Unbound by Brian Aldiss
1975 London, paperback (reviewed edition 50p)
ISBN 0 330 24546 5
It is the year 2020, when nuclear explosions appear to have done something serious to the space-time continuum, resulting in 'timeslips' -- whole sections of geography slipping temporarily back in time.
The protagonist, Joseph Bodenland, tells the story of one of these travels to the past, by means of letters and transcripts of his tape journal.
Bodenland, driving his 21st century car, is separated from his family and plonked into a Europe of the early eighteen hundreds, where he meets Mary Godwin -- soon to be Mary Shelley. But he also encounters (and this is where the story departs from the classic style of time-travel narrative) Victor Frankenstein and his monster. This he rationalises as a version of the currently fashionable SF trope (though Aldiss wrote this in 1973), 'alternate or parallel universes.'
There are hints of shifting or unstable reality (as in the novels of Philip K. Dick), and an almost Wyndham-like Englishness, despite Aldiss making his protagonist American.
The ending is possibly slightly rushed, but still conveys the right degree of uncertainty -- questions for the future -- and satisfying ambiguity.
As well as his delightful encounter with Mary Godwin, Bodenland meets Byron, and Shelley himself; these scenes are utterly convincing. Although initially I had some reservations about the plot of this story, these were quickly dispelled by Aldiss's deft skill in his favoured literary genre.
Thanks to Duncan Shepherd for the loan of the review copy.
Copyright © 1999 Paul S. Jenkins
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