SOMEWHERE IN TIME (Richard Matheson)

9780312868864I really enjoyed how Matheson pieced this story together, bridging the gulf of years almost seamlessly. When a dying man falls in love with the photograph of a 19th century stage actress, the short remainder of his life suddenly takes on a new meaning. All he knows is that he must be with her, even if it means conquering time itself.

It’s 1971, and Richard Collier’s life is about to begin.

Richard was just 36 years old when he found out he was dying. The headaches turned out to be a little more serious than he thought. In the few months that remain to him, he decides to do some traveling and see the country. Not really caring where he goes first, Richard flips a coin to determine his direction. Soon, he is on his way to San Diego, and the lights of Los Angeles are far behind him.

Upon reaching San Diego, Richard randomly chooses the Hotel del Coronado to spend the night. He is instantly charmed by the rich history of the old hotel, and enjoys spending time in the hotel’s museum, learning about its past. It is on one of these museum visits that Richard first glimpses a photo of Elise McKenna, a famous stage actress who stayed at the hotel in 1896.

The photograph captivates Richard, and he finds that he can’t stop thinking about the beautiful woman captured in it. Over the next few days, he visits a book store, and the city library, trying to learn as much about Elise as he can, until he becomes completely obsessed with her. Thoughts of travel disappear as Richard comes to the realization that he cannot let his life end without meeting this woman. He is in the right place; the only thing separating them is 75 years of history.

Turning his research now to theories of time, Richard grasps for a way to bring the two of them together. Then he stumbles across a theoretical method of time travel involving self-hypnosis. After a few failed attempts, Richard is amazed and overjoyed when he actually succeeds in transporting himself back to 1896, if only briefly. Through practice, he finds that he is able to remain in the past for longer periods of time, until at last, he finally catches up with Elise walking along the beach near the hotel. Nothing could have surprised him more when she looks at him and says, “Is it you?”

The author originally called this story Bid Time Return, borrowing a line from Shakespeare’s Henry III. When the novel was adapted to film in 1980 bearing the title Somewhere in Time, future publications of the book carried that name. For Matheson’s fans, this book may seem far removed from his usual tales of horror, but Matheson himself considers Somewhere in Time, to be among his finest work in the novel form.

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