I did not enjoy Planet
—it is pointlessly dense and features a largely irrelevant plot. Any of A Wrinkle in Time
's charm is completely lost here, and time travel to the past is about as stale a plot device as they come. (It's also quite likely to be impossible for reasons outlined by Stephen Hawking. Then again, doesn't Charles ride a unicorn in this one? Perhaps adherence to the rules of reality isn't one of L'Engle's strong suits.)
The story does manage to present (or at least name-drop) an interesting ethical idea: is it admissible to time travel in order to stop an evil person? But that question is not germaine to the plot if one cannot establish that Mad Dog is actually evil. We're not presented with a terribly clear picture of the man himself, so we're left only with authorial hearsay upon which to establish the nature and magnitude of his evil. And even if he were truly evil, should Charles be permitted to travel backward through time and potentially create a catastrophe just to stop him? Unfortunately, L'Engle does not explore these ramifications in great detail. Her child protagonists are too gratingly Manichean to stimulate meaningful ethical dialogue.
Instead we are treated to a derivative time-travel adventure bolstered only by the cheap emotional catalysis of sundry yawn-worthy faux-historical events. It is never revealed why the book is completely founded on such an absurd ideological genealogy, but I'm sure it will be well received by the same crowd who ate up Cloud Atlas
. Saying "we're all connected"
is a nice thought, but how should we then live? This idea is explored to great effect in Krzysztof Kieślowski's Trois Couleurs
trilogy and in La Double Vie de Véronique
, but I can't say A Swiftly Tilting Planet
reaches those same heights or even bothers to aim for the same galaxy. Shame, really.