas Jefferson in a manner that convinces him to end slavery as part of the yet-to-be-written American Constitution. Since I want to avoid spoilers, that’s all I’ll say about plot details so future readers can fully enjoy the story as it unfolds.

There were some areas where the story seemed to drag, but it was so well-written that the slow pace was forgivable. It also served a purpose in establishing the time, place and mood of the times as this 21st Century family gradually acclimates to life in the late 1700s. If you’re a history buff, you’re likely to thoroughly enjoy it. A bit more culture shock would have added to the realism and perhaps picked up the pace in those pages capturing the details of life at that time. The plot action definitely accelerated toward the middle and took off from there with well-sustained suspense.

Historical details were plentiful and expertly integrated. The matter of changing history and the various paradoxes introduced by the family’s presence were addressed in a clever and sometimes unexpected manner, such as the premature albeit inadvertent introduction of modern technology. There were numerous places where I laughed out loud at some of the main character’s witticisms and sarcastic thoughts though his propensity for profanity was a bit troubling and could turn off certain potential readers. Many religious folks have a keen interest in American History and are often more forgiving of an expletive here and there, which is all too common today, than profanity. It wasn’t excessive by any means, and was mainly in the first part of the book, but would have earned a few cringes from various folks I know who would otherwise love the story.

Matters of free choice were suitably addressed and demonstrated the “butterfly effect”, i.e., where one small event institutes major change. On a personal as well as collective level, I’m sure all of us could point to various decisions that could have been made in a more constructive manner given 20:20 hindsight. The decisions of those who run countries certainly affect thousands and even millions and the consequences of bad ones splash on all concerned, many of whom suffer far more than the perpetrator.

As physicist Michio Kaku and various others have noted, parallel dimensions are a possibility included in quantum theory. Some have even speculated that every possible outcome of every decision ever made is represented somewhere, which I frankly don’t buy into. Nonetheless, starting a new track as a solution to time travel stories, e.g., Spielberg’s “Back to the Future” trilogy, works here for the sake of reader satisfaction. I’m not a big fan of historical novels, but the author’s strong writing skills kept me immersed in the story. More often than not, I find my inner editor slipping out while reading which, to his credit, did not occur. Such exceptional writing alone makes this book worth reading.

You can pick up your copy at Amazon here.

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